Up until recently, my husband and my efforts to reduce clutter have been mainly focused on things like clothes, books, and miscellaneous household items. I am fairly satisfied with our progress and am pleased that the “public” areas of our house are, if not clutter-free, at least not embarrassing if someone stops by unexpectedly.
Now, we’ve turned our attention to the gobs of paper engulfing our offices. These include financial documents, articles and recipes saved to do something with “someday,” and an astounding number of lists – written on notepaper, on the back of envelopes, on post-its, and at the bottom of other lists. The paper that clutters the top of my desk is bad enough but lurking inside my file cabinets, and in boxes in my closet, are even more papers, and they need to be sorted, shredded, or recycled.
At least I know that I come by my paper problem honestly. My mother had a hand-made sign on her desk that read:
“Those who keep a neat desk will never experience the incomparable joy of finding something they thought they had irretrievably lost.”
I’m not sure if she was the author of the quote (she was a writer/editor) or if it was borrowed but it perfectly described her desk… as it does mine.
So, for the past several days, my husband and I have been slowly working through our piles and files. Boxes with documents for shredding are filling up, as is our big blue recycle can. Although we still have a way to go, we are motivated by three notions:
- Security: We enjoy traveling and plan to continue for as long as we can. So far, we’ve been lucky to have trusted friends take care of our house while we are gone but that might not always be possible. Our goal is to have limited personal/private documents so that if we participate in a home exchange or arrange for a housesit, securing these papers will be easy.
- Flexibility: Although we are happy with our current home and neighborhood, recently we’ve talked about alternative living situations. Would we be happier in a condo (no yard to maintain, minimal upkeep, more security when we travel, etc.)? How about an active retirement community or, at least a smaller town with walkable neighborhoods? This decision may be many years away, but why not start purging now so it won’t be as difficult later?
- Reality: Am I really ever going to read the articles I’ve saved? Nope. Especially with the Internet as my go-to source. Some of the information is worth keeping, but most can be tossed. And those random notes and lists? I am trying to corral them all into one notebook, and as I cross out items, or no longer need the information, the pages can be ripped out and recycled.
Although the process has been slow, the experience has been very satisfying. My desk is neater, my files drawers aren’t nearly as full, and – even better – a couple of times I’ve experienced the incomparable joy of finding items I thought were irretrievably lost.