Almost every day someone tells me, proudly, that he has 20 years’ worth of paycheck stubs, but they’re all organized in file cabinets. Or she has every piece of artwork her kids ever made, but they’re all organized in boxes.
What I want to say to these people is this: Not everything merits being “organized.”
Some things don’t even need to be kept. And they certainly don’t need to be alphabetized, put in reverse chronological order or sorted by color.
Before you spend money on bins, boxes or furniture to allow you to organize your stuff, consider why you’re holding onto it. If you have sentimental feelings about something, keep it. Display it or store it so you can look at it periodically. Don’t pack it up and shut it away in the attic or basement.
If you need to keep documents for financial or legal reasons, keep them only as long as the statute requires. You don’t need to curate receipts and bills; they are only staying with you for a short time.
I understand that some people feel a measure of comfort when they can micromanage their paperwork; what concerns me is when those same pieces of paper never make it into storage. Don’t spend your time “organizing” these things; use the time to put stuff away. The goal is to find your taxes from four years ago, not to pinpoint a particular paper.
The hard lesson in all this is knowing that good enough is good enough. Instead of creating elaborate systems and processes, put things where you’ll find them. Then you can spend the rest of your time with people you care about, doing things you enjoy.
Sunday is Mothers Day. If you are thinking of buying your mother a gift, do something nice for her instead. That nice thing could be helping her remove some clutter from her life.