14 drawers…How will I get through all this paper?

Day 2 of Sorting Project:

Three days left at Towards Employment and seven drawers left to sort today.  I am reminded of something I often said to participants, as a trainer, which was… “I will not ask you do to anything that I haven’t already done.”  (referring to an activity, exercise, worksheet, or task).  So, here I am with 14 years of folders and hang files filled with copies of life skills materials, old handouts, articles, presentations, flyers, evaluations….staples, paperclips, binder clips, business cards, binders….YUK!  How will I get through all this?  I am a professional organizer!  Why am I so frustrated?  I help other people sort their stuff. Yes, well….the difference is that this is my stuff, my memories, my work, my research, my pain, my challenges, my history.  Sorting through paper, especially old paper,  can be painful and exhausting.  So I am reminded….I won’t ask anyone to do anything that I have not already done.  I think about this while I am sorting through my own stuff.  It seems to help, because I get to feel the pain that many of my clients feel, and the exhaustion that my clients feel.    Of course, as a professional organizer I don’t ask people to sort their stuff, people ask me to help them sort their stuff.   So…what do I need????  HELP, of course!  At Towards Employment we are fortunate to be a partner with a local high school work study program.  High school students work one day a week at our agency and help out where needed with various projects.  Chris (name changed) to the rescue!  Just what I needed, help!

Before tackling this LARGE SORTING PROJECT, I made a plan.

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Prep:

  1. Collect supplies:  boxes, trash can, empty file box, post-it notes, sharpie, pen, and a cup of coffee
  2. Space #1 to sort
    1. Small box to collect paperclips and binder clips
    2. Empty file box to hang my “keep” files
    3. Box for manila files  (label all boxes with a post-it note)
    4. Box for hang files
    5. Box for “return to” (label item with post-it note)
  3. Space #2 to put boxes of paper to shred
  4. Music playing
  5. Help (Student 1 and Student 2)
  6. Six hours

To serve as a visual, I created a post-it note with hash marks for the number of file drawers I had to sort and marked one off as I completed the drawer!

Prior to starting the sorting process I made the rule that I would discard the following:  any document/copies that exist electronically, material that is no longer being used, and handouts with old dates on them.   I would keep materials that I would use in the next year, and only what would fit in my file box labeled “keep.”

Begin Sorting:

Ready to start…I removed the contents of each drawer and piled them on the sorting desk.  I opened each folder, made a quick decision on the contents then removed paperclips, put papers in shred box, manila folders in another box and the hang file in another box.  To speed up the process I enlisted a student’s help.  I put all pre-sorted papers with paperclips in a box and the student removed the paperclips and placed the paper in the proper box to be shredded.  I continued this process, with music playing, and sorted for either 20 minutes or through two drawers, and then took a break.  What kept me motivated:  having someone to help me with the process, marking off the hash marks, music, and taking breaks.

The first half of the project was completed last Monday and I completed the second half today.  Again, I had a student to help and a colleague to help me take the 14 or so boxes to my car….then off to the shredding company tomorrow!

The project is finished.  I am relieved and exhausted.  It was hard work.  Going forward I have a new file system that will help me purge files more often and some items will stay electronic.  14 years = lots of paper.  How did I get through all this?  A plan, a goal, help, time, and breaking the project into manageable parts.

Straightening up can bring immediate satisfaction.

Straightening up can bring immediate satisfaction.

It is Sunday morning and there are lots of things I would like to get done, but clutter is what I see…remnants from the weekend’s activities.  So what to do?

Here’s an idea:  Set a timer (10 minutes to start).  Start wherever you want.  I will start in the bedroom…put clothes away, jewelry away, pick up each item and put it away (in its home).  Try it!  See how you feel after 10 minutes, if you feel up to it, do another 10.  Then sit back and look around…do you feel better without clutter surrounding you?  Are you calmer because things are back in their places?

Now off to plan Thanksgiving dinner…