Conquering The Paper Monster

Piles on the shelf

I swear that paperwork multiplies overnight when I’m not looking!

I was doing so well at getting organized and here I am again looking at piles of papers.  I clearly have not been following my plan.  Instead, because of a busy schedule, paperwork ends up getting shoved onto a book shelf beside my desk.  It’s overwhelming when I see the piles.  It takes “forever” to go through them.  Tackling one pile a day is time consuming and my subconscious tells me that there isn’t THAT much time in the schedule to deal with it.  So, I procrastinate, which makes it worse.  Then I finally deal with it, getting everything organized for a while only to have it all pile back up again.   You can actually see my desk top at least once a month.  But, the sad thing is that I’m not one of those people who has a messy desk, but knows where everything is.  Here’s my confession.  I have a messy desk that is a black hole and I can’t find anything when I need it.

A shelf in the closet. Yikes!

Does this story sound familiar to you?  If yes, read on.  If no (perhaps because you’re naturally ultra organized), read on anyway.  Maybe it will help you understand what a family member or friend of yours is wrestling with on a regular basis.  Send them to this blog entry. 

My goal is to encourage anyone who operates like me to get organized along with me.  That means discovering the ultimate problem… always going back to old, hard-to-break, bad habits and dealing with that once and for all.

The bag of junk from my kitchen counter

On with the story.  There are three guys in my house.  Between the four of us (and I have to admit my youngest and I are the worst culprits), the kitchen counter seems to be a collection place for receipts, toys, junk mail, and so much more.  The other day I couldn’t stand it anymore and put everything on the kitchen counter into a paper bag to deal with later.  (More procrastination.)  Now the counter looks tidy, but there’s a black “sort through your paperwork” cloud hovering over my head.  Sigh.

Do I not know how to get organized?  Certainly, I know how.  I’ve “gotten myself organized” many, many times.  Maybe you can relate to this.  The problem is that things get set down and on goes our busy schedule.  Maybe the phone was ringing as I rushed into the kitchen.  Maybe I was putting groceries away and wanted to keep the grocery and pharmacy receipts so onto that handy spot on the counter they went or I needed to shred them because I noticed they had both the last four digits of my credit card number and my name.  Then more things get set down… newspaper articles I wanted to keep, a recipe printed out from the internet, my son’s toys or homework, magazines, etc.  There’s always an excuse.  Because there’s always something on my mind, I’ll get to it later.  Next thing I know, the paper monster has been let loose and has grown.  Why in the world do I keep all this paperwork to go through “later”.  I don’t like to throw away anything that has my name and address or any other personal information on it.  It’s best to shred it.  Instead of taking a couple of minutes to shred right then, it goes in the pile to deal with later.


A clean counter is nice

I know EXACTLY what to do.  Simply do not put paperwork down to deal with later.  Every day go through the mail.  Toss junk mail that doesn’t have identifying information on it.  Take a minute to shred any part of a piece of mail that does have identifying information and toss the rest of the letter if it’s not something I need to keep.   Put bills directly into my “To Be Paid” inbox on my desk.  Put any mail that needs action right away into an action folder for when I’m at my desk and ready to deal with it.   Or better yet, do this sorting at my desk with the trash on one side, the file cabinet on the other, the scanner on my desk, and my check book handy.  File anything that needs to be filed or put receipts in my handy dandy NEAT scanner pile.     Take 5 to 10 minutes a day (depending on how much mail you get) to do this and you can maintain a neat and tidy desk and counters.

So, if a person knows what to do and they simply aren’t doing it, does that mean they’re lazy?  Absolutely not.  It is just a matter of MAKING TIME to do it.  There are so many things in our schedule and I’m sure the same is true for you.  The thing to do is to take ten minutes a day to address the mail, receipts from the store, etc.  During that time, clear the kitchen counter (or kitchen table or wherever your sore spot is located) of anything and everything that shouldn’t be there.  Make it a habit.  Don’t set paperwork down to deal with later or it will multiply BECAUSE you have just gone back to a bad habit that you’ve been practicing for years.


OK, so here’s the challenge for myself and all of my readers.  (My husband is going to like this.)  One step at a time.


1. Take all receipts from your wallet.  File any that you need to keep, shred any that have the last four digits of your credit card and name on them and throw away those that don’t and aren’t needed.   (Unless you’re an avid shopper, this shouldn’t take longer than a minute or so.)

2. Put your mail on the kitchen counter (or your desk, if you have one).  Picking up one envelope at a time immediately throw the junk away that has no identifying information about you on it.  Tear out the identifying info on those that do.  Shred what you tore out and throw away the rest of the junk from that envelope.  Open all bills and put them into a “bills” file for your desk.  Read the rest of your mail.  File anything that needs to be filed.  (Don’t set it down to be done later.)  Put all letters and invitations that need a response on your desk (or the corner you have for working).  Done for now.  That shouldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes for most people.  If yours takes 15, then make time for 15 minutes a day.

3. Take a small pile from your paper pile and do the same with them.  (How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  You don’t have to tackle the whole pile.  Just take one small section of it every day… one bite.)

That’s it.

The next day do the same.

The next day do the same.  And keep doing this day by day until your piles are finally cleared.

None of us can tackle the HUGE overwhelming pile.  But, we can certainly chip away at it a little at a time until everything is cleared.  Once your piles are cleared, keep doing steps 1 and 2 every single day so that those piles don’t ever reappear as a paper monster again.  It’s that simple. These two steps should not take more than 5 – 10 minutes a day.  Just focus on that one small task each day and it won’t be overwhelming in the midst of a busy schedule.

Now, here’s the thing.  It’s easy to go back to bad habits.  Skip this just one day and you’re there.  Just keep doing this every day until it becomes a good habit that has replaced the old bad one.

Imagine how freeing it will be to be able to find what you need when you need it and to not have piles of paper around.  Let’s get organized in this one small way.  Are you willing and ready to join me?

Let’s do this together.


The Adventures of Owning a Puppy

Day 2 at our house

Several months ago my sons and I were driving up a highway near our home when we saw two little puppies dragging themselves along the road.  They were skin and bones.  There were no houses close by.     I stopped the car and got out.  One of the puppies saw me and made a dash into the undergrowth in the woods by the road.  I couldn’t get to him.  But, the other puppy looked like he didn’t even have the energy to do that.  He hurried away, but I just talked to him in a soft, gentle voice so he stopped and turned to look at me.  Little by little I got closer, talking to him the whole time.  When I got close enough I crouched down closer to his level and held my hand out, gently talking.  He came close and I picked him up.

We put him in the car, drove home, and put him in the fenced in part of our back yard.   We didn’t have any dogs.  The only food I had was cat food.  I put some in a bowl and while he was scarfing that up, I called the vet.  They let me come in that afternoon and gave him an examination.  The vet said he was severely malnourished.  (When they did a test for worms, there was nothing in his intestine to even do a test.  He hadn’t eaten in who knows how long.)  The vet thought he was around 12 weeks old that first day.

Day 1 — 05-13-13

We came back home armed with puppy food and snacks, toys, a collar and leash, and medication.  After such a traumatic day (being “captured”, going to a strange home, visiting the vet and all that riding in the car), the puppy ate and immediately fell asleep in a box lined with a comfortable blanket.  We didn’t know if we were going to find a pet recue/shelter for him or keep him ourselves at that point.

It took about three days of eating and getting his energy up before he actually started playing like a puppy.  He was a tiny thing, but the vet said to feed him four cups of food a day.  Wow!  I spread it out throughout the day so he wouldn’t get bloated and be uncomfortable.

We decided to keep him.  My husband wanted him to be an outdoor dog, but I told him that I can’t be out in the heat a lot and he needs to be with us in order to be trained.  So, I brought him into the house for 10 minutes at a time.  Sigh.  Every time we had him in the house (without fail) he’d pee on the carpet.  We couldn’t get him to pee on the pee pads.  So, I had my handy dandy steamer carpet cleaner ready for accidents… and used it often.

(By the way, I saw the other puppy several times and each time I’d try to coax him close, he’d go into the underbrush where I couldn’t get to him.  Then he disappeared and I haven’t seen him since.  I’m hoping he disappeared because some other family took him in.)

Taking a Nap

He was used to being an outdoor dog.  But, in order to house train him, we had to have him inside a little more than I was allowing.  His dog house is inside the screened in porch.  But, he seemed to prefer to sleep on the chairs or sofa out there as soon as he was big enough to climb up.  Otherwise, he liked the fluffy blanket behind and under the love seat.  (Everything is dirty from his digging in the yard and then coming and sitting all over the furniture.  It all needs a good cleaning.  He’s also chewed our furniture and ruined it.  I suppose this is one of the no so pleasant parts of having a puppy.  I’ll be glad when he stops chewing on everything.)

My son was totally enamored with the puppy.  He spent practically every waking moment that he could with him… and some sleeping moments.  But, then the puppy started to grow and get aggressive.  He’d growl and bark at my son, going right up to him and acting like he was trying to herd him and control him.  It’s almost as if he was saying to my son, “No you can’t go there.”  Or, “No, you can’t do that.”  So, we have had to work on that behavior.  I talked with the vet about that and she said that was normal behavior.  Hmmm… it’s not normal to me.  I don’t like any dog growling and barking at my children, even if his tail is wagging while doing it.

He also bites and nips at me, dashing at me to bite and jumping away.  But, the whole time he’s doing it, his tail is wagging like he’s trying to play.  From what I read, this is also normal aggressive behavior and has to be trained out of him.

Second day we had him

He’s a mix.  The vet initially thought beagle and fox hound.  But, he’s now bigger than either of those dogs.  His face looks a bit like a lab.  He also has very big eyes and is now about 45 pounds at 7 months old.  When something gets his attention, he lifts up his right, front leg (like a pointer) and his tail points… sort of…  Instead of going straight back, it curls up over his back with the tip pointing toward what he’s looking at and it’s very cute.

This little guy, sweet as he looks is stubborn as a mule.  He knows commands.  But, he only obeys when he wants to do so.  For example, if he knows I have treats in my hand and I say sit, he’ll immediately sit.  But, if I don’t have a snack in my hand, he simply is not going to obey unless he feels like it.   He knows come, stay, sit, etc.  He also knows “drop it” as he gets into things he shouldn’t and we have to take them away.  “Down” is another one because he keeps jumping on us.  All of these behaviors need to be addressed and we’re still trying to figure out what works when a puppy is stubborn and doesn’t WANT to obey.

Sept 20 2013
Oops, I woke him up

The nights are getting cooler and I just don’t like the idea of him being out there in the winter.  So, we bought a crate and, at 7 months, started crate training.  (By the way, he is now house-trained and spends a lot more time in the house.)  We have cats.  We can’t just let him roam in the house at night because he barks and barks at them.  For two nights I was exhausted as he would whine and cry.  About 2 in the morning, I’d let him outside.   On the third night, again around 2 am, in desperation I put a cover over his crate.  He settled down.  So, ever since then, when I tell him “night, night” I cover the crate and he sleeps through the night.

Little by little he’s settling down.  There are plenty of things to still work on, but we are discovering together what it’s like to own a puppy and have to train him.  Hopefully, we’ll be training him and not the other way around.