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.


Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

This year has flown by.  It’s hard to believe that in just a few days it will be 2013.  Once again I ask, “Where has this year gone?!!”

In the last several years I have chosen NOT to make New Year’s resolutions.  It just seems pointless because I would make resolutions that I could keep for a month or two and then it would phase out.  No… I’m not undisciplined.  I just would take too big a bite (have too many things to work on at once) and not be able to chew that bite.

So, once again… I will not be making any New Year’s resolutions for 2013.  But, I have some general directions in which I want to head.   I have decided that I need to get rid of some old habits and create new habits.  It has been said that it only takes 30 days of doing something and it will become a habit.  I submit that there’s a lot more to it than that.  Habits are deeply ingrained.  Anyone can will themselves to behave in a certain way for one or two months, but if there isn’t an internal change and a change in perspective, they’ll go right back to the old, deeply ingrained habits.   So, I will be working on changing my perspective this year.   But, there are two areas in which I want to make improvements in 2013.

Weight Loss

Last year I started off the year with a bang.  I started losing weight and did quite well until I hit a plateau and couldn’t seem to get any further.  Then I got discouraged even though I was telling myself (and my readers) not to get discouraged.  I gained back some of the weight that I had lost and have been steady at that new weight for the past five months.  I still need to lose a LOT of weight in order to feel comfortable.  And…  I will.  But, I am going to go about it differently than I did last year.

Being Organized

I have discovered something about myself… something I didn’t like in my husband.  I always accused him of being an all or nothing kind of guy.   I would ask, “Isn’t there some happy medium?  Does it have to be one extreme or the other?”  Here’s just one example:  If he was working on getting healthy, he would overdo it by walking for two or more hours a day.  There was no 30-45 minutes of fast-paced walking for him.  That two or three hours would dig into his schedule and soon went by the wayside because it took too much time and he had so much else to do.   (He’s a pretty amazing guy, by the way.  I wouldn’t trade him for another model for anything in the world.  I love him dearly and he’s stuck with me.  )

It turns out, I have been an “all or nothing” kind of gal.  I would go at something with everything in me, and if I didn’t reach my goal I’d get discouraged.  What I’ve learned in 2012 is that it’s OK to take baby steps.  It’s OK to work on part of a program instead of taking on an entire program.  One of my links (to the right at the bottom) is to the Fly Lady.  She is amazingly organized.  I, on the other hand, have always been a “fly by the seat of my pants”, impromtu, “planning and sticking with a calendar is a pain in the back-side” kind of personality.  I’m not one of these people who will account for every minute of my time.  Nor will I set up a schedule that says, “for 15 minutes I’ll do this, and then I’ll do that for the next 15 minutes.”  That just doesn’t work for me.  That approach takes all of the joy out of anything that I do.  In the business world it took a lot of effort to make sure that I was organized enough to do well at my job… and do well, I did.  I always got excellent reviews.  So, I know it’s possible because I was able to control that natural tendency to be disorganized.  But, I also did the work in the way best suited to me so long as the results best suited my boss.  Thankfully, I always had bosses that allowed me that freedom.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase.
Just take the first step. ” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Well, with the Fly Lady program I tried to do EVERYTHING all at once (despite the fact that she says to take it a step at a time).  I had a great, organized house… for a very short while.  And, while I was doing that I had no time to myself.  I was always working, never sitting down and watching TV or taking time to talk with my husband.  There was too much to do if I was going to do it all.  With everything going on, I couldn’t keep it up.

This year I will take just a few things and do them until they are so habitual that I don’t have to think about them.  Then I can add something else… take the next step… baby steps, as the Fly Lady calls them.  See her Baby Steps web page.  It’s a great place to start if you’re wanting to get the chaos out of your home over the next few months.

Getting Started

So this is where I am right now.  I am going to sit down before the 1st and write down what my priorities are, listing the first five only.  (I can tell you that my highest priority is my family.)  Then I’m going to set a couple goals for myself under each priority and start working on those goals using baby steps.  So, based on those priorities, I can make decisions/choices about my activities.  If someone asks me to participate in something, will it help or hinder my goals under my priority list?  If it takes me away from my goals or adds stress to my life (beause I would be saying yes to something for which I don’t really have time to give my best effort), I would need to say, “Thank you so much for thinking about me, but I won’t be able to do that this year.  I just won’t have the time to put my best effort into it.”

My Hope For You

I hope that, instead of just making a bunch of New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll take time to think through your prioritites and determine whether those resolutions will add stress to your life or make you feel like a failure because you don’t have time or energy to complete them once you start.   Only take on that which will help you reach your goals.  Only set goals for those things/situations that are your highest priorities for the year.  And most of all, make it a…

Happy New Year!

Happy new year

This is a great quick list for helping you get organized… and stay organized. I’ve come to realize that it’s a mindset. I just found this blog this morning and encourage you to take a look at other things that she has written.

Organizing Doodlebug’s Room

(One of these days, I’m sure he won’t want to be called Doodlebug anymore.  But, for right now, he likes it.)

We decided it was time to do Spring Cleaning in my youngest son’s room.  He complained to me last week that his bed squeaked all night and kept waking him up.  So, out goes the old bed frame, head board and foot board and we’re putting up a good frame that won’t squeak.  Earlier this week it was my older son’s turn with a new bed and lots of vacuuming, cleaning, organizing and rearranging.  Now it’s Doodlebug’s turn.  We’ll discuss how furniture will fit in the room and he gets to have his turn deciding where he wants everything.

Right now he’s cleaning up and then we’ll begin organizing.  It’s a good learning process for him.  Everything broken goes in the trash, everything he doesn’t use goes in the give-away pile.  The rest of the things will need to be organized in a way that makes sense to him.  That way (hopefully) as he learns to put things away he’ll know exactly where they belong because he chose the way they were to be organized (with a few of Mommy’s suggestions to consider) AND he’ll know where to find them.

So, here we go… time to get to work.

It’s a Great Day!

It is a gorgeous, ‘sun-shiney” day out today.  As I look out the window at the lake this morning, I’m almost blinded by the sunlight sparkling off the ripples of water.  It looks like there are a million diamonds out there.

I’m finally feeling a bit better, although I still haven’t fully recovered from whatever knocked me flat yesterday.  I believe in a lady sneezing daintily.  Sigh.  I used to do that.  But, I’m SURE that my neighbor across the way could hear my sneezes yesterday, they were so violent.  The sneezing has calmed down a bit, but my voice isn’t back.  No choir practice for me this morning.  It seems to me that a cold is no longer just a cold anymore.  Either my immune system isn’t what it should be or there are some mega-germs out there now.

Marlowe with Vaccuum
Marlowe with Vaccuum (Photo credit: msusser)

Well, I have allowed myself to get disorganized in the house again.  If you don’t keep up with things every day, it’s amazing how disorganized a house can become.  So, today I’ll be vacuuming, dusting, cleaning, doing dishes that I was too sick to do yesterday, laundry… and then there’s the office.  Oh, the list goes on and on and is too boring to write about.  Suffice it to say that I’ll have a busy day today.  (Isn’t this cat cute?  I didn’t have a picture of my cats with the vaccuum so I used this one from the media gallery.)

We’ve been trying to keep my boys healthy so no hugs yesterday from Mommy.  My oldest step-son, who is a special needs child, could get quite sick.  But, it’s hard.  He doesn’t quite understand the “no hugs” and “don’t get close to my face, honey, I don’t want you to get sick” statements.  My baby (6 years old already) understands with his head, but not always with his heart.  Since I’m feeling a bit better and don’t think I’m contageous anymore, I told him.  He ran to me, gave me a huge hug, and said, “I love you SO much Mommy.”  That’s medicine to my heart.  🙂  I’m enjoying all of the sweetness, loving comments and compliments while he’s young and still thinks Mommy is one of the smartest ladies on the planet.

And so, it’s time for me to get moving.  There’s a lot to do and I’m so thankful to the Lord to have the health and ability to be able to do it.

Have a blessed day!

I’m Getting Organized!

You would not believe the pile of papers and other things that have accumulated over the past few years.  I was working full time, taking care of the house and family, working in the office in the evenings on our business after the boys were in bed, processing (canning and freezing) vegies and fruits from the garden until 2 am, and so many other things.  My life was INSANE.  I was getting an average of 4 hours of sleep a night trying to do it all.  When someone does that, something always suffers.  In my case, it was the filing, organizing, and overall feeling of freedom.  I’m about to paint a pretty bad picture.  Our house was livable, but could be so much more like an oasis.

Believe me, a house can be clean, but not organized.  And when there is stuff in all the closets that you don’t use, phone books from 5 years back piled up because your husband might need them, and any number of other things, then there is always a bit of a feeling of stress.  I was stressed enough as it was without my home office, my kitchen and all of my closets looking like a hurricane had blown in and dumped everything into untidy piles everywhere.

I have now gone through a number of piles of documents and have about 1/4 of my office looking really nice!  My kitchen is now tidy as well as clean (although I still have to organize my pantry and decide what to do with the stuff on top of my freezer).  I have to finish the office and tackle all of the closets.  And I want my master bedroom to be an oasis… peaceful, tidy, pretty, quiet, restful.  (Piles of ironing just don’t make for a restful place.)  If I pick up something that we haven’t used in 2 years, out it goes.  I had such a hard time deciding what to toss and keep before so I just kept it all.  Goodness… even e-mails that had been printed out were being kept.  (“It’s a diary of my life!”)  Now I’m being really tough on myself.  I have a feeling that the end result is going to be that I don’t miss it at all.

Today I made a trip to the recycle plant with my car trunk full of “stuff” to recycle.  Trash bags of “stuff” went into our bin outside.  (Some of it made no sense as to why I would have kept it.)  I have piles of receipts (all in one place now) that need to be sorted out for taxes.  And there are piles in my “to be filed” section that I’ll start working on 15 minutes at a time.  (See the FlyLady’s suggestion of setting the time for 15 minutes and then really cranking away at it.  It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re really focused at getting it done before the time rings.)  I’m determined that it isn’t going to take me 20 minutes to put my finger on an important document.  Who has time for that kind of stress?  So, I’m going through the house, one room at a time.

I hope that my flurry of activity might have encouraged you to start on at least one pile and shred, file, toss or put in the inbox to address instead of letting it sit in piles, stressing you out.  If you’re short on time, use the 15 minute timer trick.  You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish even if you only have time to do that once a day.

I feel “lighter” already without all of the junk hanging around my house and have a good start on making 2012 an excellent year and our house an oasis from the world!

Time for me to start making dinner now.    Have a blessed evening!


Last week I was introduced to the FlyLady.  Thank you, Beth.  (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself, by the way.)

There are a lot of really good tips and ideas on that site.  However, please be aware that if you register for the FlyLady “newsletter” you’ll be receiving 12 e-mails a day.  It can be pretty overwhelming.  She even admits that in the introduction.  However, this is one way in which to take baby steps towards getting organized.  This helpful site may be for you, it may not.  I suggest that you check it out.  If you register for the e-mail newsletter, just do as she suggests… read what you can put into practice and delete the rest for now.  Don’t worry about playing catch up.  That defeats the purpose.  Start where you are and take in the tips that you can accomplish, then work on them one step at a time.

There’s a saying that it takes at least 30 days to build a habit.  Each month she introduces a new habit for you to develop and work on.  By the time the next month (and new habit) rolls around, you’ll have developed and will be doing the previous month’s habit without thinking and then adding the new month to it.  By the end of the year, you will have incorporated 12 daily habits into your life that make getting and staying organized much easier.

You can reach the FlyLady site by going to

I’ll be checking out some other sites to see what I can recommend that may be helpful.