Receipts waiting for Quickbooks; scrappy notes with names, addresses for fruit pickups or left-at-our-house-Nerf returns, URLs, memory prods for all those passwords; wedding invites to events passed but still at finger reach to get each sender’s new address entered into an address book; more receipts, cash transactions, not as pressing to account for, but the information wanted all the same; photocopied receipts, pages stapled from work reimbursements unsure to file or toss; written instruction for the many Kata Junior needs to practice so his muscles retain the memory of each; piles of paystubs waiting for their detail to find Quickbooks; printed insurance claims that needed a phone call but could now be shredded; current bills, even though handled through billpay, stay close on desk until payment date passes-Did I really remember to enter the correct amount? To all of this, pile on recipe packets from work, print outs of recipes to try, recipes to amalgamate into something more me, all waiting to find a better, more permanent home. A home other than the work space directly around my computer, the overflowing wicker  basket of to-be-filed sitting on the floor behind me, or the all-of-these-recipes-need-to-go-somewhere shelf above that.

Filing takes time. Sorting takes time. The kind of time one might find on a rainy January morning, listening to Jack Johnson, latte nearby, Junior happily occupied, sorting piles carpeting the cement floor: Utilities, Insurance, Paystubs, Mortgage, Benefits, and, the growing ever larger, Recycle.

I am not a hoarder. Hoarders can’t throw anything away. I am a Unfiler, but a Unfiler who knows she must try or be buried. The rule follower streak in me demands I keep certain documents for a specified time, legal-ly seeming things. The researcher part of me needs the different recipes spread out on the table or floor for full view, to compare & contrast, without flipping back & forth between websites or Word.doc files. The recipes I know and love need to be entered electronically, edits added, or be plastic-sleeved, then snapped into the appropriate 3-ring binder. The addresses of friends & family will, hopefully, stay close until I mail Holiday Greetings; then and, probably, only then will the street names and house numbers find their way into the address book. I might thrift store hunt for an old-school Rolodex, having easy access cards on which to jot info or a place to alphabetically wedge bits of paper might work for me. However, given the state of my on-desk vertical file, home of the important documents needed close at hand, I wonder.

Organizing most of this requires that already filed material be gone through as well. The 4 legal-sized drawers of the standing file cabinet only hold so much. I can’t file new papers when expired documents block the way. The recipe binders always contain Good Ideas that I never went back to. Those pages need to leave, so the New & Certain To Use can fit in. Part of the Paper Flow Problem is part of my house cleaning problem. Another name for Unfiler could be Ditcher. I tidy up my house when I expect company, when we return from a trip with my eyes refreshed, or during the occasional I-can’t-stand-this-anymore type of fit. Tidying for company always means ditching: removing things from where company will be into somewhere where they will not. Generally this means piles from the table and/or kitchen counters goes into my room with door closed. When my room begins to feel oppressive, those piles make their way downstairs to the office area. Anything requiring attention sits next to the computer, a tight place shared with ten-key, vertical file, pens, paperclips, speakers, and various cords. Less pressing paper is left on the opposite end of the beautiful cement work top Spouse created, a veritable Area 57. Adjacent to this office area is a small room, the someday 2nd bathroom for our home. This project is a ways off due to digging through a cement floor to bury the waste sump. Many other non-waste related projects easily cut ahead in the DIY line. Meanwhile, this space has become storage. There is shelving holding bins and boxes of gift wrap, fabric, board games, extra blankets, and evidence that we own too many movies. There are things to sell on eBay and the empty boxes to ship them in. Equipment for catering and camping, books I’m not sure I want anymore, dishes and glassware hoping for a new home, luggage, and the file cabinets. It is a Ditch. When a party includes the basement, when I need to tidy up the laundry room (also a Ditch), when I’m generally tired of stuff everywhere, this is the place it goes, the final resting place. It is out of my sight, and even when sitting here typing, if the light is off, it is all easily out of my thoughts.

All this is well and good until I need to find something in The Ditch.

The stuff piling up is getting to me. I want the recipes sorted. I want the file cabinet weeded. I want the wicker basket emptied. I want the vertical file gleaned and tidied. I want the recycle bin to get its rightful due. I want to breathe. I want to be free to walk easily into this storage room. I want to ask myself hard questions about what to Keep, Donate, or Toss. I want to lighten. The burden of stuff is real. Regardless if it is Important Paperwork, those Dishes We Loved, or Junior Might Like This Someday, it is better to live lightly. For me, a cleared tabletop, free of clutter, free of Will Get To It Soon, frees my thoughts. I’m not forgetting Something on one of these piled papers. With this burden finished, filed, or tossed, with my thoughts unencumbered, they can roam, release memory, roll words around. When I see a modicum of order on the shelves, assured I will be able to find something when I want to, I see the beauty and crafts work of these built-ins. When I am able to touch the surface of my desk, run my hand over this once-bumpy-aggregate now smooth stone-like finish, I think of Spouse, of his process, his creativity, of how much he supports my own. It is much more satisfying for me to write, search for recipes and recreate those recipes, even more satisfying to get Quickbooks and my spreadsheets up to date than to sort, file, toss. Like Bill Murray in What About Bob, I will take baby steps to organization. I started with my work surface, the area directly next to the PC. It’s remained functional. Keeping my thoughts moving only to the next thing rather than the entire project, I will take baby steps with rest of the desk. Maybe I’ll baby-step my way to finishing the entire project before year end, or, maybe I won’t. Whatever I get done will be better than doing nothing at all. Cheers!




One thought on “Ditch

  1. I can relate to this completely. As I sit in front of my desk with all the papers helping me remember what needs to be done…

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