Procrastination – or the 30 year filing project

This is a true story.

I began living on my own at 19, taking a wrong turn into an ill-conceived first marriage at 21 (including 2 moves) followed by a blessed divorce at 24. From the time I left the marital apartment, I was a bit of a vagabond, moving no less than 6 times in the next 4 years. The only good thing about perpetual moving is 1) I didn’t have as much stuff and 2) every time I packed, I purged what wasn’t needed. I remember my young self watching my ex-husband carting away my collection of record albums (that was painful), my griddle (the man once called and asked me “how much water do you use to boil hamburger?” Seriously, I came home to evidence that he’d boiled hamburger) and numerous other things that were mine prior to our brief union. I remember sitting on my dining room table, clutching my two cats, Snooks and Bandit thinking “take it all, it’s just stuff”. But I digress. Fast forward to the autumn of my 28th year. From a one bedroom apartment, I moved into the house I’ve called home for thirty years. Three bedrooms, large kitchen, pantry and…….a basement. I remember a thought running through my head “however will I fill these cupboards?” followed by the thought of “haha, you’re a funny and pretty blonde”.

Needless to say, I found that filling cupboards and closets took little time and by the time Spence moved in 7 years later and added his belongings, well you get it. Over time I found that I had a lot of “junk drawers” and a sense of clutter hidden just out of sight in closets, cupboards and particularly….the basement.

Reasons for procrastination, look familiar?
Reasons for procrastination, look familiar?

Back to the subject of filing. I’m not going to say that I’ve never filed anything. I have taken it upon myself, on a cold or rainy day off to drag up a bag or box of paperwork that I’d put in a “good place” in the basement and sort through it. (usually around tax season) For every pound of paperwork that I combed through, 75% of it went into the recycle bin or shredder. Even then I still kept a lot of “stuff” that I’d never need but felt compelled to create a folder for nonetheless.  I continued to accumulate more filing than a working gal would ever get to, especially when there were so many other things I’d prefer to do. And it was out of sight though not quite out of mind. I coddled myself into thinking, “when I retire, that’ll be one of the first things I’ll tackle.”

My Rationalization
My Rationalization

I retired on 2/28/14 departing almost immediately for a few weeks in Florida to “clear my over-filled head and embrace my new normal”. If you’ve read my blog, you know that since then I’ve been having a grand time, experiencing new things, traveling and living the dream with Spence. In short, the thought of tackling “the filing”, while in the back of my brain, just wasn’t a priority.

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In other words, don’t beat yourself up for living your life. You’re entitled to some fun!

Enter the phase I’ll call “focus and inspiration”. Since April of 2014, I’ve discovered the joys of yoga and meditation which have created a sense of “focus”. It took till 10/31, but as I’d promised I started my blog. I mention yoga, meditation and the blog because I’ve successfully committed to making them a part of my everyday life, while still having lots of fun and adventures. Those three things have created “focus”.

“Inspiration” to get organized came from my mom. At 81 and in good health, she returned to Florida (after a summer in Michigan), decided to sell her home and move to Michigan to be closer to my sister and I. She met with a realtor before the holidays and began the process of getting her home ready to show by January. It went on the market and sold almost immediately. Downsizing to an apartment, she was now faced with what she’ll keep and what must go. This has resulted in numerous emails as she’s given “right of first refusal” to my sister and I on those things she’s parting with. With every email, a spark was lit in me. Realizing the enormous favor she is doing for us by moving on “her terms” and sorting through things that under different circumstances we would be overwhelmed by, I knew that could no longer put off the inevitable. The time had come to put my house “in order”.

In fairness, during the beautiful Michigan Spring, Summer and Fall, I adore gardening and Spence physically cannot do much to help me there. It is a full time job, though in retirement I don’t have to cram it into the rare day off when the weather cooperates. Seduced by sun, fresh air, my hands in the dirt, creating a symphony of chaotic loveliness, frankly – I wanted to be outside after the winter, not in the basement contending with filing.

Fast forward to early January. Armed with purpose and Christmas behind me, I made a commitment. The time was NOW.  I started dragging up the bags and boxes, sifting through years of paperwork. Every single day. (okay, almost every single day) In fairness I should mention that I pay the bills; it’s “my domain”. Spence occasionally gives me something to file but though he’s been retired pretty much since I’ve known him, I’m too much of a control freak to hand over the sorting and filing of our important paperwork. He’s fine with that but in retrospect, perhaps I should have considered delegating it? Woulda, shoulda, coulda……

As of yesterday, I brought up and sorted through the last box of filing. Hurrah! In years past, if I’d pitch 75%, I’m now at 90-95%. Everything had to be evaluated – “shred it or recycle it”?  I remarked to Spence, “should I die first, you have no idea what a favor I’ve done for you”. His reply, “if you die first, I’ll leave it for whoever comes in after I’m dead”. If you knew him, you’d know truer words were never spoken.

That said, this new-found commitment to organization has become like a drug to me. If I open a drawer, closet or cupboard that hasn’t yet been tackled, I stop and clean it out. I’ve made tremendous progress and found a few treasures – a black velvet bag full of quarters (really? when did I start saving quarters in a little bag? Still, kind of cool) an entire checkbook that had gone missing a year ago, my replacement Amazon credit card that I knew I’d received in 12/2014 but which had “disappeared” and my player’s club card from the casino that Spence and I frequent every month, a recent loss to a cluttered drawer.

For the focus and inspiration that kicked in to “get ‘er done”, I’m grateful. It only took the looming deadline of my first year in retirement to do what I’d promised myself for years. And it feels great.

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Goodbye to every piece of paper that I have “set free”.

Next project, after moving mom and the arrival of spring weather, is the much-needed organization of the garage. No more excuses and for that project, I will enlist Spence.

6 thoughts on “Procrastination – or the 30 year filing project

  1. paper “stuff” tends to pile up even in my minimalist environment 😎 a friend once proclaimed my decor as that “just moved out look” yet I am in constant shred mode …. I have no basement nor attic ( intentionally )
    what is that saying …. ” only in America, we leave our $50,000 vehicle out in the elements while our garage is filled with stuff we don’t need” it took years for me to convince my hubby of 43 years 😍 we now have no garage❗️a beach house on stilts which we park under🐠🌴

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is my on-going goal to keep getting rid of things we don’t need/use, either by consignment, donation, repurposing or recycling when possible. The paper clutter makes me a bit crazy, it’s a constant battle. I do love having a basement but would give it up for a beach house on stilts – that sounds fabulous!

    Like

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