October Habit #16 Do I Really Need This?

Dear FlyLady,

I am so proud of me that I am fairly bursting! Yes, I did it! I tamed the paper monster AND banished him from my home 5 YEARS ago!!!! For all those [who like me] are rolling their eyes and thinking “sure … she probably had a dozen papers on a counter somewhere and really thinks she did something!”. Well, let me tell you sisters …….. I will match my previous clutter piles to anyone out there! I had it in drawers, in piles on the floors of every room and every flat surface …. I even had PILES of bags of paper from when I had tried to get a handle on it and just hid it behind something when I got frustrated. This was not junk mail either. It was bills, correspondence, stuff I was thinking about doing/buying/reading … notes with names, websites, what have you . [Notice I didn’t say it wasn’t JUNK, I just said it wasn’t junk MAIL. I did at least manage to get rid of that for the most part.] I was always the one who, if I needed one photocopy, five were better. That way I could always find it SOMEWHERE. [Like THAT ever worked!!!] And did I mention I’ve been a paper magnet for 35 YEARS???? I swore when I turned the lights out, it multiplied like rabbits!

But no more! And I finally have something to write about after years of on and off flying! None of that tho … I want to tell you about what I DID manage to do! It took me a few months — I just had THAT much! But once it was gone — it was gone! And I’ve never gone back again!

When I finally got sick and tired of it all, I brought home from work an empty photocopy paper box. They’re the right size for letter size files. At work, I learned to love the expandable manila file folders — instead of the standard ones that open like a book and allow papers to sneak out. I knew I wanted to save warranties, instruction booklets for appliances & important personal docs like social security cards & birth certificates. Those are the only file folders I labeled at the start. After that I labeled folders as I found other categories I wanted to keep. NOTE: Don’t get carried away here! If you have 9,000 lbs of paper — strive to keep 9.

Then I just grabbed the closest pile and went to work. I asked myself if I really needed to keep it. Could I find it online or elsewhere IF I ever needed it again? How long have I had this and have I EVER needed it? Do I even still OWN whatever this paper pertains to. [Amazing how many NOs you’ll discover] Everybody wants to keep financial stuff, me too. But think about this people. If you’ve reconciled your bank statement [or have accepted its validity at face value], unless you need it for tax purposes or may return some expensive item — get rid of it! Same with credit card statements! NOBODY needs 5 years of bank statements and VISA bills.

As I worked thru the pile or bag, I decided whether to keep or fling. I had two bags — shred and toss. And I filed every paper I decided to keep in an appropriate file folder. NO having to go back thru it all again. I worked on the closest to me, then whatever was in the line of sight, and then all the drawers one at a time, and then finally I dug out the hidden bags. That year my village posted a hurrah notice that we had increased our recycleable tonnage by 8% ! I was too embarrassed to call to say “your welcome!”

And you know what? I did it all during commercials! Whenever I’d sit to watch tv, I’d make sure to have a stack of paper clutter nearby with my trusty folders, file box, shred & toss bags. And I’d go to town. It worked like a breeze! Somehow focusing on my tv program helped release my interest in the papers. A dose of reality check [do I REALLY need this???] and having my real attention devoted to tv kept me from clinging to stuff that should go and not want to save every shred. Oh .. those slips of papers with websites and names and stuff on them? Keep a steno book nearby and make a page of websites, and names & addys, and whatever else you collect. Write them in the book and throw the papers away!!! When you have a few quiet minutes and your curiosity has gotten the best of you — check them out. Cross out whatever you no longer care about and ACT ON whatever you still do. I found if your tendency is to put it in a file for later — you’re just hanging on. So get rid of it! Who needs another 5 years worth of “I’ll get to that later” hanging around? Its so freeing when its gone!

Anyway, that’s how I did it. I ended with one and one half file boxes. I keep up with my filing now and every couple years I go thru the old stuff to be sure I still need it. Paper gets obsolete too! lol

I sincerely hope something I’ve said here gives someone else the courage to blast that paper monster right outta their home! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done!

Love,
Fly C in IL

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