I like to think of the piles of paper that seem to plague the majority of my counter space as the physical manifestation of a life richly blessed with many opportunities and experiences. Each paper representing something of importance or urgency.
I would like to think of them that way. But the reality is more that they’re a physical manifestation of my brain at any given moment: scattered, overloaded, and accompanied by circus music.
I have an amazing system of organization, just like I have an amazing Dyson vacuum. The only drawback to both is user absence. Just as the dog hair and dust will not find their way into the vacuum on their own, apparently papers will not file themselves.
I have a big three-ring notebook in which each member of the family has their own tab. On a good day, anything that comes into the house is three-hole-punched and put into the appropriate section in the notebook. Invitations, permission slips, class lists, upcoming events – all filed in one easy location.
In theory, there should be no reason for any type of pile. But let us take a moment to understand how a pile is born and how piles breed.
On a typical day, after school, people hand me all sorts of papers. It is there that the crucial fatal flaw – denial – comes into play.
My mind lets me believe that I can set the Jog-A-Thon flier on the counter because when the kids go to bed, I will write it on my calendar and write a check, taking care of it immediately so I can throw the paper away.
I also can set the letter from XM radio begging my husband to come back for $20 for 4 months on the counter because then I will remember to tell him about it when he gets home. Again, he will make an immediate decision and then throw the letter away.
Soon the piles begin to multiply – a new pile is born because the school directory, address book and sheets of stamps is neatly put down on another area of the counter because I am in the middle of addressing invitations, so that isn’t technically a pile, it is work in progress.
The newspaper article, the new house present, and the birthday card didn’t qualify as a pile in the beginning, either, because I am “going to the post office today.” Except I don’t make it to the post office for two weeks and other people, not respecting my post office errand, put their spelling test or book order form on top of my about-to-be-mailed-today items.
And so it goes.
Until I can’t find something. Like my car keys just as I am supposed to be leaving. That’s when I know I’ve lost control again.
As I began making my way through the nearest one, it came to me that each of my many piles is similar to Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.” There are papers from my past, papers for things yet to be, and papers about what’s happening now.
The anatomy of just one pile proves my point:
– A permission slip to the 7th grade trip to the Getty Villa, (due yesterday).
– The rehearsal schedule for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” which our daughter began rehearsing for a month ago.
– From the same theater – a fundraising envelope from See’s Candy – the deadline yet to be.
– An orthodontist appointment reminder card from Feb. 17.
– A rough draft of our fourth grader’s Gold Rush newspaper homework assignment – a work in progress
– A school Jog-a-thon announcement for our kindergartener sometime this spring
– The invitation to the school benefit fundraiser this Saturday.
– And the directions that came with Wyatt’s two-way spy pen that already broke.
My keys were in my sweatshirt pocket.
And my three-hole-punch is on the desk, ready for whatever comes my way today.