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Sunday, June 10, 2012

simple sunday: paper projects

Janko's Wish by Judy Varga

Papers are always, always a problem for me.
So many of them! What to do with them?

Like many other items, they tend to collect on just about every flat surface in our 888 sq foot home (I throw that statistic in every chance I get now, since Minou finally corrected my 1,000 sq ft estimate yesterday).

I have read many helpful organizing books that speak of having a system to deal with papers. Handle each item only once. Set up a station at the front door. "Hot storage" and "cold" storage. These are all great ideas. Yet although I (we) have improved a lot over the past few years, the paper drifts tend to pile up again when I am too busy to cull/sort/deal with them regularly, and when there are items that I'm really not sure how to handle. Usually the second reason involves some sort of emotional block--a to-do item that I don't seem to get around to, or something that I think I should save although I'm not very likely to use it. Sometimes they sit around because I don't have a filing/desk system that is set up to handle them (let me say again that space is feels rather tight in our home) such as articles from a workshop that I attended, or training materials from work, or a non time-specific to-do item like a guide to making a home emergency kit....etc.

So. Not quite by choice, but because of needing to rearrange furniture to accomodate our housesitters, today Minou and I are tackling paper piles. It's amazing how one project leads to another project leads to another project...and ultimately all to our benefit.
Here's a shot of an already culled pile from the downstairs entryway:

entryway paper piles

Yikes. As the first stop in the door, this is where papers tend to accumulate and stay until sorted. It looks chaotic and messy and tends to make my stress level rise the minute I walk in the door. Not the desired effect when returning home. There is a recycling basket on the floor in the entryway, and a shredding bag in the front hallway closet, and those both help. But what remains are to-do's and to-file's. I need another system.

Mama Minou's desk

So here is my desk, which now (after an hour of sorting) has fairly neat to-do, to-file, and to-read piles (mostly professional articles that I want to have available, but don't have a place for), along with a massive shredding bag. I cleared out one bookshelf zone and placed the wire organizing shelves to make a "warm storage", for work or schoolwork related paper that I may want to access. I will sort it once a trimester, every three month. Yes, really. Since I actually rarely sit at this very tall desk, mostly working on my laptop from the couch, I think that a basket system with just TWO baskets could live here next to the printer. To Do and To File. That's it. I will get to them weekly, on the weekend, and empty the baskets. Really.
When I opened our family file cabinet's drawer to start putting away the to-file pile, I found to my dismay that it was stuffed far too full to accomodate any more papers. Time to start the yearly cull, which has already yielded a large amount of shreddable material and at least a quarter-drawer's worth of space. Plus Minou's casual comment "Hmm..I wonder if we need all this...maybe I don't need to keep xyz...I'd like to see if we could get down to just one filing cabinet total." Yes, please!

A few more thoughts--the papers that I find most troublesome, again, have an emotional tug of some sort. I'm anxious about parting with them or not sure how to deal with them for that reason. Here's an example. I recently accomplished a second midlife career change. It's hard for me to part with items from my past role as an adult educator--sort of feels like giving up an identity that I am proud of and worked hard for. Yet I do not need (for example) those paper grade books any more. If I do teach again at some point, I will certainly use an electronic grade system and not paper. I had a nostalgic moment looking back at five years of class lists...oh, I remember that sudent! I wonder how he/she is doing? I heard they graduated from the program! etc. I think that my solution is to scan these items. I can keep them electronically and still have access to them, but they will not be taking up physical space in my limited work & storage area.
This whole process reminds me so much of one of my favorite childhood books, Janko's Wish by Judy Varga (published 1969 by William Morrow and Company, New York). Another favorite book of mine was Sloth's Birthday Party--a similar theme of laziness/industriousness/motivation. There's a theme here--I hated cleaning my room.

how do you rotate pictures?

great illustrations by Judy Varga

 It's a story of a lazy young Hungarian farmer with a sadly neglected small farm who is tricked by a "wise old gypsy crone" into helping her push her caravan out of the mud by the promise of granting a wish. "Janko stopped to think. He thought of his neglected farm and of all the work he could avoid by wishing it away." Janko decides to wish for a sack of gold to make all his other wishes come true. He then begins searching for a place to hide his gold on the farm. and organizing in the process. "Nowhere could he find a good hiding place. He was too busy rushing about to notice that he was putting his farm into tiptop order." Finally, Janko realizes that he has all the gold he could need or want in his now planted and harvested wheat fields, and decides to wish for a partner (wife). Janko's sweet neighbor appreciates his industrious nature, and in a large communal party they begin their life together.

I love it! Janko tricked himself into getting motivated and creating the life he wanted, so that work didn't feel so overwheming (as cleaning and organizing sometimes can). He realized that he had all he materially needed, and stopped chasing the "sack of gold" to build relationships with a partner and his village. It's so funny to look back and see my attraction for this book as a child, remember reading it many, many times to my boys, and now resonate with the themes as an adult.

What were some of your favorite children's books, and do you see parallels with your adult life?

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