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How I Organized My Papers, Files and More: 7 Tips that Work

Posted on April 18, 2018

 

I work from home in an extra bedroom that I converted into an office 23 years ago, when we bought our house for our growing family that included two little girls, a dog (two dogs, now), a cat, my husband and me. Nowadays, most of my work is done online, so I spend a lot of time in that room.

When we first moved in, I couldn’t make that space work. I finally hired a professional organizer who set up a system that works perfectly for me.

Except like you, I, too, have ADHD and even the best laid out plans don’t always work out.

For me, that means not putting papers away in a timely manner, which means lots and lots of piles of paper, projects, notebooks, and everything else you’d expect to find in a home office.

Those without ADD tend to have tidy spaces, but for those of us with ADD, that can actually lead to anxiety, because it can mean out of sight = out of mind. Which means, we keep our stuff visible. Which means, we often live in clutter.

Clutter can cause more anxiety because it is visually jolting. More than that, it’s a daily reminder that we can’t seem to get our sh** together.

Generally, I get to the point of being so sick of my office clutter, that I spend a day putting things away- filing, tossing, etc. But this time, I let it get away from me and before I knew it, six months passed before I got the courage to make the attack.

I learned a lot from having waited so long to deal with my clutter. I spent time analyzing just what prevented me from facing this task for so long. I already had systems set up- places where things belonged (thank you, professional organizer), so why…why…why…did I let things go for so long?

I realized that I didn’t actually have places for all of my stuff. I analyzed this further: Why? What was going wrong? Why couldn’t I deal with the paper piles? I looked at the papers that had me stumped and then I understood the problem:

I couldn’t file the papers because there was no room in the filing cabinet folders I’d set up years ago. I knew this at some level, but couldn’t face it, because it meant I’d have to spend a lot of time…..

PURGING old files.

So I put it off another few months.

Finally, I got sick of my room and sick of myself. I knew what had to be done but had been avoiding this most BORING and TEDIOUS of tasks. We- we with ADD- cannot tolerate boredom, repetitive chores, and in general: PAPERWORK.

So this is what I did.

I forced myself to start. I asked myself: what area was upsetting me the most? The answer: family related files: medical records, school reports, etc. So that’s where I started- the file cabinet that housed those papers. Armed with bank boxes, I took one file out at a time, blasted music from Pandora (Pandora.com), and got to work.

The fascinating thing was that once I STARTED, I had a hard time STOPPING. It felt so good to finally face my paper demons. Yes, sometimes I got stuck, finding something of interest and having to read it, but then I made a rule for myself: reading was for later.

I got through files and files of papers, putting them in manila folders, labeling each one before storing them in the boxes. Oh, how great it felt to be done with the first file cabinet.

I determined that the next pain in the ass papers were my business files. So I went ahead and purged those. The more I worked at this, the more aggressive I became in tossing papers vs saving them.

I became more aggressive in tossing papers when I asked myself this: ‘Once I’m gone, who will have the thankless job of going through all of this stuff?’ I literally pictured my husband and kids going through my files and piles and got disgusted with myself.

Finally,I eyed something I’ve avoided for nearly 5 years: the cabinet filled with papers 2 ½’ high of my daughter’s special education papers. This one was tough because I knew I needed to carefully go though them, finding all the evaluations and reports from 26 years of psychology, speech, educational, OT, PT and other related services she received. The memories of those very difficult years flooded me with sadness – and anger at times. But I faced it and got things sorted.

With all the old papers cleared out, it was now time to file the overwhelming piles on my desk (and in paper bags) that had been haunting me for months and months.

I learned another lesson.

I didn’t actually have “homes” for all of those papers. I needed to add new hanging files and add new sub-categories to files I’d already made years ago. For example: Terry’s Medical now needed sub categories of

  • Internal medicine
  • Lab results
  • Opthalmology
  • Orthopedics

…Etc.

THIS was the magic key for me. Once I had all the categories I needed, filing became a breeze.

Granted, this took many weeks to complete, because at times, I just couldn’t deal with it, or was simply too busy, but it’s finally done. Walking into my office is now a pleasure, as if I’d given myself a wonderful gift by seeing the shiny desktop instead of one covered in all shapes and sizes of paper.

Oh, here are the 7 tips, if you don’t want to read the whole article:

  1. Analyze what is preventing you from starting
  2. Visualize a loved one having to go through your things as a motivator to get started
  3. Have materials at hand (boxes, markers, hanging folders, file cabinets, etc.)
  4. Decide where you want to start. Stuck? Identify what would make you FEEL better once it’s cleared out. Then start there.
  5. Make your plan
  6. Purge so you’ll have room to store your stuff
  7. Micro file: add new categories to your filing system so you’ll have a home for all your papers

What about you? Is there a system that works for you? Or are you still feeling stuck pushing that start button?

Share your experiences in the Comment section below.

—-> ……and if you’d like help de-cluttering YOUR home, join my online, exclusive Queens of Distraction group coaching today. (for women with ADHD only).

We’ll push up our sleeves together to get things done. Join me HERE!

 


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