Drowning in Paperwork

I finally made folders for filing the massive amount of paperwork I’m always squirreling away somewhere that I can never seem to find when I actually need it.  Life generates a lot of paperwork for anyone, but I’ve found that being married raised my share exponentially.  I have health insurance now (lacking it before was more a function of being self-employed than of being single), and that by itself results in a steady stream of mail.  Just the fact that there is more money coming and going through the household creates more paperwork. 

Every time my husband signs anything, he hands it to me.  Apparently his expectations of my marital duties include “file clerk.”  I’m not sure what that’s about, especially since I’m not exactly known for my organizational habits or skills.  I asked him once when he handed me a Home Depot receipt, “Why do you always hand these to me?  What am I supposed to do with it?” 

He replied, “I don’t know . . . take care of it.”  I don’t think he realizes on a conscious level that this is what he expects, but in handing me the receipt, he never wants to see it again if he doesn’t need it, but if he does need it, he wants to make sure we have kept it and can find it.  And that seems to be pretty much his expectation for every piece of paper he hands me.

But my husband was against the idea of creating a filing system.  He suggested that I scan everything and throw away the paper copies.  I tried that once, about 15 years ago (when most people didn’t even have scanners), and I found it to be inefficient.  Both hardware and software have improved vastly since then, but even though I’m very pro-technology, I still don’t like the idea of scanning everyday paperwork.  It’s probably part of my ADHD brain that likes to be able to touch and feel things that are important and have them right in front of me.  This makes for a mess, of course, so I’m okay with having an “action” folder for things that need to be acted on soon (e.g., current bills).  Things that I don’t need right now—but if I ever did need them, it would most likely be within the next few months (recent bank statements)—are filed in appropriate folders.  Things that we ought to keep for reference just in case but are unlikely to actually need anytime soon (if ever) could be scanned (tax returns).

I read once that it’s important to actually have printed-out labels on your files, rather than handwritten ones, because it makes you more likely to “respect” the system and use it.  I’ve had filing systems before, but I don’t recall ever printing out the labels.  So maybe that explains why I never used them.

With that in mind today, I whipped out a label maker I bought on clearance several years ago.  I don’t remember why I bought it (maybe because I didn’t respect my file folders?), but I had never used it.  Considering that virtually everyone has a computer and a printer, do label makers even have a purpose anymore? 

Surprisingly, yes!

Today I discovered how fun it is to label things with a label maker.  It’s so easy to just print out a single label right quick.  You can do that with a printer, but sheets of labels don’t like being sent through the printer over and over again, and it’s kind of a hassle to make sure you print in the right spot.  Maybe I’m just trying to justify having another gadget, but I love this thing.  I wish I could think of more things to label!

Finally having a way to organize my paperwork, I was able to plow through huge piles of it in the last couple of days, tossing and shredding a lot of extraneous, obsolete, and duplicate material along the way.  Boy, did that ever feel good!

Now the question is . . . will I actually continue to use my new files?

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