Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog

Taming the Paper Tiger -Tidying Phase 3

Honestly I procrastinated to start this phase.
I knew books would be an emotional challenge - whereas I just have volumes of paper.  I mean volumes.   Binders - boxes in closets- totes- drawers- piles -file cabinets-  most of it hidden from view but its there.   I have served on numerous boards as both President, Director, Program Chair, Fund raiser Chair, and for almost all of them I served for years as secretary or editor/publisher of their newsletter.  I enjoyed it all but my life shifted on its axis and I slowly disengaged.  On top of this I have maintained a thriving private practice since 1995, and returned for a second Master's in Health care Administration.   Getting the picture?  
Here's one:
I have binders of notes for each class, organization as well as binders and files for the incredible variety of information, treatment strategies, worksheets and forms required to maintain the quality of care that I'm known for.  So I knew this category was going to the most exhausting and didn't see it as 'joy filled'.  

(The photo is sideways but you get the idea. . . ) 

Now that I'm 90% done with this category I will share my thoughts and warnings!

As much as you're supposed to touch each item and thank it and let it go - I honestly didn't do that in such an obvious manner.  What helped me the most was reading Marie Kondo's details regarding paper and really embracing HOW having access to the Internet, computer, scanner, cell phone, backed up files on 'the Cloud' as well as available flash drives, hard drives and external drives.   I probably have every file copied, saved or accessible in at least 5 different places - and with numerous copies on paper too!   The more I thought about that simple FACT it was really easy to let at least 12 cases of paper go to recycling!   The rest was shredded for security purposes.  

When I started I was concerned about discarding 'important' meeting minutes, reports, studies and information about community events that were newsworthy at the time - I was anxious thinking about the fact that if I tossed no one would ever know what 'really' happened. . . I was also concerned about names, addresses and personal notes made on them.   When you sit on Boards with attorneys you learn what to worry about.  I have also lived through the advent of the Health Insurance Portability& Accountability Act - so that multiplied my anxiety.  
Then I thought it through - most of it was done in the presence of multiple people and the notes or minutes were distributed to everyone at the meeting, the organization also had much of the original information, the reports and the evaluations on their computers, in their files or brought them home with them. . . and who knows what they did with them??    But one thing for sure - I'm NOT the only one who has possession of the paper they were printed on!   So if a major historical investigation was actually done - they should be able to find what they're looking for somewhere.   I would start with the Internet!! 

So I emptied dozens of binders. . . it was a LOT of paper.  It was made easier by access to a truck, able bodied man, and local recycling bins as well as a shredder - that I used to destroy any document that I audited to be personal or confidential.   I also need to make the point that I believe in retaining every document regarding my clients who trust that I will protect their confidentiality.  I did not 'discard' any professional documentation and now can feel confident that they are all secure -although I did not 'organize' them -as they now require multiple file cabinets that I honestly did not get to - but will do so as part of my own "Phase 3b" -knowing that it will take as long to do just client files as it did to go through all my other elements of paper tidying.  

Be warned!! - you will be sorting through your history during this phase!  Books were about the experience of the books themselves - recalling their story, knowledge, insights and journeys - mostly subjective and experiential.  Paper is different.  Paper reveals facts, interests, concerns, favorites, priorities and reveals it without screening or judgment.  When you sort through and out every page - you will get your own walk through time.  Mine was mostly since I moved to this address but it also included boxes that were moved from the residence I had for almost 15 years and before that is in a warehouse that was lost in divorcing.  Over and over I realized that if I lived this long without it - I certainly do not need it now!    That is what is so powerful about this process.   "IT" -whether its clothing, books, paper, photos or trinkets - are all anchors to memories and experiences - that travel with us no matter where we go.   It truly is the memory saved in our precious heart, soul and brain that is what is retained not the physical 'stuff' that we tend to think we need to recall whatever it is we need to know.  I know what you're thinking . . . sure - but you're young you have a good memory - what happens if you forget???    That's why it is important to save and cherish what does give you joy -and as I get older - 'joy' is having written notes so I don't turn on the stress machine!  But the other reality is that it isn't so bad to forget!!   Really.   I'm finding that the best way to get over and through 'bad times' is to load up on NEW GOOD memories!   Seriously.  Old memories of all the rotten, hard, bitter, ugly, sad, or tear filled moments just make for a bad mood!  That mood is too often, contagious in the NOW.   Talk about mindfulness and being in the moment - dragging old hurts into the present is far from 'freeing,'   Looking FORWARD to the possibilities of the future.  Truly embracing what optimism really is.    Getting ready for all the NEW joy filled moments ahead. . . that's what this process is about!  

Warning 2:  Your space may look worse for a while rather than better! 
As I sort by category - and focusing on one at a time - those that I pass through or by are accumulating in assorted other places in my home.  It doesn't look pleasant - but I know that it will!   Doing this process by category is what really works.   It allows you to stay focused to get through the mountains and the thousands of decisions required.  As you sort through - DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED with items that are NOT in the category you're working through - even if it takes days or weeks!  Put the other categories aside - assign them to an 'area' - ONE place - so that when you finally reach that category they will be waiting for their own 'sort' and tidying.    My place has looked like a land mine went off in rooms where I wasn't working on a category- but today I was able to sort through 'household' and 'decorations' that I found along the way - boxed them up and off they will go to Goodwill.  My home and office are gaining joy. . .    I'm now satisfied with having completed 3 categories thoroughly.  Komono or 'small things' are next. . .   

Warning 3: Don't buy ANY 'organizing' boxes, totes, crates, binders or furniture until you are done!  
If you do this process as directed - you will be tossing out them too!   Having gone through the last 3 categories of clothing, books, and paper - I was left with countless hangers, extra totes, Banker boxes, empty shelves, and numerous organizing items.  You will not need them!  Your home should be filled with what gives you JOY and not 'stuff' that is taking up incredible amounts of space that needs to be paid for, cleaned, insured and moved -even if you don't -what you leave after death will!     The economy would take a nose dive if just 20% of the country decided to do this!!   You become very selective with what stays and what new items you bring in!!  

Now I'm finishing up the final touches -- for the first time in 15 years I'm feeling good about my spaces!     And BEWARE of shredding if you have cats!   They LOVE the bags filled with it!  Have a vacuum handy! 

But most of all. . . ENJOY!

Karen 

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