I am artificially organized, not naturally organized; and it still gives me a frisson to find my stuff. So I love filing systems of all kinds.
But filing something is only good if you are pretty sure you will want the thing you are filing again; or if the law says you might want it (e.g. birth certificates). Otherwise filing stuff is a waste of time. Filing is meant to save you time, not waste it; so you want to be choosy about what gets filed. Filing is useful only for a tiny percentage of the paper that (still!) comes into our lives. A fraction of a percent. Minuscule.
Most paper should be ditched immediately after you glance at it. I’m very aggressive about sorting mail as soon as it comes, and getting rid of as much as possible. Most of our mail goes into the Real Recycle Bin, the big blue one the city gave us, which we put out on the curb every Monday morning.
But then there’s the category of papers you MIGHT want again, or that you MIGHT do something with. Perhaps you have a receipt for something you might return. Or not. A brochure for a place you might go. Or not. A ticket somebody gave you to something you might or might not do. Some handout from a meeting, now that many of us are back in the office again (I got two handouts the other day). Some Very Important Notice from a Very Important Bureaucracy that you might, or might not, have to act on… can’t be sure…
If you’re not ready to file something, but also not ready to toss something into the Real Recycle Bin, set up a Slow Motion Recycle Bin. My Slo-Mo Recycle Bin is about the size of a small laundry basket. (Previously, I used a cardboard box; but I liked this basket and now it has a job.)
Mine is a Gen-X Slow Motion Recycle Bin. This is not just because I might or might not be Gen-X — the Sasquatch of generations — rumored to exist, but seldom photographed or recorded — but because the thing you say when you shift through your slo-mo recycle bin a few months from now is the purported call of Gen-X in the wild: “Whatever.”
Every six months to a year or so, your slo-mo recycle bin will fill up with paper maybes. Then it’s time to go through it and remove 99.9% of it to the Real Recycle Bin.
This is a fabulous place to store papers that expire. Most paper is like grocery store produce. The passage of time is a marvelous sorting mechanism, and most paper in a Slow Motion Recycle bin has expired, like that poor slimy bunch of parsley you forgot about in the back of the fridge drawer. Compost! Recycle!
Look at this flyer, that sheepdog trial looks neat… Oh, crud, that was two months ago. Whatever. (Toss from slo-mo recycle bin to Real Recycle Bin.)
Oooh, that’s right, the city sent me this notice — does it apply to me? Meh. I don’t think so. What’s the worst that could happen? Whatever. (Toss from slo-mo recycle bin to Real Recycle Bin.)
Am I really ever going to cut out this newspaper* article about sheepdogs and snail mail it to my friend and her border collie? Mmmm - yeah, they’ll like it. I’ll put it back in the bin so it’s there when I get around to it.
The Slow Motion Recycle Bin: It is most excellent; not bogus.
* I started getting paper newspapers again. Since they don’t refresh all day long, I actually finish catching up with the news.