When I was a full-time professional organizer, I saw a lot of folks whose file cabinets were stuffed with papers that they never looked at or used. Meanwhile, the papers that came in everyday - bills, school stuff, medical stuff, stuff related to work, passionate pursuits, and daily life – piled up on desks, beds, window sills and bookshelves. Yikes!
An office is a lot like a garden: You’ve got to weed it to keep it in good shape. Remove whatever is excess, old, no longer relevant, and you’ve got yourself more room – physical and mental – to grow beautiful, new ideas, projects, and relationships.
At least three times a year, I go through all my files. I take out one file at a time, look at the contents, and ask myself if they are truly important to my life right now. If a single paper or an entire file doesn't fit that bill, into recycling it goes.
Sometimes, I create whole new categories of files based on a life change or on a new priority. I have one now called Brooklyn Life. It includes folders called Home Ideas, Park Slope Food Coop, and Goals.
The idea of going through your files may sound like a complete drag. But let me tell you, there are some rewarding and even pleasurable aspects to it. For me, it’s like taking an inventory of my life, past and present. I get to take a walk down memory lane and then figure out which of these memories are worth preserving. Sometimes I come across papers that remind me of something I want to write about, some idea I want to pursue. Or I realize that whatever that paper represents is no longer important to me in my life right now.
When I’m done with the whole process (which, by the way, is easier if broken up into one- or two-hour chunks of time over the course of a weekend), my file system is easier to use. It’s more reflective of how my life actually is. I have the immense satisfaction of recycling one or two large bags of paper. My office has a whole new, shiny, light look and feel.
If you have an office inside or outside the home, enter it with the discerning eye of a gardener. Pluck out what hinders growth, make room for the new.