It’s time for me to be honest.
Do I seem like I have my act together? Do I seem like the most organized and fiscally savvy gal you have ever encountered? Oh do go on.
Here is reality: I am 28 years old. Until three months ago I kept all of my important papers in a bin. This bin:
I don’t have a desk, so I just threw everything important into this bin. Checks, thank you notecards, my passport, medical documents, my lease, broken pencils, my social security card, an old alarm clock, a gazillion paperclips, important mail, pay stubs, used up highlighters, tax information, wrapping paper. It was all in there.
To give myself a little credit: I never lost an important document, so at least I was consistent about tossing crap in there.
However. As I’m sure you understand, the situation is not sustainable. Firstly (if you recall), I move a lot. Lugging this bin of unsorted paperwork around with me is not a good use of my energy.
Secondly, the bin goes under my bed. It is annoying to go searching under the bed every time a piece of mail comes in.
Third, I had multiple panic-filled moments when I had to spend time rummaging through there praying I had actually followed my system. Lots of stress and anxiety and self-scolding for not being a more organized person.
I needed at least an intermediate step…so I did this:
What you are looking at is a beautiful plate with an octopus on it (see the tentacles peeping out of the bottom left?) that my aunt gave me. It became my mail receptacle. And by mail receptacle I mean place to put towers of mail until they get too tall and they fall over and I have to shove them in the bin under the bed.
You can see why this system is not great. I can’t even see my pretty plate.
Finally, at the age of 28 and 2 months old, I finally decided to keep my paperwork like a grownup.
I invested in an ugly file folder crate and some hideous army green hanging folders. Now when my mail stack gets too high, I file the important paperwork. I don’t even keep those little empty mailback envelopes they give you! I get rid of them right away! The files and box weren’t cheap, they don’t look nice, and it is definitely not my favorite part of being an adult.
However…. after being an adult for over a decade now, having this file box does make me FEEL more like an adult. And I no longer freak out about where my social security card is (what is that thing for, anyway?)
So you see- I am not a naturally organized person. I don’t have a label maker. (I don’t want a label maker because then I would feel guilty for not putting things away in the places I had chosen for them) The reason I have organized my finances the way I have (with automatic bill pay and instant budget making) is because if I didn’t have it automated, my bills and important paperwork would end up in the under-the-bed-lack-of-filing-system and I would have no clue about my money at all.
You will also notice that I didn’t come up with this new organization system overnight. I had a few failed experiments including:
- A pink binder that did not have enough space in it and I also couldn’t find the hole punch
- Multiple shoe boxes that I moved around with me
- A lovely green storage container that got crushed during a move 😦
The point is- sometimes you are going to try to set up a system, and it won’t work. You might need to set up a system one piece at a time (the mail plate was a genius step for me to avoid making my roommates crazy with my old bills stacked on the hall table…) But if you keep trying different systems (and in my case, if I had just bought some stupid file folders) then one day you will find a system that works for you.