Taming the Paper Tiger

Today was an Admin day.  Bills and some of the mounds of paperwork that have languished unattended.  Let’s just say I’m a long way from actually taming this tiger.

(c) AdobeStock Photo

(c) AdobeStock Photo

But at least it’s not attacking me right away.

I hadn’t even eaten breakfast before I was at the computer.  A pile of bills and subscription renewals.  I have most everything automated in electronic banking.  The problem is that the bill amounts had changed and I hadn’t paid attention.  I was either over- or under-paying by a dollar here or there.

Lesson:  when you’re in a hurry, attention to detail goes out the window.  In fact, I didn’t even notice.  I just started paying more than required just so I wouldn’t have any late charges. 

Then I wanted to call a friend, and couldn’t find her phone number.  And I just spent almost a day reconciling my phone cloud contacts with the Google contacts.  Yet somehow I had messed this up.  Now I’m looking through pieces of paper to find where maybe I wrote it down.

Lesson: when you have a combination of paper and electronic storage, it’s almost impossible to find anything.  It’s always in the other place.

Now I’m actually looking at other papers and trying to figure out what on earth to do with them.  Like the scrap of a page I ripped out of Parade Magazine announcing that Ann Curry will have a short series on PBS called “We’ll Meet Again” starting January 23rd.  Or the notes I took on a conference call where I don’t yet have a folder to put them in.  Or some 2018 tax info (again I haven’t yet started a folder).

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

Do I scan it all?  That takes time.  Do I file the hard copies?  Some are strange sizes and I have limited filing space.  Do I put some of it on my calendar?  I’ve had this problem for ages, and often just stuffed the paper in an out of the way place until “I have time to deal with it”.  Which was never.

But now I want to clean out those drawers.  Those closets. Those filing bins.  I don’t want so much stuff hanging around.  I’ve wanted to purge for ages.  And some of it probably doesn’t even mean anything anymore.  It seemed to at the time, but now?  Not so much.

Do I want to go through it one piece of paper at a time?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I just get rid of everything older than a few weeks ago and call it a loss.  If I haven’t needed it up to now, I probably won’t need it later.  In fact, that’s sounding more and more like a good idea, even as I write this.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

Lesson: Consider having a staging area to keep papers for a certain period of time before deciding if I really want to keep them or not.  Then be ruthless about taking action to either file/scan or throw out.  I’d like to make quicker decisions about the papers.

It’s funny how I seem to have a perpetual problem with papers.  Other things in my house are well organized.  My kitchen.  Clothes.  Books.  For some reason, I have a problem with paperwork.  Just picture me buried underneath a mountain, and you’re probably close to the truth.

Have you come up with a good solution to my problem?  If you have, I’d love to hear how you’ve solved it.  Maybe not perfectly, but at least better than my current scattered approach.  Please leave a comment, and even include links or pictures.  Maybe someone else could benefit from your experience too.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Kathleen a few years ago I decided that paperwork was not an area of strength for me – in fact probably more the opposite! The game changer for me was to outsource it to a private secretary. Doing that over the last 10 years has been so liberating. The key is getting a secretary who thinks proactively and also loves paperwork and is energised by it. That is the perfect combination – someone who is strong where you are weak. We work closely together for about 3-4 hours a month and it is amazing what can be accomplished!

    • I will definitely consider that, Sunil. That may be a better alternative to trying to do it myself.