Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aline’s Home Office- File Cabinets, Part I

I love file cabinets. I don’t know how people live without them. When my youngest daughter turned twelve she surprisingly requested a file cabinet for her birthday. I guess she saw me use mine all the time, it looked liked fun and she wanted one, too. It IS fun. The flat file is one of the greatest inventions ever. Every paper has a place and you can always find what you want but ONLY IF YOU FILE IT.

File cabinets play a central role in Aline’s home. She has plenty of them but she doesn’t fully exploit their usefulness. She needs to get papers off her horizontal surfaces - the floor, tables, book shelves – and into her file cabinets.

To make it worse, years ago her partner boxed up a lot of these piles of papers to make room for a new floor installation. Then boxes sat there, for years, being an eyesore and taking up floor space. She didn’t even know what papers were in them.

Her priority with my time was finding a document she suspected was in one of the boxes, so we started our paper purge there. I worked as a coach, encouraging her to divest herself of random papers we came across during the search.

We sorted the papers and other items into boxes for:
Yard sale
And a special box of ephemera from her religious movement to send to a library for their archives.

She got into a paper tossing rhythm but she couldn’t bring herself to part with the folders and binders we emptied. Her instinct was keep them and other office supplies to be reused. My belief is the less you keep, the less likely you are to fill them up. She agree to keep only a few.

When we finished for the day we had found the missing document. But more impressive, we reduced 18 boxes to five - two to file, two with small papers and photos that remained to be sorted and one with papers to shred.

This was the first step in reclaiming space in the office she and her partner share. She has a lot of next steps ahead of her and most of them involve file cabinets:

1. She needs to clear outdated papers from her file cabinets so she has space to file the papers she wants to keep.

2. Once their contents are reduced she should move her file cabinets to arrange “like with like.” A black file cabinet in the living room could join the matching one in the office. Placed side by side they would create a larger horizontal surface. If she moves her two three-drawer file cabinets next to each other under her printer shelf, they will create a larger horizontal space where she could store printing supplies.  If she can reduce the need for so many file cabinets, it will reduce the furniture in her small condo, which will expand her space.

3.  Then she can clear off her desk because she’ll have places to file current papers.

4. Her last step is to take everything off her bookshelves, clean them and re-shelve only the books she will actually read again or use for reference.

We’ll check in later on her progress.

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