Friday, August 10, 2007

Taming the Paper Tiger

Oh, don't worry; this isn't going to be a lengthy and thoughtful post about the strained relationship between the U.S. and China over the past half-century or so. It's Friday and it's way too hot for serious contemplation of thorny international diplomatic issues.

The paper tiger I refer to here is literally made out of paper. Lots and lots of paper.

Most people call it "mail." I call it "a menace to peaceful civilization."

Some people I know have a system of handling their mail. As soon as the mail is brought into the house, it is sorted and filed: bills here, personal mail here, catalogs we want to keep here. Then the remaining mail, the junk mail, is either shredded on the spot or merely tossed in the trash if it contains no identity-theft prone personal information.

My DH and I have been trying for years to implement a system like that for dealing with the mail. So far, we've managed the "bringing the mail into the house" part. At which point it ends up on various surfaces, is eventually relocated into the black hole junk pit called the computer desk which is located in our bedroom, where it fruitfully multiplies until the point where I can't stand it any more, dump all of it on the bed, and spend most of an afternoon or evening sorting, shredding, filing and tossing.

You'd think I'd be better at this. I was an executive secretary, once upon a time long ago. But despite what should have been excellent training, I'm helpless to deal with the mail clutter in any kind of rational or civilized manner.

And it has been this way since DH and I were first married, when any attempt to eat dinner while seated at our dining room table would have required roughly three hours of mail sorting beforehand.

I have a filing cabinet (small, and in desperate need of cleaning out, but still). I have a nice shredder, though there's no rational place to put it where I can leave it plugged in all the time, something that would be necessary for daily use. The trash can by the desk is of an adequate size. So what is the problem?

I think there's more than one. I think there are five, actually:

Denial: I didn't just get that many bills and flyers. These aren't all mine. Some of them must belong to the neighbors.

Anger: We signed up for e-bills! Why are we still getting paper bills! I told this company to quit sending me their catalogs! Just because I keep ordering stuff from them is no reason for them to keep cluttering up my mailbox!

Bargaining: If I can fit just one more stack on top of the printer, I'll clean all of it up tomorrow. I promise.

Depression: I'm never going to be able to sort all of this mail. I need ice cream.

Acceptance: All right. I'll do it. But this is the last time I'm spending a Friday evening this way!

A clean, empty desk should be its own reward, but I know better than that. I know that the desk, like our dining room table once upon a time, is the Designated Mail Magnet in this house, and that no matter what I do to try to change that, there'll still come a day when I have to clean it all over again.

But that's okay. It's still better than that other as-yet unresolved clutter mine field:

Denial: I can buy this kitchen gadget. There's still room in the kitchen somewhere...


Opal said...

I feel your pain! Isn't it ridulous how much junk mail we get?
I can not say we are perfect by any stretch...but, we have two big garbage cans outside of our garage, when I get the mail I mosey on over; half of credit card spam in one, the other half in the other. That does cut down some of the piles. I also have a pile of advertisements, etc for my husband that I keep rubber ban around...HE has to sort through that (more like a penance). Now if I could get better organized with the bills....Where is the ice cream?

freddy said...

There's a corner of the kitchen counter with a large S.E.P. (Somebody Else's Problem) field around it where all the papers go. Every once in a while the stack falls over onto the breadmaker, shorting out the S.E.P. and it becomes My Problem. (sigh)
Ahh, the wonders of civilization!