Filers vs. Pilers

My parents have a cartoon hanging on their office wall with the caption “Filers should not marry pilers.”  In the picture one spouse is obviouslyvexed at the other’s piles.  Hellooooo, my house.

I am a piler.  I have piles everywhere.  I just can’t help myself.  I have important piles, piles to get back to, piles of medium importance, piles of bills to pay, piles of bills already paid, piles, piles, piles. 

It drives my husband batty.

He saves, um, let’s see, NOTHING.  If it is important enough, it goes in his wallet.  Everything else gets filed in the circular can.

Recently I have noticed that even for me, my piles are getting a wee bit out of control.  I can usually put my fingers on an important piece of paper given about five minutes.  Lately, it’s been more like 20 minutes with a 90% success rate.  I’m slipping.

Here is my question – Does anyone out there have a great filing system?  I have the best intentions.  I bought a filing cabinet at a garage sale and have folders in place.  But it’s in the basement and I’m not inclined to spend my free time filing in the basement.  I have tried baskets, fancy folders, fancier folders anything to stay motivated.  Nothing works.

I’m taking any and all suggestions.  It’s my month of self-analysis, self-help and self-awareness.  My piles need analysis, help and awareness.  I am even to the point that yesterday what sounded like a good idea was putting a new file folder on the shelf each month.  File everything from that month in the folder, then add it to the filing cabinet labeled December 2008, for instance.

 I think in “time.”  If I’m looking for something, I know when I am getting close by what else is around it.  The electric bill from two months ago is near the phone bill from two months ago, and so on.  It might work.  Or it might just move my crazy piles to another room, which would irritate my hubby less, but might prove disastrous for my mental pile awareness.   Losing my important pile would have serious consequences.

Maybe I spend one (or more likely two or three) glorious guilt-free days watching TV,  sorting all my piles.  I get them organized and carry them to the basement and start this whole craziness again.  Try to do it once a week, or whatever.  I have tried it before and I always end up back in the same predicament.  With piles.  Good thing I didn’t marry a piler.  One person’s piles are all a marraige can handle.


5 responses to “Filers vs. Pilers

  1. I am a filer AND piler. I have a small pile of things to file, but I file only what’s necessary and recycle the rest. I’d be happy to tell you my filing system if you want. But here’s the best tip ever from a friend of mine for dealing with school work. Get a deep rectangular basket (TJ Maxx) for each child. ALL school work goes in said baskets. (I keep mine in the pantry floor.) At the end of each sememster and at a time when there’s no risk of being seen by the children –trust me on that one–pull out a few keepers and dispose of the rest. Begin again.

    Love reading your blog!

  2. I file, pile, and lately shred!
    I read about a good system in a book that you’ve proabably heard of…I use it mainly for work. I have a hanging folder for each file and a set of files labeled with each month and a set labeled with 1-31. Things for next month go into the monthly folder, and if something is due later in the current month I file t under the day. The front folder is always the next day and gets emptied into my inbox in the morning. The key here is that I don’t constantly have to keep remembering things that I have to do later (this wastes time and makes me less produtive)

    The other thing I did was to stop saving things at home. Once a bill clears the bank I shred it. I import most things into quicken so I have a history if I need it…I got tired of clutter.

    As for children’s artwork and such, I love Jennifer’s idea and once Yago is in school, I plan to do something similar. I will probably take digital photos of everything and make an “art book” per year or so and hopefully I’ll manage only to keep a few items per year. I also have a shadow box displaying the “art” that Yago did during his short-lived Gardner school experience…

    All of that being said, I REALLY need to get organized and clean up the piles in the kitchen and especially the junk drawers! Thanks for the post and the motivation!!! That can be next project in line (after writing thank you’s, writing a poem, and finishing up the baby’s room…

  3. I don’t have a great organization system but I’m pretty good with the “Holy Crap I need to clean up all my piles” routine.

    Grab a laundry basket and a trash bag (and a bucket for recycling if you’re so inclined) and go room to room. All you have to do is identify things that don’t go in there and either put them in the basket, the trash or the recycling pile.

    Once you’ve hit all your rooms, take the trash and recycling out and put the basket (or several baskets in my case) on the kitchen or dining room table. Assign a spot for a pile for each room and sort the basket contents by room only – be on the lookout for more things you can purge. Then, once things are sorted into rooms, you can sort it out further or do what I do, which is load it in the basket, one room at a time, and carry it with you into that room and then put things away. It will sometimes take a whole weekend to get the whole lot of it sorted out, but once it’s done it’s VERY exciting!!

    As for filing. I have a filing cabinet that almost never gets opened. So sad. I’m a purger…

  4. Drastically reduce the stuff you even need to file by doing all of your banking and bill paying online. We get the majority of our bills electronically now, and poof! they’re paid and then gone from my life forever.

    I’m also a piler so this is a big stuggle for me in general. We have stacks everywhere and some sort of ad hoc organizational system where I usually know which stack to search first.

    I feel your pain.

  5. My name is Erin and I am a packrat. My husband thinks that he is going to come home one day and our house will look like that of the Collyer brothers I used to be ultra organized; until I had kids, of course. That, and it was much easier to stay organized when we lived in a sardine can in NYC. I am now inconsistent in my methods, some of each of all the above. And I have also endeavored to make digital photos of all of my son’s art. It is now in shopping bags in the closet in our office. Maybe when my kids go to college I’ll get it all done.

    But you were looking for advice and this is all I have (courtesy of an ex-boss): the object of filing is not to put it away, it’s all about retrieval. It could look pretty, but if you can’t find it, it’s no good. And my husband says, “Everything in a pile represents a postponed decision.” To that I say, we don’t always have time to make decisions.

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