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August 29, 2002: Neatly

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I am a fairly organized person...at work. When I have a desk (and a job), I may tend to have piles scattered everywhere, but they are neat piles, and every week or three I usually end up going through them, tossing what isn't important anymore, filing what needs to be filed, and sorting the rest into piles to arrange in order of increasing importance or relevance to what I might currently be working on.

At home, however, my organization streak tends to come in more infrequent waves. Take, for example, the filing. In this marvelous built-in desk we've got in the office I have two huge drawers meant specifically for files, and inside the top one an entire line of files (in bright yellow, no less) hang in some semblance of an order, all neatly labeled. Behind my desk, however, sits a plastic crate, full to the top with papers. And on the secondary desk behind me sits a small cardboard box, known as the Bill Box because at one time I used to throw all unpaid bills in there (they now go into a little stand-up file where I can actually *see* them). The Bill Box remains on my desk, however, because Allegra decided, shortly after the Bill Box arrived on my desk, that this was the prime napping spot when she was in the computer room. And since I haven't the heart to get rid of the one item that can be used to coax her away from my lap when I am trying to type (because she is *not* a quiet snuggler. No, she wiggles and squirms, turning around and around, reaching up to pat my chin, stretching out so that at least one arm is immobilized), there the box has remained, full of a small stack of yet more papers to be filed, and quite often a cat.

One of the things I decided when I got laid off was that I needed to quit putting off all these little projects I've had sitting around for months and months. Consequently there are now curtains in more than half the windows and only one left to make. And since it was a choice between making the final curtain (in a room that tends to get ungodly hot in the afternoon these days), finishing putting all the pictures in the wedding album, getting started on painting the dining room, or finally attacking the filing, some odd little whim made me decide to pick the filing.

All day I have been sifting through the crate (and box) of papers - and yes, this really has been an all-day job. There was a short break in the middle of it to meet my mom for lunch, but then I made myself get right back into it, even though my brain did its usual thing where it decides that now that a project is half-complete and there are piles of papers strewn all over the floor, couldn't I just do something else now, like clean the bathrooms or vacuum? Um. Okay. So I did vacuum...but that was only a minor side trip.

Despite my brain's best attempts to the contrary it's done. All paid-bill papers have been sorted by type and arranged in chronological order. New files have been neatly labeled and added to the starting-to-get-just-a-bit-full file drawer. All bill or bank paperwork older than three years was dumped into a huge stack in the middle of the living room floor for disposal, and once I was done with everything else, I dragged out the paper shredder I got for Christmas and got busy disposing. There is now a large plastic bag overflowing with shredded paper in the living room. There is, of course, the requisite pile of Things That Have No Home sitting on the living room couch until I can figure out what to do with them. But the filing is done. The crate is empty (as is the Bill Box). Phew.

It was a bit odd going through all that paperwork - the things in the crate as well as what had already been filed over the years. I had pay stubs going back to 1997, from when I first jumped ship from the world of science research and starting working for a little database-consulting firm. There were receipts from rent paid on the house I used to live in, and statements from credit cards long since cancelled and cleared. I'm not sure why I was hanging on to all of this stuff, but it still felt just a little weird watching all these pieces as they were slowly consumed by the paper shredder and turned into nothing more than fodder for cat play.

I found other things too - things I had to reread; things that made me smile and remember. Pictures from on niece's first year photo session. All the tax records for the previous three years. That stack of copies of our marriage license I was sure I had and could never find. An entire pile of notes written by Richard over a year ago and slipped into my suitcase during my travels with the Big Fish, or left for me to read when he was the one who flew away.

I'm not going to believe there's any chance that getting all this filing done is going to magically make me file things immediately instead of letting them pile up. But I *am* removing the plastic crate from the office and leaving behind the Bill Box as the only receptacle for when I'm feeling so lazy I cannot turn around from paying bills and take the extra few seconds to slip the statements into their conveniently labeled hanging folders. And if Allegra remains true to form, there just might not be that option left for me either.

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