Organizing Wisdom

She had file envy

Who says paperwork is not sexy?! This week, I was so impressed (and even charmed) by the paperwork and systems of two different women. I was even a little envious. In the first case, my client Lois in Ardsley decided that it was time to get her paperwork in order. After six years of shifting paperwork, a dysfunctional home office, an international move and the purchase of a new home, she had HAD it! 

Before this, every time there was a family event necessitating the use of the dining room, Lois would load everything on the table into a laundry basket and stow it away until her company left. Given the needs of her family and a husband who traveled for work, she never had time to get herself organized, paper-wise. 

Lois mentioned that her “office” was too far from the hub of family activity and her new puppy and so we decided to put the kitchen corner desk into action and make use of the one file drawer there. This drawer would house the most-used files Lois needed for her family. These were:
• Household bills;
• Insurance;
• Banking;
• Schools files, one for each child;
• Tickets, info for upcoming events;
• Fun/Interesting things file; and
• Archived family calendars.

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These files did not have everything that the family used, but the most common activities and issues one would deal with in a given month. We made this a manageable system by keeping the purpose narrow and short-ranged. Financial statements, long-term projects and the archives were filed upstairs. Lois was thrilled to have these “frequent flyer” files nearby and organized. It was easy to access and easy to use. It was also a pleasure to have jewel-colored hanging file folders to hold the interior folders–colors assigned to family members, vendors and the like. When we were done, that file drawer was pretty as a picture!

Last week, our church treasurer Kay retired along with the minister, her husband. We sent them off with fanfare and cake and thanked them for their years of service. Before the big day, I met with Kay to go over the church accounts and procedures and was thoroughly impressed with not only her attention to detail, which she blamed on being a Virgo, but also the simplicity and order of her file system. There was one yellow envelope for each year of church receipts and records. The last seven years of church banking was contained in a single banker box.

This task of taking on the church finances was something that I was dreading and found daunting, but Kay’s simple and low-tech system was a thing of beauty and made it seem very manageable. I have to say it was also inspiring and made me want to uphold her process and standard of record keeping. It was also an example of a streamlined and methodical system for bookkeeping and record keeping. When you keep things simple, it’s much easier to keep them organized and, in this case, to inherit. 

I’ve learned that envy is a signal for something that I want. I became a professional organizer because of envy, but that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, remember that envy can be a good thing and let you know that you may want something you didn’t even realize! Use that green gremlin to your advantage to motivate you in your projects and happy organizing!

Andréa Deinstadt, is a professional organizer who helps people create order to their homes and reduce the stress during life’s transitions. Contact:; 914.391.8816;

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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