It starts with a vision of the end. Perfectly organised and labeled files with paper placed carefully where it should. It is this somewhat pathetic need for all of life’s administrative documents to be in the right place, waiting to be plucked out of colour-coded files when needed, that inspires the task. The practical, pedantic’s dream.
To reach any end, though, a journey must begin.
The first, nerve racking steps, teetering on the edge of a precariously placed chair, involve the prising of dusty files off long untouched shelves. Hesitation takes over, a doubt about whether or not now really is the time to wade into these long-neglected boxes, these oft-spurned files, knowing that once you start, there’s no going back. Quickly, the motivation takes over, the vision of neatly presented folders and labels written in beautiful cursive reaffirms itself. It is time. Let the organisation begin.
From here, the only way forward is the elaborate construction of piles. Banking, insurance, certificates, bills, sentimental, recycling, shredding, and, annoying but necessary, the dreaded ‘miscellaneous’ pile.
And the only way to achieve success? Acceptance of the inevitable: you will create more chaos before you find the path the organisation. You will hesitate over which of the tens of birthday cards to keep and which to throw away. You will mix up the recycling and the shredding pile. Piles will merge gradually and the odd bank statement will find itself promoted to a degree certificate. You will regret starting this task about ten times in the first hour. Panic will take over…
There is too much mess, more than there was before. The realisation that our lives can be boiled down to magazine racks of dogged-eared paper, fitting neatly into categories provides a depressing and nullifying view of life. When did it get so complicated? Why don’t I have anything better than this soul sucking, frustrating task to do?
And then, just when you think there is no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel, the seemingly logic-less conundrum becomes as easy as a child’s first puzzle. The corners slot into place, and gradually the edges and the middle become obvious. From hidden chaos on shelves, to pandemonium on your living room floor, to orderliness before you, the path has been navigated; you’ve found your way.
With promises of eternal tidiness and vows to file every letter from the bank the day it arrives, you place the folders back on their clean, sparkling shelf. You turn and admire your letter rack, your table, under the fruit bowl, down the side of the sofa and the bottom of your handbag, and smile smugly that, for the first time in a long while, they are free of papers, letters, documents and other modicums of your day to day existence.
And you vow, whilst trying to un-see the corner of an envelope sticking out from under the sofa, that this time, this time, they’ll stay that way.