February 8, 2007

Hidden Work

This week I have been doing household projects that are hidden work. Meaning I spend all day doing a lot of work and at the end of the day no one might notice it. It is the kind of work that at the end of the day you wonder what you got done after working all day. It is frustrating work but also good rewarding work.

Some of the hidden work I have focused on this week is paperwork, filing, organizing book shelves, and our taxes. I am one of those people who is annoyed that I have not yet received all my tax forms from places because I am done except for plugging in those numbers. I had been putting off the 2006-2007 paperwork switch for our family. Which is silly because the main part of it is not really a lot of work. You see my main filing system uses one 31 pocket accordian folder per year for majority of our filing. I tape a piece of paper to the front and label what I will put in each pocket. This includes all our bills, taxes, utilities, medical records, homeschool records, basically any mail or paperwork that I receive and need to do something with.

This is a very easy filing system. I keep the accordion on our kitchen counter under our phone and computer monitor. It works well. Then at the end of the year I move it to our filing cabinet and start a new one, with only moving a few things from the previous year to the current year. This is much easier than the old system where I kept a folder for each thing in the filing cabinet and always had big stacks of paper to deal with and nothing ever where it belonged. It is all in one place and easy to get my mail, deal with the bills or calendar dates and then file immediately.

So if this is so easy why did I procrastinate and what made this hard work? Well my filing cabinet was full and had not been cleaned out in three years or more! Worse I knew majority of the files were no longer necessary but I had been avoiding them for years because I still had room in the cabinet. I knew in order to fit last years file in the cabinet I would need to clean out the filing cabinet - not pleasant or quick work and when you are all done no one has a clue it took you hours to get it done and everything.

Well today I decided to undertake it and went through all the old papers - we are talking about over a decade worth of papers - many of which I no longer needed or wanted but they were mixed in with ones I did need and want. Since I only started this new system back in 2004 I still had a lot of old files to deal with. Then of course you are also walking down memory lane as you clean it and it is hard to ignore the baby files from the hospital for each child or the letters Serona wrote me before we were married. And it gets much messier before it gets cleaner. But when you are all said and done you close the cabinet and no one really know you made a difference.

Early this week I began a major overhaul of our bookshelves in our home library. This is big work as well. We have outgrown our bookshelves again even though we have an entire room of just shelves and shelves in nearly every other room in the house as well. What can I say books are one of our major downfalls. Since I do not want to buy more shelves that meant parting with books. Very sad and very difficult for me. Then I need to reorganize some of the books. We are very geeky and have our home library roughly following the Dewey Decimal system, gross I know but it works for us. I however attempt no real organization at the children's books as it is worthless because they all get mixed up.

However now we have a lot more kids chapter books and it was time to let some of the picture books go, even though I hate to do it. Before you worry for Sirah have no fear we have LOTS of picture storybooks that I simply will not part with, probably even after they grow up. Still Rhiannon's book collection is outpacing our bookshelves and they were mixed in so I needed to give the kids books and our homeschool books (which are ever growing) some sort of structure. This meant moving books from room to room, shelf to shelf and deciding what to let go of and how best to utilize our book shelf space. Again at the end of this weeklong (or I am afraid more time) project few people would notice the difference of the work I did.

Why I am rambling and ranting about this on my blog? Why are you still reading it if you got this far? Who knows but I think some of you can relate to the frustrations and rewards involved in work like that. How much of our work is like that? How much of our work is hidden with no apparent results to those around us? Still it is rewarding in its own way. You may come to my home and not see any difference in my bookshelf than a day before but I know that there are no longer two rows deep of books on each shelf and books piled on the top of a row. I know that I am donating four big boxes of books much to my pain. I know because I feel better when it is organized.

I am not an organized household managers when it comes to housework. truthfully I stink at it. I have tried a variety of systems and failed over the years. But I have fallen into a pattern that at least keeps things organized and picked up, if not dusted, mopped and such with regularity. Yet I am when it comes to paperwork and filing and homeschool materials, books and the like. I need order to those things. Like Serona needs a well organized home to feel peaceful and comfort I need well organized hidden places even if I can cope with the chaos in the rest of my life. Silly I know but it does make me feel better.

To all of you who have done some hidden work today I am proud of you. Nice job! Enjoy the knowledge that you accomplished something even if no one else knows it. Now back to my bookshelves.



  1. Oh, I SOOOO need to deal with our paperwork and filing. I've got a decade of paperwork to go through as well. Unfortunately, mine is not all hidden, as I have piles all over the school room and my office. Ugh.

  2. Lindsay9:07 PM

    I have a whole room--our office/guest room--that needs and overhaul. It is the dumping grounds for mail and papers and pretty much anything else that I don't know what to do with. The closet and the desk are screaming to be organized. I love your accordian file idea: I think it is smart and manageable. I have absolutely NO idea what to do with mail unless I know for sure it is junk mail.

  3. The accordion works very well, it is easy clean and provides its own permanent storage.

    For years I had heard the whole touch each piece of mail once theory and I was baffled by it. I can say that now it is pretty much the way I operate.

    The mail comes in I take it to my kitchen counter. I have my computer in my kitchen (a wall mounted screen and the box in a cabinet under the counter). I immediately toss all junk mail (in the summer I actually toss this outside before I make it in the house in the winter it is often too cold to sort through outside). I generally make two piles naturally as I go through - personal and bills. All the bills I open and make one pile with then I open my online banking and pay all bills immediately (online banking lets you set a send date so it does not all go out that day) then I file the bills right into my accordion which is on the counter.

    The personal pile I open and add any dates I need to our calendar (also on our computer) and file or toss the papers. I have one accordion slot for "Active Files" things like birthday invitations, meeting notices, kids sports, etc and that is one I check regularly. As often as I can I would rather type all needed information into my online calendar and toss the paper though.

    I put catalogs and other things in the basket we keep near our reading chair and all this goes very quickly. Sometimes if I don't have time to do the bills or the computer is off I pile them together and put them in my first slot on my accordian which is "bills/to do" and come back to them when I can.

    The key is having it all in one central place, filing system, calendar, bill paying and garbage can. The accordion I choose because it offers both short term and long term storage in one easy to manage place. This I learned from debate. We kept all our most important files in accordions because they were easy to access and use and they offered great long term storage. Each year the 20 dollars or so is WELL worth it and when I need to find a bill or warranty or something from 2 years ago I know where to find it immediately because each year is labeled by year and divided clearly.

    This system simplified my life so much that I have decided to do the same for my kids school work. Each child will have one accordion for me to keep records in.

    For whatever it is worth it has been very useful and easy for me. Good luck! I feel some control over my paperwork chaos.