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We’ve been in our new duplex-style apartment for just over a month now, and I’m finally facing the challenge of cleaning out the filing cabinet I’ve had since I was twelve.  Since I’ve always been a paper-person, convinced that information would disappear forever if I didn’t write it down and file it, I have plenty of paper-and-ink (and sometimes pencil) proof that I spent more of my school and college years collecting information that interested me than doing homework. Mixed in with carefully labeled folders of notes from French classes and scripts from plays I was in are the golden days of my life:  stories and poetry that I wrote and pictures that I drew and colored and painted.

When I try to remember what I filed over the last nine years, however, my mind seems to have pointedly forgotten all the mismatched slips of paper with book titles, authors, topics to research, websites, story ideas, and lines of poetry that were somehow stashed in completely unrelated file folders for lack of disciplined organization. Once I had enough files to separate all my papers, I seem to have forgotten the point of separating them into different folders, and promptly stuck new pieces of information into whichever folder was handiest.

Now I’m stuck with the incomprehensibility of recipes mixed in with Korean language notes, monologues with Greek and Roman history, and, most recently, my rice cooker manual with the sparkly horse stickers that I was given when I was younger and never used because they were too pretty to part with.

It has become extremely obvious of late that my file cabinet needs cleaning out. Unfortunately, it is not the kind of “all-at-once” job that I prefer, but must be dealt with file by file, drawer by drawer. Since I know that cleaning out one folder will leave me with information that belongs in at least five others, I will have to discover a method of storing various piles of papers until I come to the appropriate folders. Piles do seem to be my very-disorganized style of cleaning out, whether I’m working with books, toiletries, papers, or magazines.  It still mystifies me that my computer files can be perfectly neat and orderly while my paper files look like Hurricane Floyd came through again.

I don’t think I will ever understand how David never has papers to organize. Twice a year he goes through his school notebooks and sorts through the notes, but most of them are then tossed and the remaining two or three placed in a single file folder. Perhaps it’s because he uses his computer for everything, while I am totally fascinated by paper and writing, and therefore do better when working with pen and paper than with a word processor, although I have improved dramatically when using a computer keyboard for expression. Nevertheless, it never fails to surprise me that his entire store of papers doesn’t even fill one file, while mine fills a dozen notebooks, two file drawers, two boxes of stationery, and three boxes of letters. The man is truly a minimalist when it comes to paper goods. I’d probably envy his simplicity of organization if I had to bring myself down to a file folder or two of papers, but I have enough storage for them, and I’d still rather have my paper information and stories and just sort through them every once in a while.

Eventually I hope to use one drawer for household, business, and educational files, and the other for my personal stockpiles of information and creativity. Originally I had it organized in a similar way, and it worked beautifully. With all the papers I have, it ought to be much easier to find everything and make use of it once that file cabinet is completely cleaned out.  Now I just have to attack the first set of files…

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