A report on my personal and so far successful campaign to get organized.
If you’re of a certain age or you’ve studied the Reagan era, the name Fawn Hall will mean something to you. As Oliver North’s secretary, she shredded documents related to the Iran-contra affair. She also had memorable hair and was fined for eating a banana in DC’s Metro, but that’s neither here not there.
Fawn Hall has been on my mind lately as I’ve held a shredding party of my own. I consulted some of the excellent Lifehacker’s tips on how to tame the filing beast. I got out my old files. I got a shredder. Then I was ruthless. I took no prisoners. Old student-loan applications and credit-card statements? History. Ancient pay stubs and car-repair receipts? Confetti. I shredded four trashbags’ worth of paper, all of which went out with the recycling. (Thank you, DC recycling people, for taking it all.) The daily files—the ones I really need on a regular basis, and there aren’t many of them—went into a small filing cabinet next to my desk. The others have gone into deep storage in the basement.
I turned my newly ruthless eye on my email inboxes. My personal email accounts are being culled too, without pity or remorse. I want to be able to see everything on a single screen. My work email account had accumulated something in the neighborhood of 5,000 pieces of mail. It’s down to under 400, headed toward zero. It may never get there but it will get pretty close. It will stay that way.
I don’t want all that stuff, paper or electronic, cluttering up my mental space any more. I have thoughts to think and writing to do, so all the potential clutter must go—into a file, into the trash, into the shredder. I’m thinking of it like a military campaign, with supply trains here and mobile troops there. Let’s have an end to the desk-and-inbox equivalent of trench warfare and the sense of being besieged by information. I want a rapid strike force that will dispatch each piece of information to its final destination. A competent commander doesn’t linger too long over decisions but assesses the situation and acts. And unlike Fawn Hall, I won’t be smuggling any documents in my boots. The shredder, however, I’m going to hang onto.
Here’s wishing you luck with your own organizational endeavors. If you have de-cluttering tips you’d like to share—or horror stories you need to get off your chest—feel free to add them in the comments.