Updated: Feb 12
In the last few weeks, I've been asked a lot of questions about the best way to organize something. What's your favorite bin? What's your favorite file folder? How do you organize photos? How do you organize legos? You get the picture.
But one question stood out to me and prompted this writing about simplifying.
A woman reached out via email looking for help on organizing her receipts. She shared with me that she's been saving and managing all of her receipts for decades and hasn't found an organizational system that's worked.
She's tried accordion files labeled by month, but then couldn't remember which month she bought an item in. She's tried labeling them by the store name alphabetically, but then it was hard to check them with the credit card statement each month. She would also inevitably leave some receipts laying around and then her system would get backlogged. Over the years she had found a couple errors in the credit card statement and it seemed this was the justification for all of this paper management. In reading her email, she sounded a little overwhelmed, and I was definitely overwhelmed.
She wanted to know what I, a professional organizer, would recommend. I first shared with her that the goal of my teaching is to simplify lives, not only to organize them. I suggested she reflect on why exactly she's saving all of these receipts. Is it a habit? Is it necessary? Does she really go back to them?
I also shared with her that my husband and I save hardly any receipts. I've made the choice to shop at stores that can pull up the receipt from a credit card purchase in order to simplify my life. I (my husband actually) scans the credit card statement for major discrepancies and that's it.
I share this story to help push you to see that organizing and creating deeply complex systems does not simplify and maintaining a complex system can pull you away from what's really important in your life.
When I'm creating organizing systems, I tend to lean on a philosophy a wise pediatrician shared with me when my children were infants. The philosophy was to start as you mean to go on. The point is for you to consider if the choice you are making now (an accordion file for all of your receipts, for example) really is the choice that will help you enjoy your life or just create more work to maintain it.
Our time on this earth is short, which is why I continually share my thoughts about envisioning your desired life before you start organizing. Does your desired life have you maintaining complex organizational systems? Not mine.
So for this week I want you to really think about where in your life you can simplify. Where do you find complexity and how might you make some changes so you can simplify.
My hope for my dear writer is that she throws that accordion file away and uses the extra couple hours a month to enjoy a nice glass of wine with a book. Life's too short to spend hours managing receipts.