Open the box

Today I am reviewing the solutions to a problem that has plagued my adult life… how to manage paper. More specifically, all those bits of paper which cannot be thrown out because I intend to look at them again some day.


My earliest solution, dating back 25 years, has slowly evolved into the Drawer that Must Never be Opened. All was well until its bottom started to bow under the weight of all that stuff & shutting it would often depend upon removing an item or three.


Rather than throwing out the excess tonnage, I moved on to Solution #2 (aka Pretty Boxes.) These effortlessly transform heaps of ugly paperwork into organised loveliness. But one box quickly filled, then two, three, four…

DSC_0129My 3rd solution looks positively organised. No randomness here; I spy alphabetical tabs! A concertina file was my attempt at bringing order to the problem of unread magazines. A decluttering article advised me to tear out any pages I wanted to refer back to, then recycle the rest of the magazine. Into the file went the vital articles. Alas, the appeal of this solution was short lived.. a quick glance under my bed earlier this year revealed in excess of 150 (complete) magazines.

So… here’s an interesting question… do I ever return to these carefully saved pieces of paper? Aside from the occasional scrabble for an old receipt in the Drawer that Must Never be Opened… the answer is no.

Today I decided it was time to finally take a second look at some of this stuff (and most probably redirect it to the recycling bin.) Here’s a brief selection of what I found:

  • 2006 Guardian interview with Eoin Colfer, possibly saved to remind me to buy his latest Artemis Fowl book (which has now been out for 11 years.)
  • 2003 article, Light Your Fire- Planning for Clarity & Confidence in Your Life. “Cinderella didn’t get to go to the ball because she thought it might be a nice idea. She desperately wanted to go…” made me desperately want to chuck this article.
  • Radio Times free audio book, The Feast of the Drowned… a Doctor Who story read by David Tennant. Sadly, this CD is part 2. If anyone has the first & wonders how the story ended, it’s all yours!
  • 2007 The Independant full page photograph of Bill Oddie. Nope, no idea.
  • Instructions for an Action Watch, which I can’t recall owning.
  • Advice on planting a blackthorn/sloe: “it’s extremely hardy and will grow happily in any soil & in almost any position.” I succeeded in finding the one position it couldn’t tolerate & in ten years it has produced a total of half a dozen sloes.
  • 2005 BFI  list of the 50 films your children should see by the age of 14. I asked my 20 something son how many of these he’d seen & the answer was a paltry 16. One more example of how I’ve clearly failed my children. Thanks for that, BFI.

I could go on, but I shan’t. I think you’ve got the picture. The concertina file is empty now. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be tackling the drawer and boxes. From today, I’ll be far more discerning about which bits of paper need to stay in my life. And never again am I saving an article from a magazine for future reference.

The upside of this whole process? Finding old school photos, letters from family & my children’s art… all of which belong in a Pretty Box.

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