Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Digging myself out

Is there something in your life that you’ve neglected? Are you overwhelmed just thinking about it? My answer is “yes” on both counts. This pit of neglect is my office. You take your life into your own hands when you open the door. How do I go about dealing with this? A machete? Napalm, perhaps?

I really hate to admit this because it sounds awful, but my office has been slowly accumulating stuff for about, oh, 3 years now. Yes, I said years. How is this possible, particularly when I am one of the most organized people around? I can get downright anal-retentive about things! When I had a paying job, my desk was always the most organized in the entire place. My house is fairly nice and well-kept. My kitchen junk drawer is organized. Weird, right? 
Well, I’d love to have a functional office that doesn’t scare me when I open the door. It’s completely out of control. If I have to do acrobatics just to get to the bookcase, then there’s a problem. I realize that it’s time to deal with it and dig myself out of the pit. How? Well, I’ve thought it through and think I have some answers.
Are there areas of your life that need some help, too? Well, then come along with me and try the following steps. Maybe you can also dig yourself out.
Determine how things got this way. How did I get myself into this mess? That’s easy! I have 2 boys with autism that can be a handful, I am responsible for keeping the house and making meals, I chauffeur my boys around to their appointments, and I run a support group, among many other things. Let’s not forget that there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. My Achilles heel is paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork! It’s coming out of my ears! Since my filing cabinet is full, there are lots of little stacks of it in my office. In those stacks, you’ll find things like EOB’s (explanation of benefits) from the insurance company, insurance denials, doctor bills, school work and projects, IEP paperwork, therapy progress notes, lots more bills, zillions of receipts, and much more. I’ve had to pick my battles and paperwork has come in dead last for the past 3 years.
Set a goal that is attainable and generous. I am always able to focus better on a task when there is a goal to work toward. One thing I’ve learned is that if I set the bar too high, it becomes too overwhelming and then I never get anywhere. I have to respect how I got to this place, and yet be generous enough to allow more time than I think I’ll need. Something will always come up to try to derail me, so I need to account for that. If I don’t, I’ll just beat myself up about how I’m not finishing yet another project because life got in the way. So, I’m allowing myself the entire month to tackle this room.
Break it down into little steps. Since having kids, my brain no longer cooperates the way it used to. I write lists to help keep me from forgetting everything and to stay on track. I’ve thought through the process of how I will systematically work through the office and, eventually, all of the paperwork. I’ve set a time limit on how long I’ll allow myself to work on the task each day so that I don’t get burned out. I have determined I will work at least 1 hour, up to a maximum of 3 hours, per day. I’ll start with the big stuff, like packing boxes, moving things around, and clearing surfaces. Eventually, I will go through every last piece of paper, sorting by tax year and category, shredding, scanning, and filing.   
Be accountable. I’m very good at coming up with lofty ideas, but sometimes I allow life to get in the way, which then makes it easier to bail on the idea. The only way around this is to include others on my plans. My husband has been concerned over the state of our office and all of the piles of paper for quite some time. He knows it’s hard for me to deal with, but also realizes that he doesn’t know how to handle it very well himself either. So, he’s been patiently waiting for me to take the lead. I just did. Last night we had an in-depth conversation about this project. I made a commitment to him and went over my plans in detail so that I had his support and buy-in. I know he won’t push me, but will gently inquire for status updates. He’s as excited about getting the office back online as I am. And, I’m writing this for you to read as one more layer of accountability. I’m putting it out there for everyone to see, and by golly, I better get my butt in gear!  
Seek help when it’s needed. I think every mom wants to be Superwoman. There have been times I’ve impressed myself with what I can get done in a day, but other times it’s too much of a struggle and I want to give up. I now understand how to ask for help. But, there has been a learning curve with this. Since I can be such a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to let others do something in a different way than I would have. So, in asking for help, I’ve learned to be okay with something not being done to my exact standard. It’s the support that matters, and I’m continuing to learn how to let more of the little stuff go. When I’m ready to keel over from the tedium of shuffling paper, I plan on bringing in my husband to lend a hand. If it keeps me progressing toward the end result, then I know he’ll be happy to help.  
Prepare for permanent change. As I move through this project, I plan to set things up in such a manner that will be easy to continue going forward. I’ll think about how each piece of paper comes into our house and how it needs to get from the front door to its proper place. I may have to re-design our filing system or create a new way to organize receipts. I won’t know until I get there. But, I’ll remain open to ideas as I move through the layers of stuff. I’m sure inspiration will strike at some point. I’ll be sure to explain everything to my husband so that he can help me maintain the new system, whatever it is.
Now it’s time to get to work! I’ll let you know how it goes!
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