A good part of my job is to be record keeper and file librarian. I have to be able to have someone hand me a sheet of paper and then be able to return said sheet of paper to the requestor weeks and months later, even when given the wrong name and/or description of said paper. I am also to find papers and contracts which have not been touched since their execution in, say, 2003. It’s kind of like being a magician or a mind reader, but not as much fun.
The file list I have to work with is 105 pages long and was originally created in 2006, not by the person who previously filled this chair, but the one before her. Apparently, these two women were distinctly different and had different ideas on how best to set up the system. You can see this in that there is an obvious change in information stored on this list about half way through. This makes finding things more challenging than it would otherwise need to be. Today I have found (which is amazing considering that in my glasses with no coffee on a Monday morning I would have bet I would have not been able to find my own ass with both hands, a map and flashlight) one of the things I have been looking for over a week. It is a folder containing the original documents for my company’s purchase of an airplane. Something you would need to have on hand if you ever want to sell said airplane. I still have not found some litigation files we will need. At this point we can claim a copy of the file we cannot find to be non-responsive to requests for production, but that will probably change when we get the next request. This file is supposed to be exactly where it is not – on the shelf in the file room right between #755D and #757D. Considering both of those files are also not there, I have now been forced to do an inventory. Oh, the joy. But I am good at what I do and these will be found. Evenutally.
On the one hand, I do like being the person who knows where things are. Good thing, considering this is a major requirement for motherhood. I notice things and I remember where I saw them as long as I am not distracted at the time. Example: a couple of weeks ago I did something I rarely do. For some reason I took my keys to my bedroom and laid them on the right bed side table. This was odd in that I use the left side table (I sleep in the middle of the bed – one of the perks of sleeping alone). It is also odd in that keys go in the keybox in my office area of the kitchen. Always. I am not a morning person. I cannot be looking for keys at 7a. But this one morning I remembered, after checking the keybox and not finding the keys, that I had laid them on the bedside table. Went back to grab them on my frantic run out the door and they were not there. I knew that was where they were. Knew it. I could see them in my mind’s eye. I immediately started asking Ezra where Mama’s keys were. He was trying to be helpful, but he did not know. 15 minutes later I am looking in his trucks (keys are good hauling cargo), his play table, by the sink, etc.
Then I took a breath. I stopped worrying about being late (pointless anyway, since I already was) and thought. I walked back to my bedroom, walked around to the left bedside table and pulled open the top drawer. There were my keys. I had seen them laying on the right bedside table and when I was on the phone while cleaning house I had thought about the fact that Ezra could come and get them and put them in the back of a truck or in with his basket of stuffed animals or any other number of places and I would have a rough morning running around looking for them, so I moved them to a place where he would not come across them. But I was on the phone. I was distracted and have no clear recollection of actually moving the keys. Finding them there was a guess. I moved my keys while I was not paying attention to what I was doing to avoid exactly what absent mindedly moving the keys caused. Keys go in the keybox. Period.
At my house (which is not near as organized as I would like it to be), I have set up stations of a sort. If you ask me to find something, I generally have a place for it. Keys go in the keybox. Coffee mugs over the coffee pot. Scissors on top of the frige (remember, I have a 2 year old. Do not need any stabbing instances). Other things have a few places they might be located. I have a filing system, however, I rarely take the time to actually file things. My desk is one of the few places I allow clutter. The house itself is generally picked up, but if you open the wrong closet, you had better be prepared to dive out of the way.
Back to the desk, I have a “to be filed” pocket folder, a pocket folder in my bag of stuff which will need to be gone through and filed and a pile on my desk which will also need sorting and filing. I guess you could say I have a filing system to put things in until I can sit down and go through and sort and really file them. So, if you asked me for the receipt for Ezra’s last medication, I know it is one of those places. Which one is dependant on how long ago the prescription was filled. That information is kept in my calendar so I can get a pretty good idea of where it is and have my hands on it in a few minutes.
I dream of having the money to go to the Container Store and set up a permanent system that will streamline this process and make holding folders obsolete. However, I never have the money to do this except on a very limited basis and I have not lived somewhere long enough to have a good built in system. Over the last 15 years I have lived in 9 different houses in 4 cities. Portability has been an important feature of my filing system. The fact that I can find stuff I might need from when I lived in Mobile (2002) is pretty impressive, I think. I know people who have been in the same house for the last 8 years who could not do that, and I have moved from Alabama to Georgia to Texas and back to Georgia in that time.
All of my wanting to be organized (I say wanting because this will never actually be achieved. It is a constant goal, not a finish-able task) has some flaws. It is tedious. It is hard work. It is unpleasant. And it is never-ending. It is messy and time consuming. And it requires me to make decisions. When I do this inventory at work, I will know (I know now, actually, I just really do not want to admit it) what needs to be done. I will need to put my hand on all of the files that we have. Personally. My own two hands. I will need to mark off which ones I am able to lay hands on and make a list of all the ones I cannot find. I will then need to reorganize the whole numbering system for consistancy and updating. 105 pages, remember? And then, of course, find the lost ones. Sound like fun, eh? I know you all wish you had my job. And I get paid about what you would expect for this.
I usually have a reason why I start writing. I have a question or I have a thought I have been pondering and want to drag you into my process and get your points of view and opinions. And, while I suppose that reason is “about me” in some ways, today it really is. I wanted to write. I wanted to sip my Americano +2 shots and write about what was on my mind. This is what I came up with… not the most fascinating subject, I know. But if you are still reading this, I suppose it has been intresting enough for five minutes or so. And I got my caffiene fix and my need to make sentences on paper satisfied. So here we both are. Stephen King says writing and reading is telepathy. I think he is right. But my coffee is lukewarm and the caffiene is working its physiological magic, so I am done transmitting for the moment.
From my cluttered mind to yours,
Have a happy Monday. And may you never run out of coffee.
Originally written February 1, 2010