Now, this one is a heavy one to come out with, because it is something which I am entirely not proud of. Not only is structural order a necessity in every modern house, but it is also the only way, to be able to receive people in a “clean” environment, without getting the instant thought of being a caveman or worse. Paperwork can already make a huge difference in that setting.
Less clutter is less input and will provide more focus, upon the essential.
Two different approaches to order!
I have two completely different ways to structurally order my paperwork, to be able to follow-up (and pay) everything in timely manner. The first way is based upon my old situation, which was an apartment with many rooms. The second way is based upon my new apartment with only few rooms.
My old situation: Many rooms..
I remember my old living quarters especially by it’s many possibilities. For over 12 years long, I had my structural needs carefully organized with my paperwork and equipment in a spacey 80m² five-room apartment. It was not only spacey, but it also had a very beautiful sight upon the Cathedral of Our Lady, in the center of Antwerp. I was back then administrator, programmer, network and security engineer for the company.
One room had two staples of paper which was marked “personal” and “company“. The other room had two staples of paper which were extra marked as “urgent“. Everything was divided and that system worked marvelous.
All processed paperwork was archived in black A4 maps and put in an archiving closet. My materials were stored in other cabinets, in the kitchen and the living quarters. No further separation was needed between materials and paperwork.
My bills were paid in time (when possible), the invoices were put at it’s place and whichever had to be forwarded to my business partner, was put aside in the second stack called “urgent”. My information and books were stored on a different shelf in that same closet.
Duties in multiple rooms? LED Lightning to the rescue!
The four main rooms (B, C, E & L in the map) were equipped with LED lightning strips, which were utterly useful when doing something at multiple rooms; like cleaning or searching a lost object.
Whenever I needed to do or find something in a room, I had the following sequence set:
- put all rooms on color red (not ready)
- when doing an active room, change color to white (visibility)
- after scan-searching the room, put room color on orange (scanned)
- when not found, deep-search a room, when not found, put color on green (not here)
The same sequence was used when I needed to clean all rooms or when I needed to do something which had to be done in every room, without loosing track or going like a chicken without head, through all the rooms with everything still in my hands.
Uh-Oh! A structural hell has happened …
That structural bliss ended entirely in 2010, one year after I resigned from the company and when a judge had to come and look towards the state of the bathroom, because the landlord did not want to fix his bathtub, which was sinking through a wooden molded floor.
The lawyer said that my 4 stacks of paper were not “looking orderly enough” and everything should be put on one stack in the closet. Since then, I have lost my entire structure and routines to keep all papers sorted. I was not able to recover from that routine break and the hell had officially begun. Bills were not being paid on time anymore, mislaid, forgotten, paperwork was simply not followed-up anymore. This was extra amplified because of my burn-out and it’s vicious circle, back then.
I had to move from apartment, because I did not want to stay in a house with a danger of my bathtub falling from the 2nd to the first floor. The landlord did not want to fix it and only wanted to raise my rent…
My new situation: Few rooms available ..
Currently, I am living in a total different living environment, which is structurally not easy to organize. It has only two rooms which is the living-area with kitchen and the bedroom.
It is (only) 35m² small and most of my items are still stored into boxes in the apartment, because of the lack of space. I got to honestly tell, I had totally no structure with my paperwork, till a few weeks ago, which has happened in two phases.
Main-Categories: Colored maps!
The first phase happened in 2015 and was a tip from Ondo; to buy colored archival-maps, colored dossier-maps and colored inlays. The total cost for this entire change was 80€.
The main-categories were ordered into a logical colored map.
- BLACK : Government Related
- BLUE : Medical
- YELLOW : Communication
- RED : Required for Living
- GREY : Finances + Archives
Sub-Categories: Colored inlays!
The inlays are all having a different, but yet logical color. These are the sub-categories with documents chronologically sorted per main-category:
BLACK : Government Related
- e-id & e-gov (digital services)
- police reports
- study’s and degree’s
- private taxes
- local taxes
- parking & car-related (archive)
BLUE : Medical
- sick insurance
- social security
YELLOW : Communication
- Cellphone provider
- Fixed phone provider (+Internet +Cable TV)
- Post office
RED : Required for Living
- Urgent & To Read (different providers, …)
- Water company
- Electricity + GAS company
GREY : Finances + Archives
- Private finances
- Bank Communications
- Credit Cards
- Urgent PAY-OFF’s
- Insurance papers
How to transport without loosing any of this absolute structural order?
The second phase, was to use separate dossier-maps in the same color as their main categories. Because the first phase did not work out very well for quite some while, I have only made it to this second phase as soon as I started to use Rilatine.
These colored dossier-maps are the proxy between my organized filing-system and the outside world.
These colored “active” dossier-maps are kept together in a transparent file-holder, easy to be reached whenever deemed needed.
I try to maintain the same color-system (grey, red, blue, yellow) as the main dossier-maps are. Olive-green replaces black. Orange is currently used for urgent paperwork and pink is used for informational/non-categorized paperwork.
As long as these documents are needed at an appointment, I will keep the documents sorted in these colored filing-maps, for easy and safe transport. All documents remain chronologically ordered and are separated by thick paper-sheets, when there are multiple sub-categories. When multiple maps are needed at one appointment, I put the needed documents upon the map when using, so the focus stays on absolute order.
Routines, routines everywhere!
This routine is absolutely needed, in order to keep my house paper-free and to keep my paperwork entirely organized. As long as I keep everything sorted, everything will go fine and in the worst periods of stress (when everything fails) the people helping me with my house-duties will take over.
Anybody that needed access to my paperwork gives me compliments that they have rarely seen anyone who has his/her paperwork organized, in the most intricate details.
For me, it just feels good to have a full structure again and those compliments tell me that I am finally doing the right thing. The Rilatine has helped me to get back into that structure and now I don’t even need to take that anymore, to follow-up that shamanistic ritual, euh, routine..
Please don’t write there!
If there is something which I do not like, is that (temporary) notes are made on official documents. That’s why I always encourage anyone else to write on a separate paper and put that paper with the documents in the same archiving map. This way all paperwork stays the same and the extra notes got a separate sheet, for easy overview.
I have not found an efficient way to search/maintain order in two rooms, because of excessive clutter. I am trying to find a solution to that clutter for a few years now, so any advice is always welcome …
My current solutions?
1: Many Rooms
- Only one archiving closet is needed with archival maps.
- Several stacks separate home/work related and the room separates urgency.
- When efficiently searching for something, Colored LED-Lightning is an economical and easy solution to scan/search in rooms without loosing focus.
2: Few Rooms
- Only one archiving shelf is needed.
- Colored archival maps, to define main-categories.
- Colored inlays in each archival-map define the sub-categories.
- Photograph everything which is in boxes.
3 thoughts on “How I order paperwork structurally?”
I’m working towards reorganizing my study, myself. Not paying much attention to the rest of the house, for now. Too much to take on. But this study is a beast, in and of itself. I get completely overwhelmed, when I think about how it should be… so I’ve been taking “bites” out of it, moving the easy pieces around, when I can. Slowly, it’s coming together.
So long as I don’t cover my newly cleared spaces with more “inspiration”, which happens every other day.
The process continues…
I wish you the best luck getting to that target ; As soon as you get everything together and you feel you are managing it, you’ll feel how worthwhile it becomes to have that kind of structure in life. As I read, a lot of autistic people are quite good maintaining these kind of systems, so that’s a positive side in the chaos ;)
Clutter has been always a focus-killer for me, minimalising my surroundings will be my next goal in life, in order to get that balanced..
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Yes, working towards minimizing, too. It’s already paying off!
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