One Box Down

by lizclark on September 29, 2014

paperworkThe empty corner where the box used to sit reminds me.

It was a white and green Willamette storage box piled high with layers of “important” papers.  It moved with me over the years, always finding a home in a corner or a closet or a basement shelf.  On the side in big black letters I had written “TAXES 1998.” I remember feeling really important when I wrote that, like I was finally a grown-up.

I’ll admit that as a now-recovering Type A personality, I quickly outgrew the idea of storing our taxes and other financial papers in a storage box.

What if there was a fire?

I really should file everything in a fire-proof filing cabinet.

As technology evolved, I became convinced that I should scan everything in and organize it electronically.

I had so many ideas about how to store the contents of that box.  But I never seemed to have the time to actually do it.

My obsessive need to organize nagged at me at inconvenient times – like when I was supposed to be “sleeping” or “spending time with family.”

Snuggled amidst a pile of small humans watching Veggie Tales for the 389th time, I would daydream about how to deal with all the clutter that comes with a growing family, including the perfect solution for that box.

I would launch great organizational campaigns in our home and make some strides.  But, no matter how hard I tried, I never seemed able to reach the impossible standard in my head.  I would either spend too much time dreaming up “the plan” or become emotionally paralyzed while trying to do “the plan.”

The box actually proved to be a great teacher. It represented a bigger pattern in my life. It taught me that my mind is capable of wasting endless hours of my life.  Hours I could have spent doing something that actually mattered.

Each year, we’d have more babies or businesses or survive my husband’s military deployments – and file our taxes.  Each year, the contents of my green and white box grew.  I resented my inability to follow through on my “grand ideas” of better organizing things. Eventually, I mastered the art of tossing files into the box with a rebellious “thwap!”

Finally, as time marched on, I learned a few things and did the actual grown-up thing.

I let go of all of my paralyzing grand ideas and just dealt with the contents of the white and green box.  I climbed through every scrap of paper, moved what I needed to a filing cabinet and destroyed the rest.

It took me about 30 minutes.

That empty spot where the box used to be is still a great reminder.

I have learned that I am skilled at planning tasks, but I am also skilled at getting tasks done.

The ONE question I’ve learned to ask myself over the years is simply:

What is the fastest path to the result I actually need?

I can choose to take time to plan in detail. Sometimes detailed plans are smart.

Or I can choose to ask myself what is the result I actually need…and then simply do it.

Do I need a fancy, itemized filing system?  Or do I just need to be able to locate my tax files once a year or in case of an audit?

By following the path to the result I actually need, I keep things simple, I make more room to be “present” with my family and get more done.

What do you do to help keep things simple and get things done?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura September 30, 2014 at 5:32 AM

I have had to apply the “just do it” initiative. I realize that once I get started it usually is pretty quick and if it isn’t then I have a better idea of how long it will really take.

Great post!


lizclark October 1, 2014 at 11:28 PM

Yes! Just do it! Such an enduring tagline, but so true. Thanks, Laura!


Rick Theule September 30, 2014 at 8:49 PM

How do I handle my “box”? I obsess for months and then finally dive in. My garage was the latest target. Now for the basement. It scares me. And…there is that ONE nagging tax issue hanging out there. I see the piece of official paper every once in a while, and then I go on to the next thing. It resides in a box.


lizclark October 1, 2014 at 11:33 PM

That’s a great question, Rick. It boils down to asking ourselves what we want more – the calmness that comes with having dealt with it OR the anxiety that comes from not dealing with it. How great did you feel when that garage was finished? Make a priority list and work your way down it. You can do it.


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