There have been times in my life when life has been so overwhelming that everything has felt out of control. The constant pull of work, family needs, and activities can cause such distractions that things start to slip through the cracks.
All of a sudden you figure out you forgot to pay an important bill because you found it at the bottom of a stack of cluttered papers. Or you kick yourself because you forgot to send your best friend's birthday card. Not only that but you can't remember where you put it.
Lists, mail, important papers, even tickets, school schedules, forms to be returned, all add up to clutter that can collect--everywhere. Pretty soon it's easy to feel frustrated and the stress it causes only adds to the thick layer of stress you already have.
I have had so many different ways of attacking this problem in the past and some have them seemed like they would work perfectly. Most of them I clipped out of a magazine (that's what we pre-pinterest people used for ideas) and I just knew the new system would make all my dreams come true.
But, I would find out quickly that the promised answer to my problems was way too cumbersome and pretty soon I would abandon it for my old system--of piles, hectic thoughts and empty hope to do better.
As I read about the affect clutter has on our lives its no wonder that we feel overwhelmed by it all. Studies have shown that too much visual stimuli causes stress and anxiety because we simply can't process all the information coming in fast enough. We try to organize it all in our heads but it just causes us to shut down. Add that to already busy households and its enough to make anyone crumble under the pressure and want to do whatever we can do to escape.
Jesus calls us to something better, something calmer. The Bible says that God is not a God of disorder but one of peace so He obviously has figured out the right system. I seemed to always be searching. It had to be easier than I was making it. I thought that simplicity has got to be the key and good old self-discipline had to be a part.
That's when I stumbled onto this really simple solution. A file box. What could be easier than that? As I read about a system of organizing all the different things I had to manage during the year, broken down into months, it was still too complicated. Like I said, I have figured out that I won't keep it up if there are too many moving parts, so I scaled it down.
What I came up with is my own system that I am hoping will help some of you.
I decided to get a filing box that I like so I got a wicker one that I could keep right in my kitchen by the big calendar I have on the wall (somethings else I've learned to rely on over the years.) I made a hanging file for each month and whenever I have things that pertain to a particular month, I put it directly in the file. As I go through the mail each day, if there's a bill that needs to be paid during the month, it goes in. If I have concert or game tickets for a date down the road, it goes in that month's file. For each birthday during the month, a pre-stamped card goes in the correct file folder. As I come up with holiday ideas, receive invitations to events, find recipes for an upcoming dinner party for a particular month, they all go in the file.
The two important parts of this plan though is what makes it work:
1. I have to act on things as they come in and get rid of anything else that doesn't get filed. I need to file things away in either my permanent files or put them in each month's hanging file. Junk mail or things I need to read but not keep, need to be tossed. They can't be allowed to pile up to cause any stress later.
2. I have to pick the same day each week to open the folder and deal with what needs action. The day I picked was Monday. So, every Monday, I open up this month's hanging file and see what I need to do. If a bill needs paid, I need to do it. If I need to schedule an appointment I need to follow through. If a card needs to be sent, I need to be disciplined enough to take the time to get it out. Some Mondays I don't get everything done so if it's not pressing, I can put it back in the file to take care of the next Monday. The last Monday of month, I need to make sure everything is done and then that file is rotated to the back of the box. The best part of this is that I know things are done, where things are and I don't end up scrambling to find things when I need them.
Having this system in place has helped me to feel much more peaceful and in control of my life, at least in this one small area. It leaves me with a lot more focus to deal with areas that aren't so easy or that require a whole lot more attention.
Benjamin Franklin said, "For every hour spent organizing, an hour is earned." Not only will we have more time to do the important things but we will feel a little more peace at the same time. Now that's a system that works!