In today’s blog, I’m going to answer a question that I recently received, which is a very common issue. A reader writes, “The hardest thing for me about organizing is when I go through old files and I find all sorts of things to read, mull over, grieve over, etc., and I get stymied. How do I deal with that?” Sorting through paper files can be a tedious process, and when those papers are attached to memories, it can be emotional, and sometimes overwhelming.
Here are some tips to keep up momentum when you’re sorting through your paper files and keepsakes:
Be Gentle with Yourself
Know that emotions will come up during this process, especially if sorting through papers after life changes such as a death of a loved one or a divorce. Make sure you’re well rested, well hydrated and that you’ve eaten something before tackling this process. Also, plan to reward yourself with something relaxing after you’ve worked on this task.
Set a Time Limit
Don’t try to go through all of the papers in one day. In general, after one to two hours, you’ll be exhausted by making decisions on papers with an emotional connection. Set a timer, and focus on this in short spurts of time.
Do a General Sort First
If you can quickly look through paper without reading everything, sort the papers into piles or folders by category, such as things that refer to or belong to your late spouse or parent, things that bring up memories of your grown children’s childhood, paper relating to financial histories, etc. After sorting, you can then look through one topic at a time in detail.
Ask for Help
Many people find that it is helpful to sort through these types of things with someone by their side such as a friend, family member, or professional organizer. When someone less attached to the papers is nearby to help you sort and stay focused, the organizing process can move more quickly, and be less overwhelming.
I personally love sorting through these types of things side-by-side with my clients. They are able to share some stories with me, but stay focused and move at a faster pace than they would alone. I’m able to sort papers into categories, while they look through the details of the documents, and then I assist them in making a decision on what to do with the papers they want to or must keep. My clients feel that having someone there to hold them accountable really keeps up the momentum when tackling an emotional task like this.
If you live in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and want hands-on organizing assistance, I’d love to help you. If you live elsewhere, I offer virtual organizing services via FaceTime and Skype to help you with any size organizing project. Please contact me for a free phone consultation to get started.