Monday, November 11, 2013

The Paper Chase

At the risk of sounding like the lady who doth protest too much, I am not a hoarder. 
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter." 
I don't do that. I'm not those people on TV, the ones who now have a bona fide psychiatric diagnosis. I can walk down my hall just fine, thank you very much.
Just don't ask me to find the receipt for those two pairs of shoes that have to go back to Zappos.
I maintain a facade of tidiness: I won't leave dirty dishes in the sink, the beds and bathrooms will get done, I've been known to vacuum on occasion, and I definitely maintain a clear path between rooms.
But I have to face facts. I may not be a hoarder, but I'm a piler.
Wikipedia–my go-to source unless my editors tell me not to go there–adds that compulsive hoarding causes "significant distress or impairment." Now that has a ring of truth to it. My H is clearly distressed, though I've reached the shrug-my-shoulders stage. As for impairment, see "Zappos receipt."
The towers of books, magazines, shipping statements, and miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam just keep getting taller; a couple of them have reached the brink of toppling over. 
I must admit, it's starting to look a tad cluttered. 
I have reams of papers everywhere in the apartment: on the kitchen island, on my bedroom chairs, in baskets on the floor. You'd think I'd be more conscientious, given that some of it is important: medical forms, school progress reports, and the boy's precious handmade don't-you-dare-suggest-I-pitch-them birthday and Mother's Day cards. Yet somehow, I can never find the time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I dread the prospect (?)
It's not that I haven't made some token efforts. I've even bought cute canvas storage containers to give myself the illusion of organization, only to chuck everything in them without a thought. 
I wasn't always this way. My life used to fit neatly in one accordion folder, sorted out on a Sunday afternoon. But then things got messy and disorganized–funny how that can happen post-kid–and so did my paperwork.  
My friend J recently treated me to an evening of organization porn when she gave me a tour of her Real Simple/Martha Stewart basement. Everything was just where it should be, in carefully marked bins placed on carefully stacked shelving. I hadn't seen anything like it since the last time my Auntie Fran sent me downstairs for some paper towels from her BJ's-stocked basement. You could eat off her spotless floor. 
I felt both better and worse when J told me a professional had helped her do it–better because it meant she was just as lost as I am, worse because I could never afford to have someone come in and save me from myself like that. 
Meanwhile, another friend scanned and then shredded all of her paper. I must really love her to forgive such complete competence. 
So now the holidays are upon us and I'd really like to get things back in order so I could have some people over...
Oh, who am I kidding? Unless I get a storage unit where I can haul this mess, I'd much rather score some invites and forget the piles.
I just have to remember to leave the important stuff on top.
Postscript: After finishing this blog, I did a bit of cleaning. Apparently, writing about the piles was enough to make me do something about them.


  1. Sounds a little like hoarding to me :). Why do you need all those papers? Might get someone in to help you go through all of them and throw out what you clearly don't need. Zappos has all you need online to send back anything without receipts.

  2. Janie: Probably. Madgew: I need you here, stat.

  3. I will join Pilers Anonymous with you.

  4. Lois, I'll be founder and you be my co-president. I already have a list of members!

  5. I think I need to join, too. But I'll lose the membership application. ;-) I was able to keep my paper under control through one kid, and almost through the husband, but by the time kid #3 came along, it was a lost cause! :D