I Tackled the Bin: Loving Myself Through Paper Adulting

The moving trucks come to take us to California two weeks from tomorrow. We ended up going with Flat Rate Moving on the recommendation of a friend, and I will be sure to blog about our experience because getting moving quotes took me 10 hours (literally). Personal experience, warnings and recommendations were crucial to my selection.

I feel like the process of decluttering and packing up my life is probably some of the biggest energy work I have ever done. Moving across the country when I was 21 was a life altering event in the best way, even though it took me a couple of years to realize it. At that time I was in college heading to law school and I still can’t believe I amassed so much stuff in four years at UC Davis. I managed to get rid of a ton of it, and the stuff I couldn’t fit in my tiny Saturn SC I gave to my mom to either ship to me or store in her garage. I don’t really have that luxury this time around and I’m having to make a million tiny decisions about whether or not I will need something “someday” and whether or not that matters.

This is a constant battle of trusting the abundance of the universe and cultivating a unique collection of vintage housewares. I’ve also struggled with my burning desire to be “efficient” which is a close cousin to perfectionism. I consider perfectionism in my life a form of self-abuse from which I am recovering.

archivesfliersSometimes you find things while packing that are actually delightful, like a flyer from my Rebel Cupcake days (It says simply “BODY POSITIVE DANCE PARTY” on the other side) and the article where Rebel Cupcake was a critic’s pick in Time Out New York and they used a photo of me hovering over the Gay and Lesbian events section. I am really proud of that moment in my media coverage. It’s one of those things I wish I could just go sit with sixteen year old me and say, “Bevin you feel like a total weirdo outsider now but in less than 20 years you’re going to be a total weirdo event producer and Time Out New York will call you a plus size party girl and it’s all going to be awesome because you’re going to bring the weirdo outsiders together and have more fun than the people you feel isolated by in this terrible suburb.”

Have you heard of the term “adulting?” People are using it all the time now to talk about the kinds of things that we have to do as adults. There’s lots that is unsavory about being an adult, like budgeting, paying bills, making doctor’s appointments, making hard decisions, going to bed early. Adulting lands in the gray area between taking life too seriously and self-care. Some of this has to get done in order to enjoy life, but you have to play in order to enjoy life, too.

I used to think that going to the dentist was my least favorite adulting task. I can’t believe I have to go and pay money for the privilege. I mildly resent it even though I really like my dentist, I just hate that it has to happen.

Now I realize that filing is absolutely my least favorite task. Filing and it’s supremely aggravating cousin, dealing with the mail. Professionally, at my primary money making task as a lawyer in my own firm, I deal with paper all the time. I’m actually supremely organized and have lots of systems for that. I just can’t seem to muster the desire or ability to tackle my personal paper organization at the level I’d like to. Because of my perfectionism I knew it would take hours and hours or likely days to resolve everything. I also struggle with fears around money and dealing with anything related to money and that definitely affected my dealing with paper. (I’m also baby stepping my way recovering my relationship with money and defeating my blocks to money.)

Because it was SO MUCH to deal with the papers and I couldn’t resolve all of it I would do none of it, or the very minimal I could get by with dealing with. It’s mostly putting it off until I can’t deal anymore and then I do a spurt of cursory sorting. Getting rid of junk mail, obvious trash, setting aside shredding. The rest goes into a sack (usually a small shopping bag, Ricky’s are great for this) “to be filed.”

My perfectionism/procrastination cycle kept me from resolving things for years, so those sacks of filing being put off became what I started to call “The Bin.” Eventually I got all the sacks into The Bin, overflowing as it was, and I knew where all important papers were, generally, and when I needed something, I could go through The Bin until I found it. It was functional but not pretty.

Over the years I’ve honed a method of how to handle the papers and harm reduce as I resolve my issues with paper adulting. I finally found a filing system that works for me. I use small plastic boxes like these and have letter size folders–I just went ahead and splurged on a box of 100 because I’d eventually use them for lots of things, even though I didn’t need 100 for my personal files.

I have developed some great habits, like stopping at the trash room on the way into my apartment with the mail to immediately recycle all junk mail. I’ve gone paperless wherever possible. I also have started paper adulting more often, so I am at least staying up to date on things. Because my new file management is easier to get ahold of, I can file easier because it’s accessible. (A tiny tote is easy to pull out.)

meaningfultrashI found this piece of meaningful trash in The Bin that was probably sitting on my printer when I had to move really quickly the last time I moved. (I didn’t get the benefit of months of decluttering that time.) It’s a concert ticket to see Lovers, that I ended up not using because I decided to take a cross country road trip instead. That trip was four years ago! I’m really excited to have another trip on the horizon.

I’ve also tried and failed at starting new better habits, like Only Handle It Once (OHIO) with papers. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a lifestyle where I can just come in with the mail and immediately file things away. I have tried to have a clipboard on the wall with papers that need to be dealt with shortly, a cute accordion file with the same function that is by my bedroom door… The truth is, our systems are only as good as we are at keeping up with them so of course it hasn’t been perfect.

The only thing I’ve found that actually works with paper management adulting is loving myself through it and harm reduction. I know I can do SOME things through spending SOME time. So I’ll set aside a night every now and again to tackle the piles. And it hasn’t gotten as bad as it used to get in the past couple of years through this loving and accepting approach. I haven’t had a sack of leftover filing papers since 2013, actually.

But, The Bin, remained. I could keep up with the papers but hadn’t spent enough time to resolve the old back-log.

Since I knew I was moving cross country, I knew I wasn’t going to be moving with The Bin. I have been working on it for months, a couple of hours at a time. I’ve hand hangouts with a few different friends that involve watching me with mountains of papers going through, shredding, recycling, marveling at things I found from 2001-2013. Just last night I got near the bottom of the bin and asked Dara to flip through a Time Out New York I found. “Can you see if I’m in this? That’s probably why I kept it.”

6991907434_eab70e1c60_bHere’s the other photo I want to show sixteen year old Bevin, taken in the Rebel Cupcake photo booth when the cast of the first run of Bayside! The Saved by the Bell musical performed. From my blog post in 2012 where I wrote to teenage Bevin: “When I was a fat depressed, often suicidal, teenage closeted queer I never thought I would be a New York plus size party girl making out with Zach Morris and gay AC Slater but maybe this was always my destiny. I wish I could tell early 90s awkward Bevin that it gets better. And also that her crushes on boys that looked like Zach Morris and AC Slater were just gaydar.” Bayside! The Musical returns to NYC in January, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, it rules.

I finished sorting The Bin last night. I can’t believe how much shredding I’ve done and how long it took. I think it has to have been at least 20 hours of sorting, shredding, filing and recycling.

I still have my current pile of mail to get through and I wanted to go through my file totes to make sure I’m not bringing too much of any one type of paperwork. And I’m definitely not happy with my personal archive management and know I can do better–basically it’s many files and a box of magazines I’ve been in, badges from significant performances, photos before I went digital and stuff like that.

In spite of that, I feel really proud to have loved myself through one of the most dreaded parts of adulting, and this move. Next up, physically boxing up my bedroom, celebrating my birthday party on Saturday, and figuring out what clothing to pack and what clothing to keep in the car for our road trip.

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