Merging Means Purging

The Parker Haus has been quite busy lately with home improvement projects but while we have a number in work, none seems to be 100% complete or even close to 100% complete.  There is something less than satisfying about blogging a “close but not complete” project, hence the radio silence this site has experienced. Well, I’m over it.  Who cares if we are only 80% finished?  We’ve come a long way since January and I’m ready to show the work we’ve done.

Our haus is a 1100 sq feet, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a 2 car tandem garage townhouse.  Before the wedding I had a 1500 sq ft 3 bedroom 2.5 bath, 2 car garage rental and Matt was already living in our  townhouse.  The merging of two houses last July has meant a lot of purging.  I kept my rental for an extra 2 months in order to sort through and sell/donate things that we didn’t need  We had one hell of an garage sale and still had lots for donation. Somehow, all this purging wasn’t enough.

For the past 7 months we have done the “clutter shuffle”.  We will become fed up with the state of {insert room} and will focus our attention on organizing, purging, and arranging the {insert room} to our satisfaction.  We will declare victory over {insert room} and be pleased with ourselves until we realize that we have organized one room and made a complete disaster out of the surrounding rooms in the process.  When we move our attention to another part of the house the previous victory will be erased because inevitably the clutter from our new focus will spill into our previously “finished” room.  Ughh! It feels like our house is a giant tile puzzle where we only have room for one “empty” space at a time and all we are doing is shifting the “empty” space around.


For the record, since July we have declared temporary victory over:

  • Garage (x3)
  • Office (x2)
  • Living/dining room (x1)
  • Kitchen (x1)
  • Master Bedroom (x2)
  • Master Bathroom (x1)

Today as I type this, the only two rooms in this whole house that are “victory worthy” are the master bedroom and the master bath.  The rest of the house is a mess.  At the root of the problem is that there were things that we didn’t sort through before merging because we were A) short on time and energy or B) because those things already had “homes” in the haus and were thus hidden from view.  Files and papers seemed too overwhelming to sort through at the time so we moved in my files and didn’t bother to purge  and set up an organized system.  I estimate that between the two of us we had enough “files” (taxes, old bills, receipts, manuals for appliances/electronics etc) to fill three to four standard two drawer filing cabinets.  January 2nd I initiated the “Project Paper”, inspired by Jen at I Heart Organizing.

Matt and I pulled out every pile of papers, every file folder, and every receipt box.  Our dining room became paper command central and we spent a couple of weekends going through the piles of paper.  We used these three articles to help us develop criteria for what to keep and what to toss. The guiding principles we used came from the Erin Doland article on Real She writes:

…the archived folders in your filing cabinet should only be holding two types of documents — Can’t Lose and Extended Knowledge papers.

Can’t Lose documents are papers you could be in a lot of trouble if you misplace. Documents such as signed legal contracts.

Extended Knowledge documents are papers that provide you with information you wish you stored in your brain, but you don’t. And, they’re kept because eventually someone else will need to access this knowledge when you’re not around. For example, plan details and contact information for your health insurance provider.

Here are the parameters I use to help me decide if a paper is a Can’t Lose or an Extended Knowledge document:

  1. If I get rid of this, will I be in a serious bind, lose my job, get sued, lose an irreplaceable amount of money, or go to jail? If so, retain the document.
  2. Do I want to have this knowledge at my fingertips and will I have a difficult time getting my hands on this information later if I don’t keeps this document? If so, retain the document.
  3. Will keeping this document make it easier for someone else if I am unavailable? If so, retain the document.

Cassanova Kitty hoards the hanging folders

Matt and I agreed that If the answer to these questions is No, then the item is either recycled or shredded.  For us, if the document contained our names and other identifiable information it was a shred, everything else was a recycle.  I estimate that we amassed over 50 lbs of shredding.  Instead of investing hours at the shredder, we took boxes of our shredding to Staples where they will shred your stuff for cents to the pound.  The rest went out with our weekly recycling.

This project was stressful, STRESSFUL!  I have a strange paper/piles/clutter anxiety and pulling all of the paper out and putting it in one place overwhelmed me.  I’m not talking about a general aversion to piles of paper, my first reaction is to try to spend as little time around the clutter as possible and if that is not possible I get sleepy (it physically makes me tired) and eventually I am talking about getting a tightening in the chest, feeling jumpy and panicky, and sometimes hyperventilating around large stacks of unorganized paper. The show Hoarders is my nightmare and I’ve even had nightmares where Matt and I are trapped in a house filled with paper.  Yes, I am aware that I am a freak, but 99% of the time I get through these anxieties pretty easily if I can do something about the paper piles.  However in this situation the stress was compounded by the fact that Matt had more to go through than I did. There was just certain stuff he had to sort through and I really couldn’t help which made me feel helpless.  Lots of piles of paper and disorganization + not being able to do much to help = really stressed out Amy.  Matt powered through and even though we aren’t 100% done, (there is a big box of receipts and a smaller box of Matt’s left to go through) we got to a place where we could organize our files and give them a home.

Most of our paper now lives in this file cabinet.



For now, important documents are in a fireproof safe, although we are looking into getting a safe deposit box for certain documents.


We keep manuals and warranty info for all of our household appliances, kitchen tools/appliances, computer equipment, home entertainment systems, and furniture/lighting in a filing drawer by our kitchen workstation. Our shredder lives just to the right of this cabinet, the zebra print box in the corner is a temporary holding place for things that need to be shredded.



Any documents for the current year taxes, for example bank statements and receipts from charitable donations, get filed in our “Current Taxes” box.


I’m really impressed at the dent we made.  We also found out some funny things along the way. Matt has always contended that he was much more organized pre-Amy.  His files proved this too.  Up until February 2008 his files were well organized, bills were sorted and filed by type.  After February 2008 all of the bill stubs and files were just put into large piles.  February 2008 is when we started dating. Whoops, I guess I am to blame!

We still have a lot of paper to tackle- the aforementioned receipts as well as a slightly scary collection of magazines- but one step at a time.

Do you have a system for the paper in your lives?  Anyone else have paper anxieties?



Filed under Our Haus

2 responses to “Merging Means Purging

  1. Wow, I didn’t know Staples offered shredding services. Do they shred the stuff infront of you? I wouldn’t feel comfortable just leaving it with them, unless I seen them shred it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s