L AST week, my 14-year-old daughter asked me to add something to my supermarket shopping list.
“I'd like a ring-binder file, for my school work,” she said. My heart sank, not because I didn’t want to buy one for her, but because, if she’s anything like me, it spells the beginning of the end.
As most adults know, once you get one file, they have a habit of reproducing faster than a warren of rabbits. With each new adult responsibility come new files until suddenly you find you’re running your life around them.
My 16-year-old daughter is already building up a collection, with files for schoolwork and her weekend job.
My own files are, as my husband says, “out of control”. There are files for the mortgage, house insurance, utility bills, school stuff home stuff, birth certificates, bank statements and car loans.
Then there’s my work files, bulging with cuttings, contracts of employment, letters, notes and pay slips. And on top of this there’s ‘miscellaneous’, a heady mix of TV licences, medical information, holiday bookings, central heating instructions and other bumf.
This may make me sound like an orderly person, but while the files are labelled and easy to locate, their contents – spilling out of their clips – are anything but. It took me an hour, recently, to find my daughter’s National Insurance number, and I spent three hours searching for a guarantee when the microwave developed a fault.
Research has shown that everyone wastes around two hours a year looking for paperwork – I beat that in one day. That’s why I’m throwing my energies into National Organise Your Files Week. Okay, it takes place in America. But it’s still going to act as a springboard to a spate of frenzied sorting.
But where to start? I’ll need to go through each file – do I really need bills from Yorkshire Electricity Board, Trustee Savings Bank statements, rail timetables and instructions for a Betamax Video Cassette Recorder?
We seem to have dozens of life insurance documents scattered throughout a number of different files – but who has what and why needs addressing. We’re probably paying way too much for massively outdated policies.
Looking at my files, I feel I’m drowning. I envy my neighbour in her 80s who keeps just two or three things in neat folders. I’m hoping that as I get older, I’ll be able to discard most of my files and liberate myself. In the meantime, I need a secretary.