Paper Trail or Trial?

Paper Trail or Trial?

Before Hugh’s injury, I loved getting mail in my mailbox. Afterward, I dreaded adding another pile to the piles of mail that permanently resided on my desk, office floor, and living room table. When they were full, new stacks entered the kitchen. Stacks of papers, sorted into categories, remained for months. Back then, I didn’t know that the physical presence of those papers fueled my emotional angst, but I should have known. Just looking at them made my heart pound!

I just finished reading a wonderful short book called Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Your Performance on a Daily Basis by Debbie Bowie. I wish I had known then what I know now.

First, let me tell you about Debbie. She is a certified professional organizer with an MA in Art History and an MS in Counseling. She is certified in Essential Feng Shui and Black Hat Feng Shui, and most importantly, Debbie has been a caregiver for two members of her family. She understands the stress involved in trying to stay organized under pressure to a handle benefits from work, disability plans, insurance policies, legal documents, and the mountains of medical bills that pile up after a family member has sustained a TBI. Whew, just writing that is stressful!

What I didn’t know, or ever think about was how those piles of paper I walked past each day affected me. Each time I passed them, I punished myself. I should do something with that. I need to make that call. I have to pay that bill. Had I realized that creating a system to manage and move those papers (and throw some out) would relieve a good amount of daily tension, I would have done it in a heartbeat.

As Debbie says, “Everything in your space is energy. Everything. The quality of those energies has a profound effect on how you perform in that area.” Since I had papers stacked in nearly all of my downstairs rooms, no wonder I felt buried alive half the time.

According to Debbie, this is the cost of clutter:

  • It creates stress– It can signal to you that you should be doing something about it. If you don’t have the time, you will feel stressed.
  • It creates judgmentWhat’s wrong with me? I can’t seem to deal with all this stuff.
  • It depletes energy - Clutter naturally draws your eyes to it and engages your thoughts and feelings. That takes energy, and negative thoughts and feelings take even more energy.
  • It creates an unhealthy environment– Clutter is a haven for dust, dirt, mold, and bugs.
  • It costs money– Clutter can result in lost bills, late fees, and bank penalties.

By clearing clutter and organizing your home after a crisis, you will feel more in control of your life, be able to find important papers quickly, and save money because your financial bills and papers will be easy to find. But the biggest bonus of making this effort is that you won’t feel the stress associated with piles of negative energy.

Comments (7)

My 83 year old father had a massive stroke with horrible brain damage. He survived the replacement of a pacemaker with a very weak heart, but the surgery caused a clot to a critical part of his brain. There are so many thinks on your blog that I could relate to, of course thinking I was being synical and basically "over" disturbed. I HATE GETTING THE MAIL. :) - I had organized myself to an almost "paperless" life and my Dad (like many seniors) was a mail-a-holic! I would leave the mail in the box for a week and go with a garbage bag I hated it so much. I at least feel an inner smile to know that it isn't insanity! Thanks.
Such a small world - Debbie helped me reorganize my home office years ago and I\'ve since worked with another professional JUST to set up separate filing systems for home, business and mom\'s affairs now that I\'m her caretaker. The papers for all 3 had been piling up JUST the way you described and it was paralyzing. Best money we\'ve spent in a long time - hope you\'re thriving, Rawlins family!
The moment I read this title, I had to smile. My life has always been full of paperwork. Without being obsessive, I had a good order. Now, after my daughter's (13) TBI, being a single mom and looking for a job, it has taken on a new meaning. I was in the hospital 10 days at a time, with her for 2 consecutive months just before Christmas. When I realized that I was still opening mail in February that was dated in November, 2012, I actually became fearful. It only took a good objective wiew of the situation and events to comprehend this. I still had judgement and worry. After reading your blog, I am now smiling. I also encourage everyone to go green and use e-mail. Especially caregivers of TBI patients. Bless you and your husband.
I am going out to get Debbie Bowie's book! My husband was in a car accident on September 10, 2012 and sustained TBI. I have had such a difficult time even sitting downstairs - where all of the paperwork (bills, insurance papers and denials, disability forms, etc.) sit in pile upon pile. My new role as caregiver, along with caring for two children and now heading back to work, how does one find the time to organize it all? I am hoping that Debbie will give some hints so that I can feel "at home" in my own home again! Thanks for the insightful article.
I have a few important "icons" on my desk. A tiny shell from my sister, a 2" x 2" painting by my Mom and a reminder to not use the three words SO VERY JUST in my writing. When I sit down to write, all other clutter gets moved off the desk...of course, now THAT has to be cleared up or we can't eat dinner at the table!! Less is more.
Thank you both for your comments...yes, Hugh and I are now thriving and thankful for every average day---with no mail! And I'm glad you feel normal, knowing how much stress these piles of paper can cause--I use a big paper bag for recycling and usually recycle more mail than I keep each day! Rosemary
What I've always liked about Rosemary's writing about caregiving and dealing with TBI is that she understands firsthand how much of the experience is dealing with the practical day-to-day stuff. Most people who've never been caregivers think that the only challenge is emotional: dealing with your feelings. But they never realize how little mundane things like organizing stacks of papers and cooking dinner become overwhelming and wear you down. When my father was dying I felt like we were buried under paperwork as well, prescriptions, appointments to remember, applications for assistance, bills. I liked these ideas and the video interview. Just like Rosemary, I wish I had known them earlier in my life because it would've helped cut down on my own stress.