Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Life's Better When You're Organized...I Imagine

I purchased my first filing cabinet in Chicago. Metal, 2-drawers, a shade of hunter green that was popular in the early nineties. It matched the plates and bowls I bought at the Crate and Barrel outlet around the same time. I still have it…although the drawers are a little stubborn from the dents and dings of having been moved from coast to coast and country to country. The handle on the top drawer and come off, and I have been too lazy to search for the proper screws to reattach it, and instead have fashioned a makeshift one out of a shoe-string.

Two drawers long ago ceased to be enough. Do you know that if you are self-employed you’re responsible for keeping your taxes seven years back? And of course I still have notes from my theatre classes in undergrad. In Australia I had to buy an auxiliary cabinet, for the new taxes and classes, but left it behind because it wasn't compatible with the U.S. size folders. When we got to Tallahassee I picked up a 4-drawer cabinet used for twenty bucks. It was one of the first items to enter the house since our shipment items from Australia—green cabinet among them—had not yet arrived and it pre-dated my furniture shopping spree at the goodwill. We were still looking at apartments, so I made a folder that said “Apartments, Tallahassee” for all the flyers and listings I printed from the computer. I made folders for our new utility company, for our internet provider, one for each of my classes…you get the picture. The new cabinet didn’t use the hanging folders, you just set the cardstock folder in the drawer and a little metal bar would hold it up. I could intuit this wasn’t quite as good as the hanging folders, but figured it would save me having to replicate the outer folders that hadn’t arrive yet—and, well, it was twenty dollars. Now though, it is time for a purge and a revamp.

The purge has taken place. It took nine days (seriously!), but I now have many pounds of paper waiting to be recycled and lot of tedious changes made that I won’t bore you with in this post except to say that if you are nostalgic, or just afraid that you'll somehow be held responsible for remembering something from any random period of your life when your memory's not so great, then the longer you live, the more file drawers you'll need.

But what about the revamp? Metal cabinets feel clumsy and cumbersome. I’ve lost the TrapperKeeper-like excitement I had when my green file cabinet was shiny and new. And I have seen now, that cabinets—just like the TK, can become overburdened. Once they have reached capacity, it’s a drag to find anything, and especially to try to jam new items in. So you have to buy a whole new file cabinet—which, let’s be honest, is kind of nerdy and lame. No one ever walked down the hallways of my junior high with TWO Trapper Keeper. But single notebooks and folders…well there was really no official limit.

Thus I decided it was time to go with single stackable drawers. Great idea, right? You would think there would be multitudes of options.

Not true. Really, there are many stackable file boxes with lids, but lids are about storage, not about use. I want to interact with my files, and I don’t want it to involve heavy lifting. Am I struck by the whimsical desire to revise the short story I wrote in my Fall 2005 fiction class? Well I have the notes right here! The name of the store where our condo association finally found the approved screen-doors in 1999? I'm not sure, but it's somewhere, and I don't have to shift boxes to look.

The marketplace seems a little behind the ball on this one though. Nothing in the storage areas at Target, K-mart or Walmart. Only online and at office supply stores did I find these.
I bought a couple to try them out. I like the smooth roll of the drawers, but they are so lightweight that they tip forward when you have to pull the drawer out far enough to get to folders at the back. I worry about the very flimsy looking "clips" that hold them together--the are packaged as a part of the drawer frame that you "snap" off and use--like the old assembly-required toys that used to come in cereal boxes. And I wonder if stacking four or five might distort the bottom drawer.

I have found this alternative, but I think at some point in my late twenties I just decided "No" on fake wood grain laminate, especially for 64 bucks--is that plus shipping?!

I was momentarily intrigued by the simple clean lines of this but was tremendously put off by the price tag, and then I started to wonder with that smooth surface, what's keeping that five-high stack of cubes from crashing down on me at the first little earthquake tremor. No go. An by the way, I've read every description I could find and still can't tell if drawer hods hanging files or regular ones.

So the search for perfect storage continues. Paul keeps telling me the way out is a "superfast" scanner and the computer's "spotlight" function, but I think he's missing the complexities associated with even naming each document: Samplestory, draft 2, page 1, margin notes from Brenda, Samplestory, draft 2, page 2, margin notes...etc. Even if the machine could scan like the wind, which I've never seen, something about it just feels all kinds of tedious to me--more so than nine days of filing.

Of course Paul has a great system already, that leaves him with free time and free floorspace--it's called the dumpster outside. Would that I could be so cavalier.

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