I have always liked the idea of living amongst creative chaos. I love going into the homes and studios of artist and writer friends and seeing the sketches and models and flecks of paint and papers and books everywhere and all the evidence of the beautiful process of creativity and ideas being made tangible.

But in reality, it distresses me. I can’t do it. I can’t live amongst mess, even beautifully creative mess. It reminds me of all that I have failed to complete, all that I still have to do, all that I still have to read, all that I still have to write, all that I still have to knit. Quite frankly, I don’t need any more reminders of my failures. I know what they are, and in the brief moments I forget, I usually have someone who will helpfully set me straight again.

But, here’s the problem: I really don’t like tidying. My preferred method of organising is piles of paper all over the floor, on the shelves, on my desk, on any available surface, really. I suspect I get this habit from my dad. I can usually find what I want, but having so much clutter around me doesn’t make me feel good. It doesn’t make me feel terribly in control.


And that’s the thing. When life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, then I properly systematise (i.e. usually throw out) all those papers that have accumulated and sort through all the various projects that are scattered throughout the house. It doesn’t help me gain control over whatever the situation is, but it does make me feel like I have a good idea of what I have mastered. And, perhaps more importantly, it often helps me work through things in my head.

Up till now, my ‘filing’ system, such as it is, has been several boxes and piles and maybe one or two accordion files. I have resisted the growing need to acquire a filing cabinet. Proper adults have filing cabinets. Proper adults are boring people. I have no desire to be either a proper adult or a boring person. Hence, I will not have a filing cabinet.

But things are spiraling out of control at the moment. Apparently my attitude towards house maintenance and car repairs and keeping up with little things like insurance policies is not all that different to how I approach filing. I make a mental note that something needs to be done and then put that mental note in the mental to do pile. That to do pile has become kind of large. The consequence is that now quite a lot of work needs to be done on our house in the Borders and organising tradespeople to come do minimal work in order to charge maximum sums of money is approximately number 3 on my list of least favourite activities (after filing and going to the dentist, another chore I put off as long as possible).

So the inevitable finally happened this week. Someone offered me a free filing cabinet. And in my desperate need to be In Control of Something, I said yes. And I have spent all day today – my so called day off – filing the hell out of all the papers in my office.


I have tried to disguise the intrusive hideousness of the big grey box by throwing a pretty scarf over it and adding a few nice candles to the top. But it’s a bit like trying to disguise the fact that I am now a proper adult and really very boring. Because let’s face it, what interesting person would spend their day off filing? And actually almost kind of enjoy it?

7 thoughts on “only proper adults have filing cabinets

  1. This felt so familiar.
    I have always found filing cabinets ugly, scary, and bewildering. I know I should use one, but have never found the way.
    Is it just vertical piles, shoved in a drawer, or did the process really start to make sense for you?

    1. It did start to make sense, but in the same kind of way that my bookshelves make sense. No one coming in will be able to discern my system, but I can, and that’s what counts. It felt better than piles of paper because I know that everything that is now in the filing cabinet has been ticked off the to do list. (My to do list, as well as being on various scraps of paper and numerous list and reminder systems on my phone and computer, also consists of a paper trail through my study. Having to walk over the bits and pieces reminds me of what I have yet to do.)

  2. Yes! Filing cabinets! Unfortunately, mine was buried in the back of a closet for a long time in the fit of ‘de-cluttering’ when we were trying to sell the Victoria road flat that I go *so* helplessly behind that all I’ve managed to do in the last year is create an ever-growing ‘to be filed’ folder. . .

  3. Of course you don’t have to be a total adult – you can set the child in yourself free and cover those grey sides with stickers, cut-out cartoons and fridge magnets. Have some fun with it!

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