Before moving here, we knew that space would be an issue and we decided to sell everything with a plug. It was an emotionally exhausting process to look at all my stuff and ask the question “do I ever want to see this again?” And if yes, “is it worth the money to include it in the shipment?” We decided not to leave anything in storage in the United States. I spent 3 months going through every piece of paper, photo, book, and items in the kitchen junk drawer to decide what went and what didn’t. Our life ended up taking 600 cubic feet of space and 6 pieces of luggage plus a guitar and Chaussette.
One of the words I use to describe myself is organized. It’s still not perfect especially without a great desk and build-in shelving and a well appointed storage closet, but I do my best. Our apartment does not have any closets. We have 2 shelves in the toilette which hold everything from my shopping rolling cart to Chaussette’s carrying case to my plastic bins with knitting supplies. It really sucks. We had to make due to buying 2 armoires from Ikea (I will never buy furniture from them ever again) and some other shelving units. It’s not ideal and it requires dedicated dusting and deep cleaning. Did you know that you have to take all the items off the shelf to really clean under them? It’s a pain but it makes all the difference and as a result I feel more calm in our apartment.
Then, comes to dealing with all the paperwork. As I stated in my post The Paperwork, there is a mountain of it. Do not move to France without immediately buying a copier. There is probably some paperless way to tackle all of this, but I am still a bit old school. As part of our downsizing, I did not bring my 2-drawer filing cabinet for a couple of reasons, but the main one being that the paper size is different here: A4 (which I have come to love) so I knew there would issues with it fitting in my current system. When we arrived and the deluge of paper began, Maxime said “Let’s get binders.” Binders? Who organizes their documents in binders? Apparently the French do. The process is that you have a binder for general categories then put each of the sub-categories into sheet protectors. We did try it for awhile, but I was not experienced in the office supplies in France and bought really crappy sheet protectors that were super flimsy and the paper would get all bent. And the binders here are 2 ring, not 3 ring so the top of the sheet protectors would fold on each other because there was no tension. In addition, we did not have a system or order to the binders so when we needed our lease paperwork or banking info, we would have to leaf through pages of bending sheet protectors. It was super irritating. So I went to the store and bought some accordion files and tried that for awhile. That too was a disaster. I never put those in any real order so the same hunting and pecking occurred. My American friend here had to drive 45 minutes outside of Paris to buy a file cabinet as her French husband was a fan of the binders too. I was told that the only filing cabinets that exist are to hold the binders!
I was at a crossroads as our paperwork was growing so was our irritation with each other every time one of us needed a document. During coffee with a friend, who has lived here for almost 20 years, I was lamenting about my filing dilemma. She said “there are certain things in Paris/France that you have to embrace and the binders are one of them. You will make yourself crazy searching this city for the supplies you need to re-create your American filing system.” She then proceeded to explain her families system and it finally made sense. I also complained about the crappy supplies and she reassured me that there were good quality sheet protectors to be found in Paris, and she was right!
The following week, I made a pilgrimage to the our local Office Depot and went to the 2nd floor that was an entire room of binders, sheet protectors, colored sleeves. I was in heaven! I spend almost an hour opening and closing binders, thinking about what widths to get, looking at the sheet protector options etc. I ended up investing in a 4-ring binder system and thick sheet protectors. The 4-rings do split a bit and the sheets come out a bit so you do have to be gentle when thumbing through, but I’ll take that over the 2-ring system. We still have to store them on the floor but the ease that it’s introduced into our life is priceless.