I have worked with a few different clients that ask for help with paper management or a filing system. When I arrive in their homes, I find boxes and boxes of unopened mail. Some dating back several years.
Are these clients lazy? I don’t think so. I believe they’re suffering from The Ostrich Effect. When you decide that you aren’t ready to deal with something. So you don’t. You put it in a box, a tote, a reusable bag, a filing cabinet or a drawer and simply don’t deal with it.
You’ve heard that ostriches bury their heads in the sand at the first sound of danger. As a way to avoid reality, they simply don’t look at what’s happening around them. In reality, ostriches are actually rotating their eggs inside the hole-nests with their beaks, but let’s go back to the myth for demonstrative purposes.
What is The Ostrich Effect? It’s a cycle of anxiety, indecision, and avoidance. People feel anxious and aren’t sure of the right way to handle things. So their avoid it by putting it out of sight. Soon it has snowballed into a much bigger problem. Now they have late fees, interest and finance charges all added to the bill their couldn’t afford in the first place. Again, they are overwhelmed and put it out of sight.
I happen to have found several clients that avoid financial responsibilities by not opening their mail. I think that it’s overwhelming for people when the bills come in and their don’t have the money to cover them. Instead of looking at their finances and budgeting for upcoming expenses or calling the company to set up payment plans, they just ignore the statement. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem. The bills just keep coming. Month after month. Everyday we receive mail in the box. Decisions must be made for every piece of paper that comes in. Even though most can be thrown away, decision paralysis can be overwhelming. It’s easier to stick the bills and mail into a drawer and ignore them.
But, the statements keep coming, creditors begin calling, envelopes with “Final Notice” stamped on the outside arrive. The anxiety over finances reach new highs. Imagine the level of stress these people deal with daily.
I have worked with several clients that are badgered by creditors and have had their electricity disconnected. Their credit scores have been ruined. Some of these people are broke. Some have plenty of money in their accounts to cover their bills. But they all suffer from The Ostrich Effect.
My next post will outline exactly how to dig up and out of the sand you’ve buried yourself in. I will tell you the five steps to keeping up with your bills and keep the papers organized and under control.