The Wages of Messiness

…or possibly of procrastination…

Soooo much paper comes pouring into this house, most of it generated by financial institutions and by Medicare, that the steady torrent of the stuff quickly floods the desktop. Shovel off the desk one day, and a day later you’re working in layers again.

I hate paper. I don’t like dealing with it. Don’t like dealing with it because I know any given “deal with” is not just one transaction. It’s a whole series of tasks:

Rip it out of the envelope; toss envelope.
Figure out what it is.
If important, stack to the right of the computer.
If something that needs to be dealt with sooner, not later, stack to the left of computer.

Pay bills. This entails firing up computer, finding passwords, logging into credit union website, hassling with dates on bank account (they only let you see 10 days’ worth; wanna view more transactions, you have to point-click-point-click-point-point-click to get it to display longer periods), logging into bill pay, finding the creditor or creating a new creditor, entering data, entering data, pointing and clicking again).
Mark statements with paid date & deliver payment date
File statements.
Enter data in Quickbooks.
Check for solvency.

Find investment tracking spreadsheet.
Enter changes in investment value; this entails sifting through three elaborate statements.
Check formulae for calculating net worth; observe current net worth.
Estimate likely solvency for remainder of this year and coming years.

Reconcile personal credit union accounts (two).
Check that automatic bill pays happened.
Reconcile S-corp credit union accounts (two).
Reconcile joint credit union accounts (two).
Check that automatic deposit to joint account happened.
Enter data in Quickbooks.
Check for solvency.
File statements.

Reconcile personal credit card accounts (two).
Pay personal credit card accounts (two).
Enter data in Quickbooks.
Check for solvency.
File statements.

Try to figure out  meaning of incomprehensible Medicare statements.
Don’t even bother to try to figure out how these apply to doctors’ bills.
File incomprehensible Medicare statements.

Shuffle through SBA paperwork.
Try to remember what I was supposed to do with it.
Do that, if possible.
File SBA paper.

Find old to-do list.
Note vast number of things not done.
Give up; throw it out.

Find old printout of client’s publisher’s style guidelines.
Throw it out.

Find old printouts of other client’s copy.
Realize I should be working on the current copy instead of cleaning off desk.
Throw it out.

Find accountant’s tax questionnaire, which was never filled in.
Throw it out.

Find paperwork re: 25 grand invested in old insurance policy.
Flummoxed; don’t know what to do with it.
Toss it back on the desk.

Find unopened Christmas card.
Throw it out.

Find stacks of material from current client.
Make hanging file.Make file folders.
File stacks of material from current client.

Find paperwasting stacks of boilerplate announcements from community college.
Throw it all out.

Find user’s guide and warranty for Shark steam mop.
File with user’s guides and warranties.

Find notes from online tutorial.
Have no idea what to do with that.
Give up; throw it back on the desk.

Find today’s to-do list.
Realize I’m supposed to be doing bookkeeping, not shoveling desk.
Realize that after that I’m supposed to work on client’s project, not shovel desk.

Find designer’s print-out of e-book introduction.
Can’t remember what he thought I would do with it.
Throw it out.

Find designer’s rant on e-book cover design.
Remember he thinks I’ll go to all those websites and study.
Toss it back on the desk

Find two stacks of new business cards.
Realize they’re on the desk because there’s no room in the drawer for them.
Wonder what to do with them.
Give up: toss them back on the desk.

I could go on. (And on, and on). But you get the general idea. The issue here is this: Tasks that seem like a single action when we are young shatter, over time, like broken glass into shards of tasks, action after action after action to be completed. And that discourages the elderly one. I don’t want to do it because I know it’s going to be a hassle and it’s going to take up time I’d rather use for something (anything) else.

 

Welp, sometime during the past few weeks, while the current mound of debris was accruing, I got a notice from the insurance company that carries my auto, homeowner’s, and umbrella policies. They sent the insurance cards Arizona drivers are required to carry at all times, on pain of arrest and fines, with a notice of this year’s premiums, marked Not a bill. Do not pay.

A few days ago, I realize no bill has arrived. I resolve to watch and wait.

Day before yesterday I think, that’s odd. No bill? I’ll call the insurance broker when I think of it.

Along about 10:00 last night, I start pre-organizing the piles of paper so as to expedite the misery planned for today. A-n-n-n-d…

In amongst the stacks and stacks of incomprehensible notices from Medicare, Medigap, and Part D, what do I find but the bills for the three policies — mailed, nacherly, under separate cover, so as to consume the maximum amount of paper, the maximum amount of ink, the maximum amount of glue, and the maximum postage.

Rip open the three more envelopes and find the premiums were due on the 22nd. And it being about 11 p.m., April 22 is effectively over. And fear I, presumably I am effectively uninsured.

So that was upsetting. Kept me awake until after 2 in the morning, at which time a weird scrabbling noise occurred somewhere in the front part of the house, throwing Cassie into a screaming roaring growling FRENZY and scarying the ess aitch ai out of me. Dust settles around 2:30. Pup is up at 5:30.

Call insurance company at 6:30 a.m.; get accounts receivable. Learn they have a grace period, thank God. Pay bill(s) with American Express, racking up some more points toward next year’s kickback.

My son has left his 90-pound dog here whilst he makes a four-day trip to celebrate his grandmother’s 100th birthday. Fortunately, the hound is very mellow. SO mellow, indeed, that Pup is already bossing him around. Incredibly, she stole a chew-stick from him. Like stealing an antelope leg from a wolf…she doesn’t seem to care that these bigger dogs have fangs. She is totally, utterly unafraid.

Charley

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jestjack April 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Don’t hate paper….embrace it. I have found that when the stuff comes in, dealing with it right then and there solves a lot of problems . …and time. Sooo all the junk mail, envelopes and whatever gets shredded right away. When the shredder gets full I bag it and place it in storage to be used as fire starter and heat for next years woodstove. As for the insurance …pretty sure you have 30 days grace…we do in this neck of the woods. I generally take the policy statement, which is clearly NOT A BILL, and staple it to the bill and the receipt after payment is made on line. Like you, I experience great joy in benefitting from the “rewards” program when paying the bills. I just wish the gift cards for redemption were for stuff that I actually used…like gas…food…electricity…..

funny April 23, 2014 at 6:27 pm

ohhhhhh….i need to take self-discipline lessons from you! Do you have classes?

Fortunately, the big blue recycling barrel is parked right on the way between the mailbox and the house. I’ve even thought of asking the mail carrier if he would please deposit all items that are not first-class mail direct in the blue barrel…but i suppose that’s asking a little much, huh? I do go straight to the blue barrel from the mailbox and toss out almost all the mail. Some days everything in the mailbox goes straight into the trash. Which is utterly infuriating, really: how many forests are chopped down to go into the landfill or recycling by way of the US Postal Service?

I use the shredder for anything with identifiable financial information. Envelopes? eh. But old statements and all those damn EOBs with your Social Security number emblazoned on them: shreddola.

The insurance co. let me charge it on the AMEX card that gives a cash kickback, which is great — a good $1600 or so, on which a small return will materialize next spring. Also rewarding is that they’re into the diminishing deductible thing, so I’m not getting a bad deal on the coverage at all.

For me, the problem is the stuff that you have to open, look at, assess, take action on, and file. The Medicare and the Social Security and the insurance and the checks from clients and the checks from the college (which I no longer allow the District to direct-deposit after their late little stunt) and statements that need to be reconciled or at least scrutinized carefully and the notice for car inspection and the tax bills… Not enough comes in on any one day to make it worth taking time out of paying work (or fun, or loafing) to fiddle with it, so I toss it all into the “get to it one of these days” stacks.

Trouble is, I really don’t WANT to get to it and so put it off until I can’t see the surface of the desk anymore.

jestjack April 24, 2014 at 7:05 am

You rec’d $1600 in rebates last year from Amex or that’s what the insurance bill was? If you rec’d $1600 in rebates your are truly “big-league”. My rewards come no where near that. Don’t mean to come off as a “know it all” but the junk mail /paper thing just seemed crazy to me and I agree it has a way of “sneaking” up on ya. So to combat this I bought a shredder and I shred and bag EVERYTHING and use it for heat. It’s my understanding this is actually somewhat “green” in the grand scheme of things.

funny April 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

The insurance bill was $1600 and I charged that on AMEX. The most recent rebate from them was about $235 on personal and about $40 o4 $50 on the business card.

Heh… One does not heat one’s house in Arizona.

Well, one does, if one lives up on the Colorado Plateau. And maybe one does a couple of times a year in the low desert. But this year the winter was so warm I didn’t turn the heat on even once. :-D

N0w, if the shreddings could be used to power a generator that would power the air-conditioner…hmmmmm….

frugalscholar April 25, 2014 at 6:48 am

You keep running into the issue of overwhelming paper. There are zillions of books (at your library) offering help with creating systems for dealing with paper. You might have to read around to find one that works with your personality and habits. I’m way too cheap to do it, but I bet you could find a personal organizer to help you create a system.

funny April 25, 2014 at 7:55 am

Lordie! The twenty-first century has sucked me into its black hole: I didn’t even think of looking for an actual book on the subject, one with covers wrapped around sheets of paper.

But what IS the subject? “Paperwork”? “Organization”? (what kind of organization?)

I’ve tried personal organizers, digital and analog, and found them not very effective. The problem is not really organizing the stuff. It’s the volume of it. So much paper comes into the house that to really keep on top of it, you’d have to spend an hour or two a day shuffling through it, figuring out which is important and which is not, and then disposing of it in one of five file drawers for the purpose.

frugalscholar April 25, 2014 at 8:53 am

My favorites are by Susan Pinsky–they are targeted to those w/ ADD. She would tell you to streamline/minimize your checking accts etc. She would also tell you to throw out most mail immediately (that cuts the volume by more than half). She would tell you to put a basket under your desk for the stuff you are not sure about. Most stuff does not need ot be filed–e.g. utility bills–these are easily replaceable if necessary. That way you have a “filed by date” file–most of which you could pitch eventually.

You pay a lot of people–your money guy should be in charge of your money stuff (do not save all statements, just year end–easily replaceable); your tax acct should tell you what you really need to keep.

Pinsky doesn’t believe in shredding–but I bet you could find a kid of your acquaintance to shred for $10/hr.

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