Saturday, March 28, 2009

Paper!

I do not believe I am alone when I say we are both overwhelmed and flummoxed by paperwork. Despite new file folders, baskets, boxes and a sporadic will to organize we cannot keep up with the paper.

Each year I redouble my efforts to conquer the paper accumulation. I get new folders, labels or baskets to make it easier to deal with the flow. Any improvements are temporary.

When Husband and I were engaged (10 years ago), I would complain about the paper accumulation. Even single and theoretically with plenty of time on my hands, I was already drowning in paper. Soon-to-be Husband, much like his sock matching prowess, had no trouble filing papers as they arrived in the mail. Right there, I made almost-Husband take an oath to always be the one who filed the papers in the family.

And so it evolved in our family. I paid the bills, as in made sure they were pre-authorized and more vexingly made sure that we had enough money in our bank account every month to pay the VISA bill. Husband would mind the paper. Pre-kids he did a fantastic job. Even with just the J Boy he would find a Saturday afternoon when J was napping and I was surfing the internet trying to find the perfect set of swimming lessons for J, and he would catch up on the filing.

With 2 kids, his time normally spent on filing were now spent on bouncing a baby on one knee, providing supervision to a non-talking toddler while I got the groceries. The year after S was born the only paper we dealt with were the takeout menus. They were religiously filed in a handy spot near the phone.

Luckily all our bills but one are set to automatically be paid from our bank account. But the statements, letters and other miscellanea accumulated in piles that spontaneously appeared. If the pile on the kitchen counter became too troublesome by, say, obscuring the view of takeout menus, we'd start another pile on the dining room table. Every once in a great while (like when we were having people over) we would gather up the piles and make one huge pile in a corner of the den. For a while we'd feel virtuous because we could see the dining room table, but soon a few weeks of mail would accumulate in the same spots.

When S turned one we had a full court press to catch up and we recycled much and managed to finally file the rest. By "we" of course I me Husband as he did all the work and caught us up to date. For the most part, he's really kept it up. It wasn't done monthly but every few months, he'll clear a space and start sorting.

Over 2008, somehow the wheels fell off the wagon. It may be that Husband and I both had increasing commitments at church. I think the overstuffed file cabinets made filing even less appealing and sometimes impossible. The kids have more activities so we spend more time in swimming pools, gyms and tae kwan do studios. And of course kids bring on their own deluge of paper from school and activities. Don't even get me started on home art projects, unfinished books, and scraps of paper that I think should be heading straight for the recycle bin, only to be told "But Mommy, those are tickets for our show!!"

Last week when I prepared our 2008 tax returns, I needed to find our 2007 returns. They were not in the tax folders, as I expected. I found them in the 'to be filed' basket. That means we're a year behind in our filing!

So this weekend Husband got to the sorting. I worked on digging through some other piles of paper that accumulated due only to my own sloven behaviours. In a few short hours we made fantastic progress. It's all made easier by the bigger file cabinet Husband acquired a while ago, so he can see the files and actually get into them without shredding his cuticles.

The downside of all this going-through-papers is we came across five (and counting) 2008 tax receipts so I will have to file amended tax returns. It is certainly bad enough to be filing tax returns ONCE, I certainly do not want to prepare twice, which is ample incentive to keep up with the paper chase.

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