Paperwork Statistics

I hate paperwork.

Thanks to my podcast addition — I subscribe to almost five hours a week — my housework and exercise habits are coming along nicely but I can’t listen to podcasts while doing paperwork.

I really need to do the paperwork. My diary shows I last paid bills six weeks ago. This from the person who in 22 years has paid only $100 in late fees (excluding library). (Edit: At the end of today, it’s now $125.)

So why the problem now? I’m in a nasty cycle of leaving things too late, so I do too much too fast, and then I’m too wiped to finish the last few non-critical bits, like filing. It all sits messily until the next deadline looms (and passes). I can’t work in a messy environment. More precisely, I need a tidy micro-environment, although now that I’m pulling ahead on the housework, clutter outside my office is more distracting (or tempting me with an excuse to listen to another podcast) than it used to be.

Last month a good kitchen scale was on sale and I wanted accurate weights for some production knitting. It goes down to grams. (My husband is amused that I finally found a scale that could hold yarn.)

Anything to keep me motivated, right?

Today’s goal was the red folder: Unopened envelopes, excluding obvious junk mail (which is tossed the instant it arrives). I open some things that I can’t identify without opening, but usually stuff them back in the envelope. Total weight, with envelopes: 897 grams.

Things stay in the red folder until I either deal with them, or read enough that I know they’re not date-critical. The idea is that, once it’s out of red, I can put it off.

Previously, I’d deal with the red folder every week or two, so there was no need to have an even more urgent folder.

Pass 1: From financial adviser, two months worth of monthly statements. Each account gets a separate envelope: RRSP for each of us, spousal RRSP, registered and unregistered account for each kid. 189 g statements, 62 g envelopes.

The law says they have to send this stuff monthly. Company policy is each account gets separate envelope — for privacy. (We joked that sending stuff to the house is a great way to keep it secret from husband.)

The investment companies like this extra tree killing. It makes their job easier. We get so much that we never even open the envelopes. By the time we get curious, the 30 day limit for complaints is long past.

Down to 646 g.

Pass 2: Junk that required opening envelope to identify. 100 g, including envelopes, of obvious junk mail, from people who somehow got our addresses.

Red folder now weighs 430 g. The math isn’t working here. The junk pile weighed 100 g. I dealt with some other quick stuff that didn’t get weighed with the junk pile. 50 g is in the outgoing mail, resealed, and labeled “Moved in 2006”. I also stopped including the actual folder.

Next Pass: Charities and subscriptions.

(You may ask why I’m not going right to the bills. Good question. I start with the things that give me the most weight per minute. Then the oddball things. Then routine.)

Red folder now weighs 223 g.

Final pass. Routine bills and bank statements.

Red folder now weighs 1 g: A Scholastic Books coupon and a Tilly Hat warranty. The coupon is here in the theory that if I see it often enough, I’ll remember we have it when book orders are due. I’m terrible with coupons, but this is a good one.

Day’s goal has been met. The red folder is done!

The next goal, not for today, is email. It’s a real mish-mash. Login to the electricity company to download bill for our records. Follow-up on permission to tell a story (author sent me publisher contact details). Call the Girl Guides about a company asking for ID so they can do a police check on their behalf — probably legit, but still something I have to check. That sort of stuff.

After that is the yellow folder: Everything that wasn’t urgent but isn’t ready for filing, including receipts and paid bills that need to be entered into the accounting program, documents to read more carefully, statements to reconcile, filing I was too lazy to put into the filing pile, and pieces to match with other pieces.

The yellow folder started the day at 260 g. Very few envelopes in this pile. It ends the day at 394.

But first, lunch, and maybe another podcast while I do the next load of laundry. By then it will be time for physio. Hopefully I’ll remember to take the outgoing mail, and it won’t sit on the car seat for two weeks like last time.

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3 Responses

  1. I rarely pay bills. I have them all set up to go straight out from the bank. All I do is eyeball them when they come in and handle anything unusual. Then I balance the checkbook at the end of the month.

  2. The ones that are unlikely to be messed up, and easy to undo if they are, come out automatically for me. Utilities where there’s a meter they can read, or a history to go with. (No, we did not leave the door open all month, there’s a problem.) The telephone and credit cards get done manually.

    Part of the time is we’ve entered every receipt into Quicken since 1994. Some great statistics and I don’t want to stop now, but it can get time-consuming.

  3. Celena,

    If your reply mentioned anything in this post, or something about me other than I use social media, I would have approved it. Meanwhile, take your vague comment and homepage that advertises kitchen scales elsewhere.

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