Rituals and Routines

I haven’t had a regular subway commute since September 1997. Started them in April 1986. And I still don’t really like cars: I’m hardened against my distaste after many long years of necessity. I’ll never be one to suddenly exclaim “LET’S GO FOR A DRIVE!” In fact, if I’m ever heard to say such a thing, I’ll want to be brought to the nearest emergency room immediately, because something WILL be WRONG.


It’s end-of-year bookkeeping, reconciliation time. We’re all enduring? Stoic fatalists expecting the worst? My prep always starts in logical and linear fashion: pull out the records, make sure all the papers match up, get the blighted waste of trees in chronological order…


And then Serpentine, Shel. Always. I invariably start my bigger, badder, brasher, end-of-year household-wide paper purge about 2/3 of the way through lining up the potential decoupage reserves. And I jump in my car, and I head to a BIG BOX, and I buy big boxes. Several of which I’m already pretty sure I won’t need before I’ve even run the credit card through the scanner.



Why would I, a Certified Professional Organizer, go full-on anti-everything-I-stand-for???


Well, I’m not. Took me a while to figure out, but truth, I’m not. The driving, when it’s directed and limited, is the closest I can get to the time I used to have solving problems on the subway – it was a perfect back-of-the-brain environment for me. I invariably have a “That’ll work better!” thought during the drive. Expanding the scope of my project simultaneously helps me find mistakes, misfiled papers in particular, and prepare the next phase of the reconciliation, getting documents in to long-term storage. Buying a few storage bins in advance helps me sort the materials and decide what’s going to work best.


And why am I babbling about rituals and routines? This way of coping with the end-of-year misery is my ritual, my routine. It works for me, and it’s partially founded on an ancient, deeply embedded habit. It’s not the “classic” way of doing the deed, and that’s OK. Rules are meant to be broken. Habits are meant to be honored, if they aren’t destructive. It’s letting me get ready for the mental effort, letting me build up to the awfulness gradually.


One caution when I say this: I truly don’t have an excess of papers – a year’s worth, maybe two, to cull. If anyone reading this has several years, decades, PLEASE start with letting go and more letting go. Paper bags, cast-off cardboard moving boxes, grocery boxes will be all you’ll need for a while. If you aren’t sure what you need to keep or not, have a conversation with your lawyer(s) and/or estate planner and/or accountant and/or bookkeeper. They’ll give you good support. These broad guidelines are a start: they were put together by a friend of mine, a bookkeeper and certified tax preparer.

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,…”
― Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1927 Supreme Court case Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v Collector of Internal Revenue)

About Lauren Williams

Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer®

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