This is my second blog post in my series about adulting. Just because I’m nearly forty; doesn’t mean I’m any good at it! This time I’m talking about the stuff that comes through the letter box. I dread it with a passion. Unless I’ve bought something from ebay, I am so happy when the post van drives on past! It’s not so bad if the post-person brings it round to the back porch, because that means there’s a parcel, which is quite exciting. However, apart from postcards from my parents, there really is nothing good about the letters that fall on the damp stone floor in our hallway. I’ll do everything in my power to pretend they’re not there….
I have learnt that if you leave them on the damp stone floor, they will eventually get mouldy and impossible to read. On the one hand, that’s a good thing because then I can just put them straight in the bin, but my anxiety about whether it’s something that’s important and should be kept takes over. So instead, I pick up the post and walk around the house and put them somewhere. Usually that’s not far. We have three cheap Ikea bookcases in our hallway and more often than not, there’ll be a little pile of envelopes on top of the books. (Well, it stops the books from getting dusty, doesn’t it?!)
Sometimes I’ll open the envelopes – usually the ones that don’t make themselves obvious as to who they’re from – just to see if it’s important or not; or specifically whether it requires action of any sort. If it does require action, I’ll move it to somewhere more prominent, like the arm of the settee, so I don’t forget about it. When we sit on the settee, it will get moved to the table; when we sit at the table, it will get moved to the dresser, etc…etc…
In the old days all of our bills had to be paid in cash because we didn’t earn enough for the bank to give us a proper account. I really couldn’t ignore the post then – I’d have to tear off all the paying-in slips and once a month walk three miles into town pushing the pushchair and go from Nationwide (to get the cash out), up the other end of the High Street to Barclays to pay the electricity; to the post office to pay the water; to Midlands to pay the gas and the Freeman’s catalogue credit, and then to the council office by the park to pay our rent and council tax. Ah those were days! By the fact that I can remember this in such detail reminds me how stressful they were.
Nowadays I take it for granted that everything comes out by direct debit and I’m lucky enough not to need to think about it. They still send me bits of paper though, that I don’t know where to put. That’s not true actually; I do have a filing cabinet in my desk, which is exactly where I should put them, but I just can’t be bothered! The filing cabinet drawer (for some stupid reason) was built without a metal rail, and although the files fit with the hooks over each side, they’re always falling off. They’re mainly overfilled with old irrelevant stuff which doesn’t help matters, and most of the labelled tabs have broken off. Even if there was a metal rail, I’d still have to put up with the unavoidable scraping of the metal tops of the files against the backs of my fingernails. It’s not like I’m overly fussy about the state of my nails, but it just feels so flipping horrible – it’s making my jaw clench thinking about it!
So that’s where all the bills and statements are supposed to go; but what about all the little catalogues? Book People are the worst culprit here. I don’t have time to look at them there and then; but what if I want to look at them later? So I put them on a chair, or a book, or the box in the hall we keep the hairbands in, or just on the floor, a bit further away from the damp bit.
I think just before Christmas three Christmasses ago, the hallway in particular was getting a bit overrun with the post, so instead of sorting all through it then (because I didn’t have the time), I gathered it all into a box to deal with later. I’m talking a large packing box sized box here; not a little one. At that point I did come up with a sort-of system where the bills went straight into a shoebox near the door on a bookshelf, and less important stuff carried on filling up the big box. This went to pot when my parents were house-sitting whilst we were on holiday and ‘helpfully’ combined the shoebox with other post they found that I hadn’t gone through yet; so it was stacked up against the wall to deal with later. Plus there was the three weeks worth of post that had built up while we were away! So stressful!
Last Christmas, we had to make space for the Christmas tree in the living room, which meant moving the vintage trunks to the hallway, which meant moving the big box of post and the other stack of post into the downstairs loo. Which is where it remains today!
This won’t do any more, and I’m determined to sort it out, so here’s my plan of action:
*Go round the house adding all post to the big box.
*Plan a weekend very soon when I can sit in front of the telly, catching up on Location Location Location while I go through that big box of post. I’ll give myself a limit of two episodes to get this done. I’m hoping that most of this can go in a rubbish pile, but some stuff will have to be kept in case we’re investigated by the Inland Revenue.
The just-in-case important stuff can go straight away into a clearly labelled box and put in the roof.
*I’ll do the same thing with the filing cabinet in my desk. NB. Along with the other drawer in my desk (which is a lot more interesting) I feel a decluttering video coming on, so watch out for that on my You Tube channel!)
*I promise not to keep any catalogues even if there’s something in there that I might want to buy for my sister one day or has a really useful kitchen gadget that I’ve never seen for sale anywhere else. If I think there are some worth remembering, I’ll start a list of bookmarks for their websites.
*I will purchase a nice-looking box that can sit near the door on the bookshelf for the important stuff that might need to be kept for the tax person.
I will hide it if my parents need to house-sit.
Our tax year runs from the end of April, so every year I will clear that box on the 30th; change the papers to a normal shoe box; label it, and move it to the roof.
*I will devise some sort of filing system involving either cardboard files (without the metal bit running across the top) or one of those concertina files. Every section will be labelled and it will be placed somewhere the whole family can get to so they can help with its upkeep too.
*We have a magnetic whiteboard in our utility room. I will divide a section and label it ‘Stuff you must sort out’ and use magnets to attach those letters to the board.
*I’ll look at the items left over. Do I really need to keep it? If there’s too much and I don’t know where to put it, maybe I’ll buy another concertina file for the less important stuff.
*Find somewhere to keep Tesco clubcard vouchers and leaflets.
I think that’s plenty to be getting on with!
Update on my last blog about keeping receipts: So far so good! I now have a couple of carded envelopes clearly marked on top of the cabinet in the utility room; one for unimportant receipts that can be thrown away after a year, and one for appliances and more important things like that to keep for longer. I also have an envelope stuffed with receipts to claim for as expenses for Oshun. As far as I’m aware, everything has been put in the correct envelope to be easily found if necessary – I’m quite pleased with myself!
How do you deal with the post? Please share any organising tips to help each other! I’ll let you know my progress in my next adulting blog post.