Apr 24, 2014

Taming the paper monster...

What were you taught about organizing your paper work? What systems did you see as you grew up? Did those have any influence on your current paperwork organizing style?

My father taught me never to lose a piece of paper. At home we had rows and rows of box files in which he meticulously punched and put in each piece of paper that came his way. When I passed high school, he bought me a few box files too. I still have a couple of those with me - the rest I combed out of my system.

Now me, I am a nut for organization thingamajigs. Along with productivity planning, I love trying out new styles of organizing everything - so much so that I think in one of my previous births I must have been an office secretary who passed away before she could perfect her innovative filing system - perhaps somebody like Miss Lemon who was always fiddling with Poirot's case files.

Since this is one of my pet obsessions, I have studied the organizing traits of people around me. I have told you about my father's style - the only drawback with his system is retrieval. He just files away paper after paper in no order without categorizing by year or anything - so it's a real headache as I found out again two weeks ago when my Mom needed emergency care and Dad set me to search for their medical insurance papers. I gave up after two minutes - rushed to my home and retrieved my copy of their medical insurance (which reminds me, I have to get it back!)

Other styles of organization that I have come across:
  1. Sweep it under: One of my relatives stores every bit of paper that comes her way - under her mattress.  The only problem - again - is retrieval, not to mention the chance of losing a few each time she makes up her bed. She once confessed to me that whenever she was required to find a piece of paper she usually had a bout of irritable bowel syndrome!
  2. The Omnidiary: Several people just thrust their paperwork into a diary. I have seen several who use this method. The diary could be from their parent's times - ancient and discolored and absolutely bulging with multicolored paper bits thrusting out willynilly. Again retrieval and risk of loss each time the diary is opened are problems. 
  3. The Holdall Shelf: This could be an open shelf or a compartment in the clothes cupboard. Several of my generation favor this style. They just thrust in the piece of paper and then forget about it until it is required.
  4. The Box: Now this was DH's style before he married and got me to look after his papers :). Since he moved abroad and back frequently, each time he went out of India, he sent all his belongings to his Mom in suitcases. Within three months of our marriage, I had to get his fourth PF passbook since the previous three had gone AWOL. Once I went through his boxes back in Kerala, I found all three previous passbooks. That is when I decided that I should be the paperwork keeper for our little family.
  5. The Entertainment Center: Since the TV table has now grown into shelves, many use this piece of furniture to hold their paper. I have found everything from cable service receipts to property deeds on this in various homes.
After seeing all this, I decided to make a filing system of my own - when I found that my Dad's system just didn't answer my family's needs or my requirement of easy retrieval. My system consists of three types of files.
  1. An accordion file with monthly tabs: This is where I put in all the things that come my way at first. I just thrust them into the concerned monthly compartment as soon as I can. I corral all the receipts etc. into my table's drawer that houses this accordion file and then whenever I get a chance, I just look at the date and file away accordingly. By June, the accordion file will start to bulge. So I take a plastic folder and label it with the year and put away as much paper in it as I am sure will not be required for that year. I leave things like medical bills etc in their monthly slot. In December, I do another purge of the accordion file, move everything that is not required any further to the plastic folder for that year and keep the accordion file ready for the new year.
  2. Plastic folder for the year: As mentioned in the previous section, this holds all the receipts etc. for that year. The previous year's folder lives in a handy shelf, the others get shunted to a top shelf, which can be called the Karthi archives :).
  3. A box of folders: Now this is the MAIN part of my filing system. I found an old zippered briefcase (you know, the kind you get for free from jewelers and textile shops?) and found the biggest velcro-tabbed plastic folders I could find. I labelled each with a category:
  • Automotive: Anything to do with our vehicles - manuals, insurance original documents, copies of ownership etc. go in this folder
  • Certificates: Currently this folder holds my old youth festival certificates and DH's certificates from work.
  • Guarantees and Warranties: Manuals and warranties of all our household appliances. 
  • Financial: Every bank thingy, pension papers and insurance policies.
  • House and property: LPG papers, all property and tax receipts, copies of mortgage, property deeds etc.
  • Identification papers: Passports, Birth Certificates,Voters' id, Aadhar, DL originals, PAN cards: all live in small zippered pouches. How many kinds of identification do we need????
  • Medical: Latest complete checkup reports, latest prescriptions, medical insurance papers (including parents'!)
  • Miscellaneous: For those pesky papers that simply refuse to be categorized.
  • Nikhil
  • Nidhin : For whatever the kids need to keep from school, annual progress reports etc.
  • Photostat copies: Whenever we need copies of docs, we usually take more than required. So now when I need copies of any doc, I first check this folder.
Other than this, I also use a bank strong box to keep some docs (a list of which I keep) and I make specific folders from time to time for anything that needs the collating of several documents. So these days whenever DH asks for a document or calls in a panic to say that the property tax for last year has not been paid, I calmly go to my file box and give him the required assurance. But the man is incorrigible. Last year, I had completed the collation of medical bills and filled the xls to be given to his company's accountants. He called me and asked me to keep the original bills ready for him so that he could take them to the office the next day. I searched and searched at Karthi till I was almost crying. I called back and said I couldn't make out WHERE they had got to. He called back a while later to tell me sheepishly that they were already in his computer bag where I HAD PUT IT A WEEK AGO. 

So much for being organized!!!

Apr 9, 2014

Life's fitful fever...

There is nothing like an actual fever to put the greater fever of life in abeyance. Life gets simplified to the basics: slap up 3 meals somehow, swallow medications, collapse into bed. All the rest gets taken care of somehow. 

Hectic was quite an understatement for March. The days just seemed to speed up especially when it was school-closing time. Here I stand in a slight fever-haze at almost the middle of April and I have no idea of what I was doing all the time in March!!!

I will tell you what we did right at the end though. We went to the town of Wind and Jupiter. Okay, THAT was a fancy way of saying Guruyvayoor. Our niece was scheduled to have her first morsel of solid food in front of Unnikkannan and we too went off for a darshan of the Lord.

This time I didn't carry a camera with me. It was a conscious decision to omit that one accessory this time. No camera can capture the joy of the darshan anyway and I don't need pictures to remind me of the same.

But at one point in the trip I did wish I had brought the camera. It was when we went to the Guruvayoor Devaswom's elephant keep at Punnathoor Kotta. Since we had already been there once, I decided to let the boys roam while I sat in front of the old നാലുകെട്ട് (naalukettu) and watched the great pachyderms feed. Okay, I will add pictures from when we went there back in 2011...


See that low wall there? I was sitting cross-legged on top of it and gazing off into the enclosure. It was around 5 pm and all the kariveerans were having their tea (?).. ahem, with a side of palm leaves. It was a joy to just sit and watch them methodically separating the leaves, bashing them to and fro on the ground or against the forelegs to shake off any dust/insects and then eating. One youngster I saw had kept some of his snacks on the top of his head. I was wondering about the new trends in elephant headgear fashion when he pulled it off and used it to scoop some fresh dust on to his back and then left the leaves on his head again. Oh, it was hilarious.

Even more fascinating was the use of the trunk exactly like we use our hands. I saw one of the tuskers rub his eye just like we would. Some of them seemed to be multitasking, doing yogic stretching postures while having their tea. One was rotating his neck so fast that DH and I felt tempted to try emulating him, but soon stopped. Then there were two or three who looked like they were dancing. I looked hard to find dangling ear-pieces, but couldn't. Probably they use blue-tooth devices to listen to FM radio and since all three were dancing differently, I can only surmise that they were listening to different stations...

The elephants all had their names on placards attached to their stations. I was gazing at the place of "Nandan" when I saw him being led to his place after a bath. Till then I had thought the other elephants were black, but I got to know what real black was when I saw this freshly-washed hulk. He was so magnificent, it was all I could do to keep myself from running forward and hugging his trunk. Probably his mahout wanted to keep him that way for a while, because he made Nandan lift his pile of palm leaves and carried it away from the other now tatty-looking elephants and made him stand on a grassy area where there was no dust to play with.

What was that, you want more pics of the Aanakkotta? Okay, here are more from our earlier trip...


Here's one helping himself from a hose. Not all are well-mannered like this, some put the hose straight into their mouths! Hmm!


Here is another view of the front yard and the building. There were fewer elephants the last time we went. This time, sitting in my spot I could count more than twenty elephants in just one direction. Currently there are 59 elephants in the Kotta, most of whom are away on duty for temple festivals and such. After the long queues, blaring speakers and glaringly bright shops near the temple, it was so peaceful to be sitting around these magnificent creatures. I don't think any visit to Guruvayoor would be complete without a visit to His elephant herd!

Cat family update: Many were asking about what happened to the kitty family and I was too busy to write about it. Here is what happened. Within a week of delivery, the momma seemed to feel the Flipkart box was too small for comfort. And I guess she didn't want me to wear down myself by trudging with milk bowls all the way from the kitchen to the bedroom. So she shifted her kitties to a kitchen cabinet that was missing its door at the time (one of the hinges was broken - fixed now) and resisted any attempt of mine to dislodge them.

Not about to be outwitted by a cat, I waited till I heard momma going outside, shut all windows and doors and put the kitties back in the Flipkart box. As I had guessed, momma cat was waiting by the door when I opened it. I showed her the box and her progeny in it expecting her to follow me, but she stalked to the kitchen looking, "Come and put my babies back where they were!" So there was nothing to do but catch her and put all three in the garage. Miffed by the downgrade from 5-star to 1-star accommodation, she stalked off with her kids. We still see her around, but she always turns away her head in disdain, however sweetly we call to her. Hope her li'l ones are safe and she will bring them over some time to visit!

How to bring back the green...

Back in 2007, when we bought the land for Karthi, it looked like this... There were coconut trees that looked tired, a few jack fr...