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Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Almost Midnight Confession

 I have to confess something.  I'm kind of ashamed of it, because in all other aspects of my life, I'm really trying to live as globally conscious and green as I can, so this is a big deal for me.

I'm still on paper statements.

There- I said it.

Ever since my mother caught one of the life insurance companies trying to cheat her out of my father's death benefit, I've been very wary of a paper trail for the important stuff.  Well, okay- what happened was that they tried to deny paying on the life insurance policy my parents had purchased by saying that she hadn't paid one of the premiums. 

"Oh yeah? Which one?" she asked.  They named a date ten years prior, which was pretty sneaky and reprehensible, actually.  By law, financial institutions only have to keep copies of records for seven years.  I learned that when I worked for one.  A really good institution might keep theirs for as long as ten years, but most don't.  What they hadn't counted on, was Mother having every single one of her canceled checks.  She produced a copy, front and back, of the check paying the premium that she 'hadn't paid'.  The insurance company had to pay up.

That lesson has stuck with me all these years, and I've been a fanatical record keeper.  I have all the household bills done up in binders going back to when I took over the books from Steve in 2004.

They've actually come in useful a couple of times when we needed to know when we bought something or how much we paid for something.  Then the bank statements go in a separate binder, and the mortgage statements go in another.  It makes me feel secure that I have this stuff where I can get at it.

But you know what? I need to get with the times, so starting in 2011, I'm going paperless- at least as far as the bank and mortgage statements go.  I'll need to set up files for storing this stuff on my machine, and figure out some sort of fail-safe- like backing it up on a thumb drive or something.  The other thing that I want to do about the same time is get back to recording our expenditures. I used to do that assiduously before we moved to Oregon, but I got out of the habit.  I'm pretty sure that we're paying next to nothing to live (the mortgage and my projects excepted) but I need to track it to see how we're doing. 

Once I know that, I can figure out how close we are to really simplifying.  Or retiring.  Or maybe semi-retiring.  I've always thought that early retirement was a fairly noble goal.  You know- make enough to not be a burden to anyone, but vacate a job so that someone younger and hungrier could have it.  That smacks of noblesse, doesn't it?

My younger sister, who has a high-powered job and a McMortgage in San Francisco, told me last weekend that between she and her husband, they have eight phone numbers.   That just seems crazily over-connected and over-complicated to me.  They have a nice house in a good neighborhood in a swell city and two lovely daughters, and I don't envy her one iota.  I would not want her life for love or money or both. 

You know, one of the things that I loved about Steve was his beautiful lack of ambition. I didn't want a guy killing himself over his career, trying to get ahead and spending all his time at the office.  I wanted a guy that was going to be home nights with me and knew that life is not all about working, because it's not.  So this homesteading thing is really about trying to simply reduce our expenses and simplify our lives so that we can enjoy what time we have left with each other and the planet.  But if you took one look at my office, you'd know I have a long, long way to go on this simplification thing.

Going paperless ought to really help with that.

To live content with small means:  
to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear on cheerfully, do all bravely, awaiting occasions, worry never;
in a word to, like the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
                            --William Henry Channing


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I went paperless, only to print all my bank statements out at the end of the year to do our taxes. Sigh.

As for Channing, I sure hope you don't have to be elegant and refined to justify simple means. (I also have a problem with that 'talk gently' part.)

Paula said...

I have a problem with talking gently too, and at fifty, I'm not likely to change. Unfortunately, I don't pass for elegant or refined either. I also tend to think out loud, which has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.

Small means I can do, though.

Toni aka irishlas said...

I'm guilty of not being entirely paperless and on some matters I never will be. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but, I don't trust technology 100%.

Paula said...

I don't either Toni, hence the back up plan. I have to admit that a thumb drive is a hell of a lot easier to lose than a whole binder though...

Dani said...

I have a separate portable hard drive which I plug into a USB port to access. On it I store all my personal stuff - so if anything happens to my main box I have everything availble for any future situation.