Tidying up: Papers and Paperwork

Marie Kondo’s advice for getting rid of papers is to just throw them all away. I appreciated the drastic nature of this advice because it gave me permission to get rid of a lot of paperwork that I had been keeping unnecessarily for many years. I had kept boxes of paperwork and filing folders full of old bills. I had kept bank statements dating back more than a decade.

I started keeping paperwork when I was in college. At first, I had kept paperwork because it made me feel grown up. I had my own bills and I could put them into organized files. I did this for several months. Then I just kept filing things out of habit. Months turned into years.

My actual desk.

My actual desk.

I had to diverge a bit from Marie Kondo’s sound advice about getting rid of papers; I did not get rid of everything. I kept several pieces of paperwork that I know are important to keep.

As someone who has been through two divorces, a home foreclosure, and an incident with identity theft, I have been grateful over the years for my ample, though mostly unnecessary, record keeping. For example, a few years ago, I received a letter from a cable company instructing me to pay $178.00 for failing to return equipment from an account that had closed more than a year prior. I had kept the receipt from the equipment return and was able to forward it to the company who then rescinded the bill. Some pieces of paperwork are worth storing.

Most of them are not.

Until this afternoon, I had kept nearly every utility bill I have ever received in my entire adult life. I had stacks of PG&E bills more than an inch think. I had stacks of cable bills and phone bills about the same size. I had credit card statements from years ago, and from accounts that had been long closed. I had five filing folders and at least three overflowing boxes of papers.

Getting rid of papers has been my least favorite part of tidying so far. I spent six hours today going through and shredding a long history of unnecessary paperwork. When Marie Kondo says that her “basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away,” I think what she really means is that people should shred all documents with sensitive information and recycle all unwanted paper products. I shredded and recycled a lot today. And I decided carefully what was absolutely necessary to retain.

I kept all of my tax forms from each year of filing taxes. I kept my diplomas and educational transcripts. I kept one piece of proof of insurance from each company that I had ever had insurance through, writing on the form the dates that I had kept insurance through the company. I kept verification of each account that I had opened and/or closed. I kept the divorce paperwork from both of my divorces. I kept my immunization records from my childhood and from my most recent tetanus shot. I kept all personal credit reports, which I run every two years. I additionally kept any unique information or one-of-a-kind records, and I kept the warrantees and receipts from important or expensive purchases.

Not every piece of paper should be thrown away, especially in the context of the American justice system, and with regard to American insurance policies. If you are ever sued, have to divorce, or if you are ever robbed or have damage in your home that requires filing an insurance claim, you will want to have proof of purchases and accounts. Take care to keep track of these documents.

Marie Kondo is from Japan and is an amazing visionary when it comes to tidying but she may not entirely understand the American system of contracts and records. She, like many people who live outside the United States, may have few real examples about the incredible amount of paperwork that may be required from consumers in certain situations.

Get rid of your unnecessary paperwork. It’s okay. If you have checked your bank statements and your credit card statements to verify purchases, you don’t have to keep the statements. You don’t have to keep your utility bills. If you have already looked over a bill for accuracy and have paid the bill, it’s okay to recycle the papers. Keep only the most basic verifications and discard the rest. If, at the end, you still have three filing folders full of paperwork, I think that’s okay.

Tidying Up: Discarding

Discarding

I’m already failing at following the directions in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m stubborn and headstrong and I have a hard time in general following directions or listening to authority. Marie Kondo instructs her readers to complete her book in its entirety before embarking on the journey of tidying. I’m only on page 105 and I’ve already started to get rid of stuff.

Marie Kondo states that, “If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep [it] tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature.” She says that people who follow her method don’t “rebound” back into being slobs. If I rebound and become messy again, I take full responsibility for not following Marie Kondo’s directions exactly. Kondo states in her book that if you follow her directions honestly and precisely, you will never again fall into untidy habits and rebound to once again become an untidy person.

My partner read the whole book and has been serving as my gracious guide. I read the book up to the point about discarding clothes, books, and paper. I promptly started discarding clothes after I read the part about getting rid of clothes. I didn’t really believe Kondo when she said that her clients fill ten and twenty garbage bags full of clothes to get rid of. My partner and I managed to fill ten bags.

After reading the part about books, my partner and I filled 17 large boxes with books to haul away. I’m not even sure why I had kept so many books. Sometimes I would tell myself “Oh, I’ll read that later.” But even the books I knew I never would have read, I had kept for years. My partner and I got rid of nearly 1,000 books, about two-thirds of our total collection. Using the method of determining to keep something by whether or not it sparked joy left us with about 500 books.

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We aren’t yet organizing our remaining books. Marie Kondo is specific that we are supposed to discard first and then decide where to put things. Getting rid of books and clothes that I didn’t need, and never would have used, has brought me joy. The process freed up a lot of my space to focus on the things I love and will actually use. Discarding gave me the freedom to let go of clutter and to bring forth the useful and joyful.

Getting rid of papers has been a different experience entirely.

Tidying Up: My Aversion

My Aversion

I bought the book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I told my partner about an amazing review I had received at a dinner party about the book. My partner read a few pages and then kept the book for the next two days until she finished it. She read the tidying book from cover to cover.

When she finished reading it, she set the book back on my desk and started going through all of her clothes, picking out things to get rid of. When I say that she went through all of her clothes, I mean that she went through all of her clothes.

She put everything from her underwear to her suit jackets to her hats in a pile on the bed in the guest room. She sorted through everything and decided what to keep and what to give away. When she was done, she had several large garbage bags full of clothing that she no longer wanted.

 

Seeing the dramatic discard pile, I became uneasy about reading Kondo’s book. I’m nostalgic. I’m a packrat. And I’m definitely a book hoarder. I have also kept nearly every postcard, letter, birthday card and any paper communication from anyone I have ever loved since I was about 12 years old. I was afraid that Marie Kondo’s book was going to tell me that I had to get rid of all the things that I love. My partner assured me that I would approve of Marie Kondo’s criteria.

I was skeptical. I have an inherit aversion to getting rid of things.

 

When I was about ten years old, my mother, who was a single-mom, and totally stressed out all the time, asked me to clean my room. I was a typical kid and I had stuff everywhere. My desk was a mess. I had dolls and clothes all over the floor. My closet wouldn’t shut because there was either too much stuff going in or too much stuff coming out. I had games and books all over the place. My bed was so cluttered with stuffed animals that it was a wonder I could sleep. A couple of days had passed since my mom’s request and I didn’t clean my room. My mom didn’t say anything further about it.

kids roomAfter a few more days of silence, and of me neglecting her request, my mother came into my room, armed with garbage bags, and started stuffing the garbage bags with the contents of my room. She was not discerning or careful. She had reached her limit with my mess and put everything she could into the bags: dolls, books, trinkets, the homework that I had been working on, the teddy bear my godfather gave me, pictures of my friends, and on and on and on. I threw a tantrum and started crying hysterically, asking her why. She threw a tantrum and screamed at me about not keeping my room clean and continued to stuff the bags.

When it was over, she took all the bags and threw them into the shared dumpster for the condominium complex that we lived in. She called a friend and sat outside talking on the phone and smoking cigarettes. I laid on my bed, cuddling my few remaining stuffed animals and crying. When my mom went to sleep, I snuck out of the house with a flashlight and climbed into the dumpster to retrieve my teddy bear and to find my schoolbooks and homework. It was just before garbage day and everything was top. I took all the bags back into the house and stuffed them tightly into my closet. The next day, after school, while my mom was still at work, I cleaned everything up and put things away. I hid a bunch of stuff in drawers and in the back of my closet so my mom wouldn’t know that I got it out of the garbage.

 

The KonMari method, as Marie Kondo calls it, requires that one keeps anything that sparks joy. The only reason to discard anything is because it doesn’t “spark joy.” A person should go through everything in the house in an outlined order and decide if the item sparks joy. If the item doesn’t spark joy, it should be tossed.

I think I can get on board with that.

Tidying Up: Part 1, The Recommendation

Last week I bought a book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. If you haven’t heard of the book, you are probably wondering why anyone would buy a book on such an awful subject with such a pretentious title. Anyone one who knows me would be surprised that I own such a book.

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Last week at a dinner party, I ran into an acquaintance whom I’ve done some volunteer work with but don’t really know that well. While we were both getting a glass of wine, I asked her how she was doing and we exchanged a couple sentences of small talk. Then she told me about this book. When she talked about the book, she lit up in a way that reminded me of how I felt the first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She truly gushed about the book. Her smile was contagious. She was so sincere that it never occurred to me to question how someone could fall in love with a self-help book about organizing and cleaning house. I wrote the title down and vowed to thumb through the book the next time I was at the bookstore.

I heard on NPR the next day that Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the guys who wrote Freakonomics, had released a new book called When to Rob a Bank. I knew I had to have it and that a trip to the bookstore was in my immediate future. I called our local bookstore and asked them to set a copy aside for me. Then I googled the book about tidying to see what the cover looked like so I wouldn’t miss it during my trip to the bookstore.

I found a link to the book at Amazon and used the “look inside” feature to “thumb” through it. I was surprised to find that the book had no pictures. I was expecting a Feng Shui coffee table book for the new millennium, something pretty and approved by the next-generation of Martha Stewart-types with lots of large pictures that might have been featured in Real Simple Magazine. There were just pages and pages of words.

“Well forget it,” I thought. “If I can’t just thumb through it, I’ll just check it out from the library.”

I went to my library’s catalogue online to request a copy of the book only to find that the book had 40 holds. 40 people were waiting to read a book about tidying. WTF? When I tried to check out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch in December there were only 26 holds.

I called the bookstore back and asked them to set aside a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

Lesbian Proposes Signed Authorization for Viagra in Response to Marriage Discrimination

The issue of marriage equality found its way back to the Supreme Court last week and this one could be the big one.

Kelly and Sarie whole

The outcome of the latest Supreme Court hearing about gay marriage could dictate that all states in the United States have to recognize same-sex marriage contracts. This pending decision has more than a few people riding the crazy train.

I support religious freedom. This blogger supports a person’s right to have a religious marriage. I think that if a person believes that their religion prevents them from supporting same-sex marriages then they should opt for a religion-only marriage.

A simple religious ceremony for marriage requires nothing more than two people showing up to a place of worship and practicing whatever religious rites transmit in the context of a marriage ceremony as it applies to a particular religion. Forget the license. Forget city hall. The government should stay out of religious freedom. If what is important is a religious marriage, then have a religious marriage and keep the government out of it.

Of course, a religion-only, non-government marriage prevents the married spouses from receiving all of the legal benefits that a marriage license provides married people.

Wait wait wait. There are legal benefits to marriage?

Hell yeah there are.

Contrary to the delusional belief that marriage is a stream-lined religious construct, and something that God dictated, marriage is actually a legal contract sanctioned by the government and enforced based on the laws of the land. If a marriage were simply between two people and their God, no one would have to pay city hall or their church for a “license” to get married.

But people pay for a license (even when getting married in a church) because they want all the legal benefits of marriage.

Duh. The legal benefits of marriages are hella sweet.

There are tax breaks and discounts on insurance. There are inheritance rights, and parental rights, and spousal rights. There are lower interest rates and waived financial penalties. There are all kinds of benefits from being legally married.

According to Federal Law, there are 1,138 benefits, rights, and protections provided on the basis of marital status. They include practical family financial allowances such as Social Security benefits and survivor benefits. They apply to health benefits and state sales tax. They apply to spousal sponsorship as it applies to immigration law. The list goes on and on.

Marriage isn’t about religion. It’s just not. Even outside of the United States, in most countries all over the world, marriage is a social and societal construct. Within the United States, it’s a government racket. Single people, and those not wanting to get married, or who can’t get married, like priests, should be far more outraged about the legal implications of marriage than one man and one woman who believe in God’s laws.

But marriage is what it is in in the United States today. That is to say, marriage is a legal protection providing legal benefits that should be extended to all consenting adults who agree to enter into the loving and legal contract of marriage.

Based on the 14th amendment, (which was “written by god himself” according to Tom Delay), it is unlawful for states to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Basically, because marriage provides protections under its legal contract, two people willingly entering said contract, should be afforded the same protections as anyone else. That protection extends to same-sex couples.

But hey. I can ride the crazy train too. If Pastor John Stephen Piper wants to adhere to the idea that marriage is for making children, I can get on board. Rather than taking the legal construct of marriage and trying to use it to discriminate against loving same-sex couples, an idea that just won’t work in America’s legal system, why don’t we try something new?

Let’s attack something that doesn’t already have a legal precedent affording rights to a privileged class. Let’s target flaccid, floppy penises. Hanging dangles are ugly and they have no place in America. They are a stain on God’s intention and any remedy or mainstreaming of this terrible affliction should be highly scrutinized.  I propose that we require anyone seeking a prescription for Viagra to get a signed authorization from their legal wife, who must be an adult, fertile woman of child-bearing age, and who can give specific details about the use of Viagra within a marriage to produce children.

Let’s stop the unnecessary inclusion of broken dicks into society! Who is with me?

The Fight

I love boxing. The sport of boxing is incredibly entertaining. There is nothing like two grown men hitting each other above the belt for no real reason until one of them passes out. It’s the best.

Until you actually think about it. And then it’s really fucking stupid.

I didn’t realize that anyone gave a shit about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight. I have been calling Comcast for the past six days because my internet has been acting up and I’ve been hearing about the fight every time I call. But it wasn’t until yesterday that anyone actually said something about having a friend or cousin related to Pacquiao. Suddenly that’s every person on Facebook and the fight matters.

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And, according to every person on Facebook, Floyd Mayweather is an alleged wife beater and a terrible person. (I don’t know him and I can’t speak to this.) He definitely deserved to lose a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao, right?

But Mayweather won.

The guy who supposedly punches his wife on a regular basis unjustly won a punching match against someone who gets punched professionally. Floyd Mayweather is a horrible person because he punches people that aren’t supposed to be punched. Is that what we are supposed to understand? Is that the real outrage? Because it sounds like a bunch of bullshit.

I’m ready to call the sport of boxing what it is: really fucking dumb. There is no reason that two grown men, who don’t really know each other, should beat each other up and, most importantly, get paid to do so. That’s really fucking dumb.

We, as humans, and especially as Americans, have a lot of shit to fight about. We have a lot of reasons to throw punches. Our last year has made that pretty clear: Police brutality. Racial inequality. Labor justice. Campaign finance. Marriage inequality. The gender pay gap. There are lots of reasons to be angry. There are lots of reasons that we should be resorting to violence.

But resorting to violence isn’t the way to go. If we have learned anything in this past week from our news outlets, and from our white friends on social media, it’s that violence is stupid. Am I right? Violence doesn’t solve anything. Especially when it happens in Baltimore. So, with that in mind, the sport of boxing is stupid. Punching each other in the face isn’t the way to go. Trying to make demons or heroes out of paid boxing champions is stupid.

I might get a little push-back here but let me say something first.

You can’t tell me that Manny Pacquiao is a hero out of the Philippines. Do you know how many heroes out of the Philippines there are? Do you know how many parents and grandparents and single mothers have protected their children through wars and earthquakes and typhoons? Do you even know the population of the Philippines or where in the world The Philippines actually exist? Probably not.

So don’t tell me that people who punch each other, even if they came from an impoverished country like the Philippines, deserve to be heroes. People who punch people aren’t heroes.  Boxers aren’t heroes.

A hero is someone you know. A hero is your neighbor or your grandma or a local firefighter. A hero is someone who has a direct impact on your life. Heroes are real people that you can shake hands with or feel a direct impact from. Heroes are real people.

Boxers aren’t heroes. Boxing matches are shitty representations of two people who don’t really care for each other and who don’t really have a fight to pick with each other, fighting for a cause that means nothing. They are the worst of all fighters.

If you want a hero, find someone who stands for something. If you want to know about a real fight, go ask someone you love, ask them what they are fighting for and ask why.  There you will find a hero and you’ll find something to fight for.

Another Story About the Bay Area Housing Crisis

My brother-in-law, John, lives in Santa Clara and has a daughter in the inaugural class of the 49ers’ S.T.E.M. Program, the school program that the 49ers football team agreed to implement as a part of supporting the Santa Clara community when they moved to their new stadium. His other daughter is finishing her freshman year at Santa Clara High School. John is a single father of two teenage daughters, whom he has primary custody of. He has a job in the customer service department at Google. He lives with his two daughters in a small 2-bedroom apartment in a crowded and run-down neighborhood in Santa Clara.

This month his rent increased by 16%. As of May 1st, it costs him $1,800/month to stay in Santa Clara, in a run-down apartment on a crowded street. It’s a price that John cannot afford.

John has a good job. He is a hard worker. He is fluent in two languages. He is a good father. He is an accomplished artist and a talented musician. He has a family that loves him and supports him. He has been blessed with two strong and brilliant daughters.

John and the girls

John wants more than anything to be able to offer his two daughters a good life, a life with stability, promise, and choices. He wants to be able to keep his eldest daughter at Santa Clara High School for all four years. He wants his youngest daughter to be able to finish the 6-year S.T.E.M. Program through the Santa Clara School district, a program that offers his youngest girl an educational opportunity befitting her inquisitive and expansive mind. The schools in Santa Clara are working for his two girls and he wants both of them to finish school in the Santa Clara School District.

Most people are aware that the housing prices in the Bay Area are blooming like pond scum in a drought. Many people don’t realize the incredible impact that the housing issue is having on struggling and middle-class people. Decent people with decent jobs are no longer able to house and feed their families.

The housing crisis isn’t just affecting people in entry-level jobs. My brother doesn’t work for McDonalds, a company demonized nationally for poor pay and benefits. My brother has a full time job with Google, a company often ridiculed and blamed for the Bay Area’s housing crisis and neighborhood gentrification.

If we are to believe common Bay Area lore, John, being a Google employee, should be the villain in this story and not the victim. That just isn’t the case here. John’s job at Google is the best job he has ever had. It has helped him provide for his family. His girls have health care and dental. His oldest was able to get glasses this year, after a long time of complaining about headaches. John has full time hours and he is able to get home to make dinner. He is able to take one daughter to play practice and attend the other daughter’s science fair. He has been able to provide for his children. But now, he just isn’t able to afford to stay in the city that he and his family lives in. And he may not be able to keep his daughters in the same schools.

There must be more than a handful of families in the Bay Area fighting for their homes, their children, and fighting for a chance to complete the dream that they have set course on. John’s situation probably doesn’t deserve special highlight, except that it happens to involve two of the most powerful economic forces in the Bay Area. John works for Google. And his youngest daughter is supposed to be the lucrative beneficiary of the 49ers’ prestigious education program in the Santa Clara School District.

But no one seems to be benefitting. On paper, John and his daughters should be the poster children for the economic benefits beholden to the large corporations that vowed to uphold the local economy. John’s family has benefitted from Google and the 49ers combined. But it is not enough for large corporations like Google and the 49ers to offer financial support to local organizations and institutions. The people who should be benefitting from those economic kickbacks can’t afford to live in the places where those benefits are offered.

John and his girls are likely to be forced out. They are probably going to have to move from Santa Clara and John’s daughter is likely to lose her place in the 49ers S.T.E.M. program. His loved ones are trying to send money to support him but it can only last so long. John is facing the brink of financial ruin in order to keep his daughters in school and stay in the apartment in Santa Clara. And, sadly, John is not alone.