By: Sheila Ford – RPR, CRR, CLR
Minneapolis, MN: For the last 25 years working as a court reporter I have always done my own taxes. Unfortunately, I was audited this past summer because of an honest mistake. I want to make it very clear — I was not trying to pull a fast one on the Internal Revenue Service. I knew instantly what the mistake was, but I needed to go to my past taxes so I could show where the mistake occurred…
Now, if I was an organized person, I would have just opened up the file drawer, pulled the taxes from the past year, and had it all right there in front of me for the agent to see. What really happened, though, is I had to retrieve my taxes from underneath my stairwell and find which white garbage bag was for the year being audited. You see, that’s what I do. When the taxes have been sent, I literally cram all the paperwork, receipts, canceled checks, everything into a garbage bag and toss it with the others. So when I finally did find the bag, it took three weeks to figure out how to put it all back together again.
After a lot of tears, everything did turn out fine and I am back to being a good citizen in good standing with the IRS. I am a prompt, educated, hard-working, practical, common-sense court reporter. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why, after all these years, I have this practice of being a putz when it comes to filing things. I am well-organized in other places in my life.
To try to give that more weight (I am sure I have zero left with you after reading all of that) here are a few things I do to try to stay organized in other areas of my life:
1: I turn all of my hangers in my closet backwards, and when I wear something, I put it back the correct way. After a certain period of time I will take all the clothes that still have backwards hangers and donate to a charity. If I haven’t worn it in six months or a year, I won’t miss it if it is gone.
2: When I clean out the bathroom closet full of medicines, soaps, et cetera, I will force myself to discard at least five items that have been in there for too long. Why do I need four different bottles of sun protection lotion or perfumes that have the scent of the mid ’90s? I can’t tell you how many medications I find that expired when Clinton was still in office. Would I really take them if I needed them?
3: If a plastic container’s lid does not show up the first time I look for it, the container is thrown away. Life is too short to waste cupboard space.
4: I will collect all the blankets strewn all over the house and choose a certain number of them to donate. If it is a blanket that gets little use or it is the very last one you would want to cuddle up with, I donate it.
5: After I have cleaned and organized the house, I try to imagine if the house was on fire, and after heroically saving my husband, cats and dog, and I could save everything else but a few things, what would I let burn? I have to decide on a few things that have been around too long, of no use, no sentimental value, and, adios, they’re gone.
But back to my tax thoughts… I have gotten really good advice from several lovely court reporters at Paradigm Reporting & Captioning, and even my dad, about how to just simply once a month collect your receipts, put them in a nice little compartment, and then stay focused. I sincerely trust and believe this is all great advice.
I have no more excuses. So starting today (maybe tomorrow) I will take their advice and get organized.