Nothing is Certain but (Computer) Death and (Overdue) Taxes

I’m blogging to you from the arse end of a crappy computer, and the exhausted end of “nervous prostration.”

It was magnificent in its day: 285GB on the hard drive; a recovery drive with another 12. It was fully loaded with Acrobat Writer and the full version of Photoshop as well as all the latest Microsoft Office suite items.

And photos. I have 67 gb in photos alone, not to mention video and tons of scanned documents from all my research.

But its day is done.

I was finally on the homestretch today to print and mail our 2011 taxes.

Yes, ‘11, as in I have struggled for the last year to find all our receipts and records from different states and our two student info and actually put together something coherent to send to our tax preparer to put together in official form.

And yes, ‘11 as in we are up crap creek because the extension only lasted until last October.

This is the consequence of a cluttered mind and cluttered house.

death and taxes computer clogged harddrive digital footprint digital photos vs printed mental clutter electronic preservation
I think my laptop actually has more available free space than my mind recently.

But the nervous breakdown I mentioned above (the “prostration” in reference to the campy “female troubles” article I referenced yesterday) had to do with losing the entire workbook of 2011 taxes that I spent the last year putting together. It contained scanned receipts and documents, all the bank statements and card statements and everything I referenced to create the workbook.

As I was trying to print it all out, the computer informed me there was not enough memory to perform the print functions. I had a minor conniption, whacked my keyboard, and POOF!…my 2011 taxes folder was empty of all files, documents, worksheets.

And I hadn’t backed them up!

Because backing up itself has become a painful task. My computer is so full that it is struggling to retain space to just perform basic functions. If molasses had an even slower cousin (tar, maybe?) my computer is that slow.

After a long panicked time of searching deleted folders and everything on the “C” drive, with nothing showing up, I had a cursing fit that would have sent Andrew Dice Clay running to his mother and pooping his tighty whiteys, I just curled in fetal position next to my computer, mirroring its obvious shutdown. The screen blinked at me. “No documents” displayed in my 2011 Taxes folder, which had minutes ago been brimmed with all those documents and workbooks. No backups. Nothing.

“No documents” the folder scolded me, and I imagined it ending with “and whose fault is it really, you non-backing-up, clutter-minded, dumbass?”

Then, at the bottom of my self-beratement, I looked up to see one file appear in the folder. It no longer showed empty. It was followed shortly by another, then another, and slowly the entire folder filled with all its original contents.

Apparently molasses and tar have an even slower, more stubborn cousin hidden somewhere inside my laptop.

I hurried and emailed myself the most critical files in case of another episode, then printed them out, having to close out and re-open from time to time, running my CCleaner in between to keep space open. Kurt offered to run them to the post office, making it as the last customer before they locked the doors.

My computer is a nightmare.

I can’t upload photos to Snapfish because I have no memory to view the photos. I have to continually shuffle things from my harddrive to an external drive to free up a tiny amount of space to do a week’s worth of blogs, then do it all again.

And of course it’s my fault. It’s not the computer’s fault that I’ve inundated it with multiple tasks and clogged its memory by never uploading and printing the high resolution photos or scanned documents from research.

It’s the clutter in my mind and house that led to clogging my computer and not having my 2011 taxes mailed until today, and it’s my usual prioritization. I overload myself with things I think will make other people happy, or things I think are the “right” things to do, never allowing myself time to stop after a trip and organize receipts, or put everything back in its proper place, because I feel an obligation to get started on a new task, to always be doing and never allowing that time at the back end of anything to do the cleanup, the sorting, the uploading, the printing or the gathering of receipts, or memories, or paperwork or gift-giving, so that literally every nook and cranny of the house, of the computer, of my mind, are filled with things needing given away, properly organized or simply “closed out.”

This actually should be a bit of “Manuscript Monday” since the insight is relevant to what I’m working on.

It is time for a new laptop, but I think it’s also time for a new approach to time management. I am trying to focus on the reward of printed photos in an album, and allowing myself to think of a day or two after each trip being an obligation to my own household, not a luxury or busywork.

I’m curious, readers…how do you manage the deluge of photos and documents and digital everything these days? Do you print as often as you would like? Or as often as you should? Do you have these issues of clogging up your hard drive and backup drives and never putting things on paper anymore?

I wonder what they will find of us, a few generations from now. As file types change and technology is outdated several times in a single generation, will descendants be able to find these digital footprints we leave behind as easily as we can find paper trails of our own ancestors?

Okay, enough rumination and time for me to get back to preparing for this Boston Conference and canceling obligations for the first couple days after I return. 😉

Love, Marla

P.S. In case you missed it, I’m giving a way a SIGNED, HARDCOVER of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It’s easy to enter, and so far there aren’t many entries! Click this link to enter. Deadline is Tuesday!

14 thoughts on “Nothing is Certain but (Computer) Death and (Overdue) Taxes

  1. Dealing with it all is a nightmare.

    I’ve had an online presence, and various blogs, websites, egroups etc. since 1992.

    I was the first student in my University’s School of Humanities to get an email address, and it was a tricky figure out in those days.

    The result: a trail of online debris spanning three countries and half the globe’s servers.

    A few guidelines:

    PRINT out any documents and photos that are extra important. Book a weekend in advance on your calendar and just do it. The Saturday is for collecting and printing. The Sunday is for filing and sticking in photo albums etc. Print photos on good quality – the best you can manage.

    NEVER delete any email of importance. Print and file it in an A-Z if you have doubts. The stuff that is deletable is paid bills in duplicate – keep a 3-6 month trail for insurance and financial purposes, and delete the rest. The stuff thatyou should keep is anything involving slander against you, verbal attacks, or where anyone attacks you in any way.

    TROLLS. Ignore them.

    WEBSITES. PDF the pages, and print them out. I have whole websites in files on acid-free.

    FILES. Keep electronic files on USB.

    PASSWORDS: Keep a list of sites / accounts you maintain in handwritten form in a safety deposit box or with your lawyer, with instructions for your death. These instructions should NOT be to contact the company – Facebook, for example, has a policy of deleting accounts upon the death of a person.

    State your wishes: account to be read then deleted, passed on to the hands of person x or whatever. Make these clear.

    DEATH. You need to think about how all your electronic content is to be treated on your death. See above, but at the minimum you need handwritten passwords and a list of accounts where your lawyer / power of attorney can find them with instructions of your wishes.

    From time to time clean up your internet trail, deleting accounts, subscriptions etc. I do this monthly, or whenever I think about it.

    Hope this is useful.

    1. Wow, this is AMAZING, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to post it. I definitely need to incorporate some order into my chaos and these suggestions are wonderful. Thank you so much!

    1. NUP. More space means more mess and more disorganisation. That’s been my experience, on everything from kids rooms to offices to filing cabinets.

      Althoughh I’d agree the computer is outdated. That’s just the way of the electronics world. It sucks, but there it is. 4 years out of a machine is doing well, 5 years is exceptional, for adult use.

      For kids, both of ours have laptops we bought secondhand and reconditioned that are 6+ years old and work beautifully for basic surfing and homework, but not games, and they struggle with anything beyond very old versions of Office.

  2. Well, I don’t have a scanner so I’m still doing my taxes the old fashioned way – from a shoebox. My tax preparer says it works for him (I keep the box but list everything in it for him according to the tax form pages), and since I love the simplicity of it – like Bank Day in second grade with a real 2B pencil and real passbook – I’ve got actual pieces of paper I gather in one place all year long and then spend a couple days sorting and gathering by date, recording in a cash book, then stuffing in a big envelope to live for 7 years. I do a weekly backup of my computer…okay, that’s a lie – more like monthly…with a silver gizmo the size and weight of a high quality chocolate bar that plugs into the back of my iMac. I’ve graduated to online banking and statements and such for several things but I print out the statements as soon as they’re available and tuck them in that real receipt folder/box for a day – like this one.

    1. My biggest problem with keeping my papers all together is that I have to keep track of papers from multiple locations, because we live in more than one place, and our tax preparer has to have receipts from the city in which Kurt’s currently working separate from the receipts in which we live, and although it *should* be as simple as keeping a ‘home’ box and an ‘away’ box, we aren’t putting it into practice. And then of course we have to keep school-related receipts separate (we were both getting masters’ at the same time) or mark them, and often forget that also.

      I do think a lot of my issue is needing to slow down and take the time to do it properly. After all, if I don’t, I end up spending much more time and stressing over these taxes way beyond extension dates each year.

      I think you’re right on with the boxes for taxes. I need to implement it and stick to it and keep it SIMPLE!

  3. Is give you some snappy, tongue-in-cheek reply; but you already know I’m every bit as disorganized as you, probably more. Sig.

    love you li’l sis. good luck! 😉

  4. One thing I’ve done, that I dislike, but try to resist changing back, is using email at Verizon online instead of downloading it. What I really dislike about is is the clunky, slow delete and sort and find capabilities that come with the web email instead of downloading to outlook, as well as the issue of having to re save all contacts to webmail that have been downloaded. But, as long as verizon’s servers hold up, I’m going to keep trying.

    1. I’ve been pretty good at keeping all my email online (I’m not even sure I remember how to use Outlook) but I actually need to delete a lot of it or move it into folders. Most things stay in my inbox until, well, forever…

      I’m going to blame this on the ocd along with everything else.

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