For those who are inclined to “do something” — not content to sit around chatting or to simply drop off a gift — you likely have an ability or interest that can bless someone. Doing something you are good at or you enjoy means it won’t be stressful for you, and your someone can be truly blessed by your service in areas they may not be able to concentrate on right now.
Service on Paper
You may have noticed the paper. In conversation, you might be hearing about exhaustion from so many papers needing to be filled out. During visits or at lunch, you’ll notice papers surrounding your someone or spilling out of pockets and purse.
Hard times often mean mountains of papers:
- Job loss can mean unemployment forms, resume updates, job applications, training schedules, cover letters, and follow-ups.
- Medical challenges bring bills with deadlines, late fees, and confusing ways of billing some things separately.
- After a death, many accounts need to be finalized, titles changed, claims filed, thank you notes addressed.
- A move requires dozens of address changes, switching accounts for utilities, and possibly school transfers.
If you are a whiz with papers, your skills are in high demand. Do you enjoy sorting, organizing, calculating, or tracking down details? Chances are that someone who is weighed down by stressful circumstances can’t think straight at the moment and could use your clear-sighted assistance.
A Gentle Start
Don’t worry that paperwork is only for a family member who can pay close attention or keep up over time. There’s no need to panic that paperwork blessings could mean taking on a big load. Instead, consider very basic needs.
Are there ways your natural abilities might be channeled into a simple bit of work for a person who might be feeling overwhelmed by routine tasks?
A paperwork blessing might mean dedicating just one weekend afternoon, or maybe you have an hour each week to stop in on your way home this month. Don’t over-commit and scare yourself into doing nothing.
- Offer to do a specific task that’s familiar to you — addressing envelopes, filling out an application, proofreading a cover letter.
- Or, start with simple gathering. In a household that’s overloaded with papers, that’s usually the first thing: Create a dedicated spot and gather it all together.
The First Important Task : Gathering
In my experience, pretty much every task involving paperwork must begin in the same way: by gathering a bunch of information that is likely scattered right now, and pulling everything together into one place.
- In some cases, it will be a fairly clear task to gather papers into a large envelope and label it.
- On the other end of the spectrum, a complicated illness meant papers were dispersed into every room of our house, the purse, the workplace, even the car, and gathering them into one place took time and thought.
Focusing on the issue at hand — maybe medical bills, resume details, or funeral-related papers — begin by pulling relevant papers and needed information out of piles of mail, stacks next to the computer, towers overloading dressers and tables, and bundles stuffed in hospital bags, coat pockets, car trunks, letter holders, old files, checkbooks, and junk drawers.
Create a heap, a pile, a dumping ground, a HazMat Central — ONE area reserved for papers on ONE topic.
This task alone can be your blessing. If your someone is in the middle of unemployment or selling a house or nursing home placement, then you will be gathering papers related to that topic. Then dump every relevant paper you have gathered into one spot.
Choose a place that can be semi-permanent and won’t end up mingled with other household mail: one filing cabinet, one portable file box, one desk, or one sturdy drawer. When my husband was sick, I moved all of his medical paperwork to a shelf in our hallway linen closet. I selected the shelf at the best height for me to reach into often, moving sheets and blankets up to make room.
Our shelf was stuffed full of hospital bills, insurance policies, prescription instructions, and folders from various events (rehab, dialysis, transplant workup, chemo training). However, when I needed to research a bill or fill out an application for assistance or locate instructions, I knew everything was together and within easy reach.
Some groups of papers will need careful handling, such as anything with a deadline, a dispute, or something that needs to be referenced over and over.
Documents also need to be treated with care, such as birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, property titles, Social Security cards, proof of insurance coverage, and military discharge papers. If you come across any of these, then create a special folder or envelope to store them all together.
Add anything you come across that seems important or especially useful — last wills, living wills, passwords, contact numbers and addresses, budget outlines, insurance papers, anything related to taxes.
I keep a brightly-colored binder labeled “The Most Important Stuff.”
Paperwork is Not for Everyone
In today’s era of bestselling books about clearing out clutter and TV programs about hoarders, it can be tempting to take advantage of an opportunity to clear things out a bit. If you find yourself thinking more about clearing out than about assisting with paperwork, then this isn’t the blessing for you. Despite the value of clearing out in many situations, it is not a task for the beginner.
- You don’t know yet what can be cleared out — bill disputes can emerge a year or more after-the-fact and benefit from a calendar showing the date of an appointment; drug allergy investigation might rely on records of past prescriptions. All kinds of things you have no idea about might send your someone digging through papers at a later time — only to find the needed details have been tossed.
- You also don’t yet know what system might be useful in your someone’s lifestyle.
- And most of all, your someone does not need the added stress of your critiquing her lifestyle right now.
Another caution: If you know you struggle with making sense of paperwork or getting bills paid, then let go of this idea and instead choose something that you actually enjoy or are good at. In fact, your lack of skill might mean you have great recommendations for outside help with paperwork tasks.
Passing the Torch
Getting everything into one place will also help others step in if needed. Family members doing more intense tasks won’t wast time hunting through the entire household for needed papers, and other blessings will roll out more smoothly. They may need to dig for a while to find something in particular, but there will just be one area to dig, and it will only need to be done on an as-needed basis.
If someone has worked on a task, you can continue the paperwork blessing during a later visit: Staple that group together, or put it all in a folder or manila envelope, and label it. Write the date and what was done, as much as you know. Gradually, voila!, some of those papers will be a little more organized.
Gathering important papers together can relieve stress and allow others to easily step in and get specific jobs done when needed.
For maximum success, begin simply, so neither you nor your someone is stressed.
Blog #16, COMMENT BELOW: Have you experienced a paperwork challenge? Any questions, or tips?