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The Lost Week

For me, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a lost week. People don't return phone calls or e-mails. No appointments, no emergencies that require my immediate attention—just a big empty vacuum.


This is the week I can get stuff done. Not important stuff … just stuff. Mostly housekeeping. I work on the end-of-the-year bookkeeping so I can get everything to my accountant early. I do this every year so I can be annoyed by how much I have to pay in taxes every year. Might as well get it done and get it over with. Print out all the bank statements for the year so that when I'm done, I have more useless paper to decide whether to file or just throw away.

I look forward to grabbing a bunch of file folders and putting all the paper that's been accumulating on my desk into files so I can put them in the file cabinet where they will rest, safely ignored, until I decide in a few years that I don't need them anymore. All year long, when I pay a bill, the bill goes into the bottom left drawer in my desk, where it sits unmolested until the Lost Week. Every year I spend hours filing them into separate folders so I know what I spent money on. Those folders then get filed in the file cabinet, which doesn't get opened again until the following year, when I throw out the previous year's files. When that happens, I have plenty of fuel for the fire pit.

Everything comes off my desk. I clean and polish the desk, and then carefully wipe everything down as I put the stuff back. I have a small collection of paperweights that get dusted and shined. I vacuum under my desk, which probably hasn't been done since last year's Lost Week, and I smile as I hear the clinking of stuff being sucked up. Now I feel safe enough to work in bare feet again.

I balance all the checkbooks, do my final entries in Quickbooks, and take bags of trash out of the office. I clean up my computer's desktop and file everything into nested file folders, thus ensuring that I can never find any of them ever again. Back up everything to the hard drive, run the disc optimization program, check on my anti-virus software, and try to decide whether I really need to keep all those files from 2004.

I start to organize my photos, but quickly give up when I realize there are thousands of them and I never look at them anyway. Log into iTunes to download some more music from the 60s and 70s that I don't yet have, and create lengthy playlists so I don't have to listen to any music from the 1980s through this afternoon. This is something I'm really good at. I have a playlist of all the songs by One-Hit Wonders from 1960 to 1975. Want an example? I have “Tobacco Road” by the Nashville Teens from 1964, and “One Toke Over the Line” by Brewer and Shipley from 1970. Go ahead, check your iPod. Bet you don't have either of these!

At the moment, I'm debating whether my Lost Week cleaning should include windows or not. Okay, I've decided not, for the simple reason that it's 37 degrees outside. I need to get back to Florida.

All of this has become an annual ritual that I really do look forward to. It gives me a false sense of security to know that my life is completely organized, at least for this week, and I am once again in control of it. At least until the January bills come in and I stuff them all into the drawer on the bottom left side of my desk.


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