This is a tribute to my long-term relationship with a shoebox. A box that drove with me across the city for years, a box that I handed proudly to my bookkeeper. "Here, my bookkeeping," I would say with a smile.
I knew that in a universe beyond my creative freelancer mind there were people sorting their paperwork by name, date and type. To me a strange place with strange people who see more value in efficiency than in optimising their own time. In my microcosm there was only me, my shoebox and my ostrich-like strategy of burying my head in the sand. In my microcosm, this was already an efficient bookkeeping system.
Lunch receipts, invoices, train tickets. The shoebox belongs to a freelancer’s bookkeeping like the nerve-racking deadlines to our trade. My shoebox – light gray on the sides, a black elegant lid, golden letters – was my faithful, silly companion for four years. With great appetite, he ate restaurant receipts, taxi receipts and crumpled train tickets of long-gone journeys.
Outside our four safe walls, my four-cornered friend was known as my bookkeeping. "I still have to do my bookkeeping," was one of my favorite excuses for turning down invitations from unpleasant acquaintances. My shoebox was not just a receipt storage but a verbal emergency brake.
The boxes of my freelancer friends varied in size, color and degree of wear. "Here, for your box," someone would say at the end of each dinner. At the end of every business lunch somebody’s box would get its share. We box owners felt like a secret society, always one step ahead of the common man sorting their paper filing. How ignorant we were.
After years of assumed time savings, the realisation grew that my analogue carton box looked more and more like a foreign object in our digital world. The cracks in its corners dug deeper into its pulp. And yet I stuffed and stuffed, closing the lid and waiting for a Cinderella-like miracle. A fairy godmother, a pumpkin and a well-organised bookkeeping (or something like that). As my career as a freelance copywriter advanced, the mountain of paper that had to be checked, sorted and stored grew and grew. Neither me nor my box could keep up. We hung on, barely making it from tax return to tax return.
There is a time for everything, even for mistakes. Freelancers – graphic designers, artists and copywriters – are especially well-trained in this area. We make mistakes because we are free and keep going until it hurts. I do, at least. A certain shoebox will attest to that.
In the end, one has two options: pull the emergency brake, throw the box to the trash and neatly organise its content, or shovel coal into the oven of your very own Titanic. On the horizon looms an iceberg with a big “T” on its top. “T” stands for tax office.
“Linda," my accountant would say, "don’t you think it's time to make things easier for you – and especially for me?" Nodding, I would take my shoebox, put the paper receipts back in storage and promise to improve the logistics of my bookkeeping. It was time to break up.
Today the shoebox resides in my closet. I smile at it as I scan my receipts and save them to my bookkeeping with a few clicks. It was a good relationship, for each other we were more than enough. But someday, I whispered at the end, it’s just not enough anymore.
I said: it's not you, it's me. I have Holvi now.