Hey beauties! I thought I would do a little combined post today about our tiny office space AND the apocalyptic Hunger Games situation that is French Administration. I've been talking loads lately about the Admin situation with various people. From those who want so badly to get control of it and understand it, to those who willingly give it up to their French other-halves (with mixed results!). I wanted to share my plan of attack, how I combat it so I don't find myself drowning under the sheer amount of paperwork required by this country to be completed for every little request.
Office space is the smallest need in our small space. I work from home right now but it's still pretty mobile - I can work at the desk, on the sofa, in bed etc. The main thing we need office space for is our vital family documents, communicating with various government agencies and our pretty basic filing system.
I have a big ring binder with file dividers that houses all of our paperwork, a printer that is also a scanner and a photocopier (vital equipment that I'd recommend to every French family!) and internet access codes and the app for every government agency I deal with.
- File it as it arrives. There is nothing, NOTHING as important as this for being able to find documents when you need them. Open letters as they arrive and file them into the correct folder.
- Have a clip-board in-tray. One of your folders will be stuff that needs to be filled in, dealt with, sent back. I like having a clipboard. It all sits behind my monthly calendar so it doesn't take over my desk space. Every month, when I turn over my calendar I see what's left to do and it gets done.
- Admin day. Once a month, usually within the first week of the month I sit down and get all our filing, admin and finances in order. I send all the forms that need to be sent, update all the "situations familial et professionel" that need to be updated on CAF and make sure our various dossiers are up to date. Keeping it to one day of hell, occasional tears and need for a massage by the end of the day keeps my marriage safe, my mind clear and my filing organised.
- Keep a "Dossier" of vital documents to hand. In the front of our filing ring binder I keep a selection of documents that I'm most likely to be asked for when presenting a "Dossier" for anything and everything. (Things I've needed to present a dossier for include; creche, school, giving birth, renting apartments, signing up for CAF, signing up for social security, joining the library, extra-curricular sports, joining a gym, applying for child benefits, applying for jobs, maternity leave, parental leave etc etc etc...) The documents I keep there are our passports, marriage certificate, the boys birth certificates, each of our last three pay slips, our last two tax returns, a "justicatif domicile", our latest electricity bill...Keeping all of this stuff together in a smaller folder in an easily reachable place means that you can grab it on the way to the Mairie, when you sit down to fill out the endless online forms, whenever!
- Sign up to do as much as possible online. This one is obvious, it makes so much sense. Save the planet, reduce the amount of paper you have to keep in your apartment and reduce the amount of shredding you have to do every couple of months. Having said this, sometimes the only thing to be done is to go to whatever office you're currently battling with and cry at them until they give in.
Other Vital Equipment For Admin Day
- Anti-stress essential oil roll-ons
- Leuchtturm Notebook
- A relentlessly optimistic attitude
That's it! If you're in France and need help sorting out your admin life, there are many many knowledgable women on the facebook groups "English Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris" and "Mums Space France" both professionals and just old hands. There'll always be someone around to help!
As I went to hit publish on this post I picked up a phone call from the crèche where Fred is due to attend in September. They told me that the Mairie has NO record of Fred even existing, or the application to the crèche system which we made when I was six months pregnant. Fred's dossier is due to be examined by the Mairie in order to approve his Crèche space THIS WEEK. So on Monday morning I will be hot-footing to the Mairie at 8h30 to give them an original of his birth certificate and some ID. Which brings me to my final but potentially my most vital piece of advice.
Don't just trust that your applications, dossiers and various documents will be seen to in a timely fashion. Make the phone calls, send the follow up emails, call the person in charge, demand to speak to supervisors, put in the leg work. It's exhausting, it's frustrating, it's seemly never-ending but you can do it. It might mean being a little more "direct" than you're comfortable with but you will get there. May the odds be ever in your favour.