LadyVirginia - lol, I know exactly what you mean! I grew up helping my parents can but after I moved out I never took it up. Off and on over the past 4 yrs or so I've been doing water baths off and on (tomatoes, etc...) and am just now getting back into it. In fact I'm in the middle of a batch of strawberry jam right now. I love doing it - but I'm totally with you! Last weekend was my first batch in awhile and it seemed like it took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r! Today I was a little bit more prepared but still ended up managing to make a mess and give myself a nice little burn on my hand (not paying attention after I scalded my lids - 3 were stuck together and after I removed them and set them down, I wasn't thinking and reached for 'one' and ended up picking up the stack of three still super hot. Ouch!) So yes, I'm definitely seeing the immediate need for developing my own system.
I haven't used wax on either batch - like you said, seems like more mess than necessary. I might use it in the event that I'm making a batch with the intent for long-term storage, but otherwise I think I'll stick with the non-wax method.
Tomorrow I think I'm going to tackle my first "unsupervised" hot pack after making some vegetable beef soup. Without my mom here to catch my mistakes, I foresee myself freaking out and my blood pressure going through the roof!