Paperwork: A Blessing And A Curse

Paperwork…arghI have been under the pressure of a deadline lately. One of the most important deadlines, in fact: filing my taxes.

Normally I’d have my taxes done by now but this year is different.

In the old house I had a desk and an office area where I kept most of our recent paperwork organized. As we approached the move, I let my paperwork build up and bills ended up in “to be filed” grocery bags.

All that paperwork (in addition to the older stuff) ended up in multiple boxes, which then ended up in multiple rooms of the new house. I’m finding myself pretty disorganized when it comes to paperwork right now and with taxes due, I have to kick it into high gear.

To make matters worse, all the old paperwork (2005 and earlier) that hadn’t been filed properly to begin with got thrown the mix. I’ve been avoiding that mess since before we got married but it appears I can avoid it no longer.

My original plan of attack involved organizing only 2008 and 2007 paperwork then putting the older paperwork in bags separated by year. I figured the only reason I’d have to access the old stuff would be for an audit or to dispute a bill. Why waste my time organizing ancient bills for something as unlikely as an audit? If it happens I’ll just sort through the bags then.

On the other hand, why not just file that old paperwork into general categories (utilities, credit cards) while I’m already sorting it? It’s going to have to pass through my hands to be examined for date anyway; I might as well put it in some sort of order, right?

Good thinking, but that could lead to a slippery slope where I find myself wasting time and resources on paperwork that I’ll never need to look at again.

So, my plan is this:

I will properly file the 2007 and 2008 paperwork in the file cabinet. Those years are the most relevant and I need the 2007s accessible right now for taxes.

I will “lightly” organize the paperwork from 2006 and 2005. I bought accordion-style organizer boxes for the task. The boxes already have general categories labeled on the dividers so it should be easy to lightly organize those years as I sort them. I can also store the paperwork in those boxes for easy access.

Paperwork from 2001-2004 will be placed into bags labeled with the year. I didn’t want to give up on those years but I have to draw the line somewhere or I’ll be at this for weeks. It’s like I’m declaring paperwork bankruptcy for those years. I think the best plan at this point is to make a clean start going forward.

I have also made a promise that, from now on, all new paperwork will be organized into folders in the file cabinet, then stored in file boxes until shredder time.

I know paperwork isn’t fun but its life. Now I’m off to tackle some serious filing.

Do you have a method for organizing old paperwork? How far back to do you keep records?

Image Source: Librarian Avenger

Nostalgia By The Truckload

Who doesn’t have one of these?This weekend we are going to visit my family to celebrate a belated Christmas.  It kept getting delayed due to illnesses and conflicts but it looks like my family can finally meet up this time.  I’m looking forward to it but I suspect this trip might set us back in our efforts to simplify and de-clutter our home.

The last time we visited, mom said that I should take all my childhood keepsakes now that we are moving to a bigger home.  I’m sure lots of parent stash away trinkets from their kids’ childhood knowing that they will appreciate those things when they are older.  I think it’s neat that my mom kept some of my toys all this time. 

The thing is, my mom is a packrat and she saved virtually everything I ever played with or owned as a child.  Cabinets and shelves full of old toys, games, souvenirs, hobbies, crafts, you name it.  A bedroom is dedicated to this stuff right now.  Some of it’s sentimental but most of it isn’t.

My older siblings picked through their things years ago and refused to take most of it.  Eventually, I think their rejected stuff got assimilated into mine, creating one massive collection.  Against all wisdom and advice, I have agreed to take it.  My mom saved all these things for us and I think that’s really sweet of her.  Her heart was in the right place.  She didn’t want to throw away the things that meant something to us as kids.  So now I’ll do the honors.

I’m assuming the first truckload will be coming back with me this weekend but I’m not sure yet.  If so, I need to have a plan so the stuff doesn’t become a permanent fixture in a corner of my garage.  Inspired by Brip Blap’s awesome article on learning to let go of pseudo-sentimental items, I’ve decided to do the following steps:

  1. I will go through the stuff and toss anything damaged, incomplete, or just plain un-salvageable.  That My Little Pony that my sister gave a mohawk and multiple earrings comes to mind.  (It was the 80’s – punk was in.)
  2. Stuff that is in decent condition but not unique enough to be sold will be given away to friends with kids and Goodwill.  I think most of it will be in this category.  Hopefully the toys that helped me pass the time as a child can bring happiness to others, too.
  3. Stuff that is in good shape and particularly retro or kitschy might head to eBay.  There may be a few gems among the rocks, who knows.  I’ll have to wait and see.

I already know I’m keeping a few things, like some favorite childhood books and my miniature dollhouse.  Those items were always intended to be kept, not the junk drawer with a paddleball toy that’s missing the ball or the pressed pennies from amusement parks. 

I will also make sure to do the sorting with Eric.  He can keep me grounded if a wave of nostalgia hits me and I start rationalizing why I should I keep this stuff.  I can hear myself now: “Wouldn’t it be fun to save this for our kids someday”, “But it’s too special”…  Eric has no attachment to these things and can keep us focused and on task.

Once I start getting these boxes I’ll have to report on the interesting things I find.  Besides a lot of children’s books and Barbie Dolls I’m not really sure what’s there.  I bet it will be a fun job sorting these toys.  It’s sure to bring back a lot of memories.  I’ll just have to be careful that it doesn’t bring back the clutter, too.

Image Source: tshein