Day 8: Warm Up The Shredder

* Note: This post is part of my declutter challenge which I failed to complete at the time, allowing life to get in the way again. Instead of beating myself up about it, I will finish it up over the next week. It's part of a bigger learning project I have set up for myself. Enjoy!

"Later" is the best friend of clutter...

- Peter Walsh


Day 8 of the declutter challenge involved getting rid of 10 items in your filing cabinet or paperwork piles. Perhaps filing cabinet is an old-fashioned term now, but being in both the world of digital and hard copy, I find myself with more trust in the tangibility of paper rather than storing things in the proverbial "cloud." Technology changes so fast, and with no guarantee that PDF will stand the test of time, as well as hanging on tight to my remnants of privacy, I put my faith in my cabinet of paper storage.

What was supposed to be a declutter of 10 items turned into a complete purge of my filing cabinet. Fortuitously, my son decided that our family office would make a wonderful recording studio/bedroom. He asked if I would be interested in swapping spaces. With my other son willing to relocate his computer to his bedroom, I was faced with having a room of my own for the first time in our family history to call my office. Cue the dancing.

I decided since the move was taking place to take this opportunity to clear out the clutter in my filing cabinet and office space. After all, if you are going to have your room, you need to make space for the zen corner.

The file pile to be sorted. Ugh!

What Went

So much was recycled and shredded but to honor my 10-item format here is a shortlist.

- Receipts for anything that was older than a month and unlikely to be returned...see below.

- Hydro bills for all, but the last two years...I haven't yet been asked to produce my electricity bill from April 2018. That will come after I shred it I'm sure.

- Investment reports for previous years except for the most current one...because I read them often (sarcasm).

- Information brochures and hiking maps...organized dreams.

- Mechanic receipts for all cars we do not currently own...I held on to transfer papers. What if someone forces us to take back that 93 Camry. We can prove we sold it.

- Paystubs for every year except the current one. Hung on to the last paystub of each year of active companies...Not sure why. My soul wouldn't let me declutter those yet even though they are available online. What if the company gets a ransomware attack and cannot recreate a T4.

- Child Tax Benefit cheque stubs...Proof I am a paper hoarder.

- Income Tax forms older than seven years...Who am I kidding? I kept it all. You don't mess with the government.

- Bank statements...available online.

- Mementos and cards which no longer hold any meaning...Will be scrapbooking the rest (no Cricket cutters or anecdotes...just tape and stick).

My Loose Rules, Not Complete

*I am not an expert in paper management. Do your research and follow your comfort level.

  1. If you can access it online, do not keep it (e.g. bank statements).

  2. Important documents like property tax receipts and income tax, keep for seven years.

  3. Stop bringing home brochures...Just stop it!

  4. If you can ask a company for a copy of the receipt, do not keep it beyond two years (electricity, gas, phone).

  5. If a receipt for an item is in current use, only keep it within the warranty period. Attach warranty information to the user's manual.

  6. Do not file receipts for shoes in the filing cabinet. Put in an envelope stored in the weekly financial folder to be thrown out when reaching 30 days or when shoes are unreturnable due to an unfortunate dog excrement moment.

The Gap Receipt

Pure rage fills my being as I review the receipt in my Receipts folder. This bulging folder has receipts from clothing items to food to Christmas gifts in years gone by. The trigger for this full-on anger outburst is a Gap receipt for $24 from 2018. Why? Why did I feel that this receipt must be thoughtfully filed away for future consideration? It would not be bad if that was the only one, but the folder is full of such receipts. Incensed, I put my hand across my heart and pledge that only receipts for items that can be returned a year after purchase will make it to the cabinet. I grab an envelope and throw it in the financial file that we review weekly and promise that temporary receipts will make their home there briefly then tossed.

Child Tax Benefit Cheque Stubs

Why? This is a question I find myself asking a lot during my declutter challenge. What earthly reason would see me needing to keep a cheque stub? Was I thinking the government would waltz by and say "We did some shoddy recordkeeping. Do you know if we paid you for your children in September 2015?" I would swoop to the rescue brandishing my cheque stub, and they would reward me with a medal. Sigh. Do you know why I kept it? Because I did not want to deal with it. File's a condition...under F.

Bank Statements

Seven years of bank statements. Seriously. All are accessible online. Even being able to utter those words out loud shows my personal growth in the area of technology.

Why Declutter?

In a deal with today what I should have handled seven-plus years ago. Initially thinking my decluttering of my filing cabinet would indicate organized fear, I came away with the clear sense that my filing cabinet symbolized avoidance. Easier to tuck it in a file than make a decision. For the past year, I have been learning how leaders need to make decisions. Bad decisions are learning experiences and not many of them are irreversible, but there is an energy about being in limbo or indecisive that does not feel good. I almost feel a sense of needing to exercise my decision-making muscle to get better at it. If I had decided years ago that the cheque stub was not necessary to keep and shredded it immediately, I would not be spending this time and energy dealing with it again today. One stub is given all this time and emotional energy. Seriously, my filing cabinet has revealed a bigger problem that needs indecision.

Giving further thought to my past indecision, I remind myself to be compassionate to my past self. I remember the days of homeschooling three children, working, and running a household. My decision-making capacity was probably pretty fried by the time I was throwing papers in files. I take a deep breath both sad and relieved those days are past me now. Currently, despite my busyness, I do have time to make decisions and create better systems for my paperwork. In this light, I feel better...taking past me off the hook and in a better headspace to tackle the present.

It was fascinating to write this post. There is a clear line of processing that went from frustration and anger to compassion and acceptance. Who said sorting files was boring?!

The final destination

I used to think I was indecisive. I'm not sure anymore.

- Anonymous

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