Clearing Paper Clutter

We had boxes and boxes of old receipts, bills, insurance, and warranty information. I kept the boxes in my studio and I'd always look at them forlornly every time I walked in the room. They went back as far as 2006. It was time to purge.

I mentioned before that every few years (like I'm doing this year) I like to save all my receipts for a year. This gives me a snapshot on where the money is going.

It's a little inconvenient but once you get used to keeping them it gets easier. I tally the expenses monthly, and then add them all up at the end of the year.

These were boxes from 2006 to 2015, with one box serving as a time capsule for memorable saves from the 90s. Enough was enough. I caught Greg on a good day and I set him up with a little table so we could go through the boxes together.

Most of the stuff was unimportant. There were receipts in there for things we no longer owned. Cars we had sold, or carpeting for a house we no longer owned. Some of the stuff were contracts for former houses, one of which doesn't even exist anymore. It all had to go.

We went through the mountain of paper, waxing nostalgically over old rabies certificates for dogs who've passed away and Christmas cards. I found several IDs of myself, but back from when I was cute! It's no wonder I don't like to take photos IDs of myself anymore. I'll never get back hot university Maria. LOL!

The sentimental stuff we set aside, but receipts and paperwork for defunct property ended in the trash heap. It was liberating to trash so much of that old paper.

It really made us see what huge consumers we were. Back when we were working, income was truly disposable and we wasted it. Greg probably doesn't see it that way, but I do. There were receipts for things that in hindsight weren't worth the money. Makes me wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to buy that awful washing machine.

In the end, everything we wanted to save fit in one small box. It was an assortment of cards, diplomas, and a few receipts and warranty information for things we still owned. All of that will go in the filing cabinet.

The trash is waiting for a nice, windless day when we can burn everything at one time. There's too much sensitive information to simply leave in a landfill.

There are four things I recommend when sorting through old paperwork.
  1. Choose a day when you're not feeling emotionally attached to stuff.
  2. Separate each paper between trash, sentimental, and necessary.
  3. Immediately put away your 'save pile' to the appropriate file folder.
  4. Shred, burn, or make illegible any paperwork with sensitive and private information.

How about you? Do you have a pile of paperwork that needs to be purged? Do you keep your old photo IDs? I like to, just to see me age. :D

Out of curiosity, do you burn sensitive papers, shred them, or take a chance on the landfill?


We've done versions of this a few times, and I always feel such a sense of lightness.

I probably shred more things than I actually need to, but since I'm the one who does it, I'm okay with that. :)
Jackie Burris said…
Maria, shredding is my preferred method since way back. My shred pile does get out of hand now and again but we have too much dry weather with windy days and low humidity here and it is also too hazardous to burn as we have so much brush all around our property.

However it is also fun to drag out and compare old ID's with how we look now, boy time sure has wrought some strange changes too! LOL
Lisa Lombardo said…
Hubby went through the old paperwork last year and purged anything we didn't need for tax purposes, or waranties. I do need to go through my old mementos and purge...I'm not super attached to stuff these days. :)

We burn everything in our wood stove.
Angela Brown said…
I don't keep a whole lot of paperwork. The main paper related stuff I keep has to do with taxes. Otherwise, to the shredder they go.
Stacy McKitrick said…
When we moved, we had TONS of paper that had to be disposed of. Bags of the stuff. Unfortunately, most of it needed to be shredded. I'm still in the process of shredding, but I'm down to one box. Yay, progress!!
Jenny Schwartz said…
I keep old IDs too! Not all of them. My last student ID, many years ago, was a horror!
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: That's so true. It's far better than staring at the stack every time I walked in the room. It made me feel accomplished.
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: We usually have a brush pile to burn somewhere so whenever it's time to burn that, I bury the paper under some big logs and burn them then. But you're right about the wind. We try to wait for as windless a day as we can get.
Maria Zannini said…
Lisa: If I had had children I might've been more sentimental, but since none of our nieces and nephews will care about this stuff, it seems better to get rid of it now.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: I try to scan important receipts, but I trash most everything else. --except this year. I'm saving receipts to see how we're doing.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: Greg has a shredder but it always seems to take too long to shred. I get impatient sitting there and feeding the machine.
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: I'm always so hard on myself on how I look but when I look at the old photos I sometimes wish I looked that good now. LOL!
Mike keyton said…
Can't be doing with shredders - we do have one, yesterday we burnt a huge amount of paper in garden furnace. Much more satisfactory ; )