Thursday, February 21, 2008

Paper Confessions

I may have mentioned before my problem with paper items. I don't just mean mail or newspapers, because those I generally handle pretty well - it's only when we've been gone that those become a problem. My paper issues involve just about any other sort of paper that enters my house.

Specifically, where I struggle is:
  • Financial paperwork. I am paranoid that I'll need something. I've progressed to the point where I have a box of items that I'm about 99% sure I can shred. But that 1% is holding me back from actually shredding the box. Examples include: closed credit cards, old insurance policies, bills that have been paid for ages etc. This is probably the smallest of my paper problems - it's limited to about half of a box.

  • Cards. I *think* I've finally turned a corner on this one and am ready to pitch old cards - birthday, Christmas, anniversary, thank yous, sympathy, etc. I've put them all in a bag, just haven't gotten the bag into the trash. So far the only keepers are all the cards from my husband and one card (of any sort) from each significant person in my life. And a couple just because they either crack me up so much or there is something meaningful written in them.

  • School papers. Yes, school stuff. From Elementary school through masters degree. I've managed to pitch stuff from classes I hated (speech) or don't care about (all math courses). But that still leaves a LOT of classes. Too many history classes and theology and foreign languages and literature. And my masters degree - I'm not currently using it career-wise but what if I end up wanting to get a job in the field? Would it be helpful? Probably not, it's getting so dated. But it hurts to think of tossing it. I think I've got about 4 boxes of this sort.

  • Also on the school papers theme, just because it's similar in time is lots of random stuff from college - the school papers, notes from friends, and I don't even know what all. Enough to fill a banker's box & then some. College wasn't always the happiest time for me, so digging through that box doesn't really appeal. But would I someday wish that I had some mementos from those years if I just pitched the entire box? Oh, and school yearbooks too - high school and college. In so many ways I want to pitch them, but in another decade or two would I wish I had them to reminisce? Right now I can't see it - high school especially was not a real fun time, and college wasn't always much better, so reminiscing about those days doesn't seem like something I'll ever do. But I remember as a kid loving looking through my mom's old yearbooks - am I denying any possible kids the same pleasure?

  • Souvenirs & memorabilia. I have a HUGE problem with this. I have ticket stubs, tourist brochures, pictures, postcards, etc., etc., etc. from a lot of trips. I have managed to scrapbook *one* trip. Will I really scrapbook the other items? I have no idea. But my memory is so shoddy that having the tangible things are often the only way I remember what I've done and seen, so throwing those things away is especially difficult. I have no idea how many boxes of this stuff I have - 5 or more, and this is the category that just keeps growing.

I would LOVE suggestions if anyone has any. It really is my biggest homemaking challenge I think because things just get so crazy that I can't seem to face other things.


Antonella said...

Dear Renee
I can totally relate to what you're saying about the paper monster!
I have all of the above + magazine cuttings about every possible thing I could actually neeed to know in my whole life (from how to pickle cucumbers to potty train kids that I actually don't have to finding a house in Vienna)! Why? Actually I don't know but this year I resolved to change the situation (to worsen the thing is that I have stuff at my parent's house in the city and at the countryside, at my house in my home town AND in my actual house -I switched town due to job reasons)!
I hope you feel better about your situation!
What I'm doing right now is:
- do not buy magazines or books and read only the existing ones and the past cuttings
- I bought a few binders and what I keep must be in the specific binder (very hard to do!)
- start going trough the paper boxes 1 piece of paper at a time and only touching it ONCE (to toss or put in the binders). This motivates me to throw a lot (I do not want to cut, paste and insert everything!)
- golden rule: if it doesn't need a REAL purpose and it has "bad energy" (unhappy memories, bad smell whatever) it is tossed!
I've got no energy, time or space for paper vampires!
I've given myself a year to be completely clutter free (I know, it seems a long time but I can do it alone on my spare time aside from work and I had 33 years to accumulate all this crap in all these various homes)

I really hope this helps
Milan (Italy)

Renee said...

Thanks Antonella. The only thing that saves me from having an issue with magazine articles and such is that I've been very good at having a defined amount of space for them - one drawer in a file cabinet and that's it. Otherwise I know they'd be out of control as well.

I haven't done any more pitching of papers since posting this, but the boxes are moved out of my closet into the guest room and I am LOVING the space that's freed up. I think that will also help me to keep pitching stuff - knowing how nice it is to not have the space stuffed full of boxes.

I think all of your steps are really good, and love your golden rule. I need to keep that in mind as I tackle those boxes - any sort of bad energy means out it goes!

Good luck with your purging & I hope you come back and let me know how it's going for you. I can't imagine having to think about stuff in so many different houses; you're right, my stuff suddenly seems much more manageable.