Records, Receipts & Downsizing

Mon 07 November 2022
TAGS: downsizing

I spent some time tonight going through old records and papers, in my ongoing effort to get rid of unnecessary stuff. I've been picking at this ever since we moved to Ely, and have made a pretty good dent in the mass of paper I had accumulated. Tonight's job began with mortgage-related documents from past homes. I had stuff going back 15 years! Although I was pretty sure it would be safe to discard, I did do a quick Google search to see what's recommended, and indeed, that old stuff was ready to go. After going through the mortgage stuff, I decided to start on my 2019 receipt folder.

I have made it a practice all my life to keep receipts, bills and other transient documents. Up until 2016, I had kept everything since I was in high school - about 35 years' worth! During that time, I had worked my way up from storage boxes, to a file drawer in a desk, to a 2-drawer file cabinet, and then 4-drawers - to be clear though, I yet hadn't filled all 4 drawers. Every time I moved, I shlepped all that stuff with me. But in 2016, I lost nearly all of it when our house basement flooded, where the file cabinets were located. This was at first difficult to deal with, and I thought I could rescue most of the stuff - but pretty quickly I realized that would be impractical at best, and accepted that it would have to go. It didn't take too long after that to realize what a burden all that junk was. It was stuff I never looked at, and likely never would, and the thought that I might be dragging it with me every time I moved was pretty distasteful, especially going into retirement. To be sure, in the process of tossing it, I found things that brought back memories; but they were otherwise valueless. It was better to be rid of it.

After that I decided that I would keep no more than 3 years of receipts, and I have stuck to that ever since. Every now and then a receipt comes in handy - needing to return something, maybe to help with budgeting records - but in actual practice I have found almost no value in even that much recordkeeping.

So I find myself again re-evaluating what's important with respect to my recordkeeping. For all I've accomplished in my downsizing, I still have perhaps 50 pounds of paper artifacts of various types. There are still things I won't yet discard, such as kids' stuff, and personal mementos and memorabilia. What I know is that this is a process, not a task, so I don't really get wound around the axle about it. But I also know that I don't want to be wasting my life fretting over stuff. I have to believe there is a balance to be found in all this, though I can't say I've found that balance yet.