Why do we keep so much paper?

DSC_0930I had lunch with a friend, one of the first people I met after moving to Texas almost 40 years ago. He invited me to play on his soccer (football) team even though he had never seen me play. I spent several years with that group of guys including a double break to my right leg which kept me from playing for 6 months. My friend still plays a bit although he has an eye problem that hampers his ability to see the ball. Like me, he is getting on in years although still a bit younger than me.

We chatted about days gone by and the current soccer scene and then we came back to the subject for which the lunch had come about in the first place, him becoming my Executor. We discussed the ins and outs of what all is involved and he suggested that I could make a start by organizing my stuff into something that someone other than myself could make sense of it.

It’s amazing what we keep thinking that it might be useful or that we can claim it off our taxes or because we just like to hoard our junk mail. Whatever the reason, I have a small file drawer on wheels that I have kept close to my table/desk since I moved the computer out to where I could admire the view of the back yard as I worked. No longer being involved with any of the soccer organizations as I had been for most of my life here in Texas, I was able to cut back on the amount of desk space that I needed. Two computers, a printer, lots of wires running everywhere hooked to things like CD Players, additional Hard drives for backup, extra USB ports and two of the Guardian monitors that I use to check the cameras out on the yard and in the house. Actually, there is not a lot of free space left on the table/desk…

I started to look through the folders in the little storage drawer and discovered lots of junk mail including things like old water bills and stuff from Blue Cross or Medicare. I have a small shredder sitting next to the desk and started to methodically shred all of the stuff that I had hoarded over the past couple of years that I knew I would no longer need. Even then, I looked at it at least twice more before shredding it. I was going great guns only to get waylaid by my Ford Escape which I deemed needed a software update. I managed to spend several hours on trying to figure out how to do that small job and try as i might, I could not get the software to upload from from a USB Stick. I looked at videos and read lots of instructions but it just wouldn’t happen. So, after several frustrating hours, I had to admit defeat and go back to shredding paper.

Included in the shredding were old veterinary receipts for the countless times I had visited the vets with my small menagerie. Remember that these files go back a couple of years or more to when there were six dogs and three cats way up from the two dogs and two cats that we are now. What I did not realize as I bombed merrily along, feeding page after page through this shredder was that taped to some of the old files were the dog tags from those years. As I was feeding three or four sheets at a time, I didn’t see the tags until the shredder came to a screeching stop. I hit the reverse button but it was too late. The dog tags had torn up the teeth on the shredder and jammed it to where I could not get it to move anymore. Being the inquisitive guy that I am about mechanical things, out came the screwdrivers and the wrench and I took the thing apart only to discover that the teeth had been stripped from the main gear. That was that as I sat and looked in disgust at the havoc I had created, again.

Next thing was to jump in the car and drive to the nearest Staples and look at the cheapest shredders that they had. I figured that I generally don’t get very much in the way of paper that needs shredding and I am very careful to re-cycle any and all paper and cardboard that does not have any sensitive information on it. What I was working on at this particular moment was a couple of years worth of collected paper which was accounting for the filled up very large black plastic waste bag that I had shredded so far. It’s amazing the space difference between a sheet of paper and a shredded sheet of paper.

I found a unit that was on sale from $129 to $59 with another incentive of a $20 mail in with a receipt bringing the price down to a little under $40. As this was the cheapest one I could find, I jumped on the deal and drove home to continue with the very boring but necessary work of cleaning the files. The new shredder worked fine until I managed to jam it and it wouldn’t work. I sat and waited cursing under my breath about the quality of the stuff that you can buy nowadays thinking about having to return it back to Staples when all of a sudden, the green light came back on and it started working again.

I finished organizing the files in the little cabinet to where anyone coming in after I leave this planet, could find everything related to me and my previous life. Insurances are all filed under Insurance and I even have folders for Photography, Computers and of course, one for Miscellaneous not to mention that there is now a folder entitled “Last Will”. It doesn’t have much in it yet, but I am working on it…

Next stop, the “old” office and the cabinets full of paper in there including old federal tax returns which go back more than fifteen years. I told you I was a hoarder…