I wouldn’t consider myself a pack rat, but I definitely have a problem. You don’t always see it all because I have it cleverly hidden in places I’ve long forgotten. My parents noticed it during college when I lived in an apartment in Uptown Minneapolis: I collect paper. Newspapers, junk mail, old magazines, receipts. I still have textbooks from college, essays and notebooks from my favorite seminars — my collection of financial paperwork dates back to my teens. The other day, I was cleaning in my closet (a multi-day project for our Take Action Challenge decluttering week), and I found a drawing from grade school that was addressed to my grandparents. I’m guessing they kept it and returned it to me in case I, say, scrapbook (I’ve tried and stalled too many times, but intend to do this glorious expression of creativity when I retire), but still, why I thought to keep it is beyond me.
Even though I keep a bounteous collection of paperwork fit for the Museum of Historical Moments in Courtney Lewis Opdahl’s Life, I still know where most things are. Generally speaking, anything in the land of misfit records is meant for the filing cabinet, but that’s becoming too full as well. Anything that needs action remains near the front door or in my work bag, so that I’m constantly reminded to respond. (Almost all of our bills are done online now, so the digital world has greatly helped decrease my clutter collection.)
But this brings up a good question: What does one keep and what does one toss when it comes to paperwork?
For financial records, I found this interesting article in Kiplinger’s. A few takeaways:
• Keep you tax returns for life, but only the supporting documents are needed for three years (the time the IRS is allowed to audit)
• Save all records pertaining to your home as long as you live there or own it
• Shred or toss your pay stubs after you get your W-2
• Shred or toss any monthly bills, unless you keep them for tax purposes (which then, I’m assuming, you can discard after you file your taxes, or to be safe, after that three-year mark for possible audits)
In my closet, well, that’s a whole other story. There are multiple sizes of clothes, shoes that don’t fit or are uncomfortable, accessories I no longer wear, a Winnie the Poo blanket I used as a baby and that I’m saving for my future child, and a black feather boa — you know, just in case. I have these twisty hot rollers I bought for my hair after seeing an infomercial, an electric foot bath, and a package of brand-new white athletic socks for when I become a runner. When I saw my basenji, Ladybird, staring back at me from a pile of old pillows and blankets, I became worried. I almost lost my dog in this mess?! She may be comfortable, but I’m not. Cleaning out this closet is a HUGE undertaking, and one that will definitely take me more than a week, but little by little, I’ll get there.
Speaking of clutter, my diet could use an overhaul as well. You should have (or soon have) your July/August 2010 issue at home or can read it online at experiencelifemag.com. I’m committing to the UltraSimple Slimdown by Mark Hyman, MD, after the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Dr. Hyman recommends starting on a Sunday, but I’m going to start Monday the 5th. I attempted the UltraSimple Detox Diet in February and only made it to Day 4, but I have a better plan of action this time, namely to start cutting back on sweets, caffeine and alcohol at least a week in advance, if not two. Here’s your heads up for those of you interested in trying it with me. Find tips for eliminating sweets and more, plus the entire detox here. I’ll be discussing my progress and hurdles on my blog all week from July 5 to July 11.