Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom
Offices seem to be the center of the vortex of flotsam in a house, particularly paperwork. If you work outside the home,Â your office probably still has files that were set up by the previous holder of your job – files you haven’t looked at the entire time you’ve had the job. My desk and filing cabinet had “current” files that were five years old and notes that said “to file” on documents dating back to when the law firm was started.
Why do we do this? Do the phrases “paper trail” or “for our records” ring any bells with you?
Try to think how far back you really need to keep things. Ask the company auditor or attorney, if you have one and need guidance. In my office, the habit had been to scan everything and keep a hard copy. Why? One or the other, please. In addition, there are scans of documents without the attorney’s signature and a scan of the same document after the attorney has signed it. Just because it’s electronic, doesn’t mean it’s not clutter. If that document is needed again, sorting through two copies of everything (signed and unsigned)Â is not going to make finding it faster. When theÂ final copyÂ is scanned, the previous copies should be deleted.
I know some people want to keep all the scans to “show their work.” Again – think this through. Is it really necessary? Is it necessary for the first month and then no longer necessary? Necessary until you have your annual review and then no longer necessary? Make a note about when certain items can be eliminated. Cleaning up your work after yourself is a legitimate use of time. After all, if everyone saved everything, eventually your office would need a bigger server or additional file cabinet just to managed all that clutter.
In addition, sometimes keeping records can work against you instead of with you. I was once hired to purge a large business of all of its employment records that were more than 10 years old. Their legal department had decided that 10 years was how much was needed; however, some of the records were 20 years old. An former employee had sued, and because the records were there, in the cabinet, they were admissible in court. If the records had been destroyed in a timely fashion, the lawsuit could not have gone forward. It took me a month to pick through all those records!
There is the same temptation to keep everythingÂ in the home office. I shredded 13 pounds of documents that Dan had kept, including many years of pay stubs, utility bills for a house he hasn’t owned in 15 years, and credit card statements. Why did he keep these? “In case he needed them some day.” “For what?” I ask.
What’s needed is a regular system of purging. Maybe you do need to keep some records for a time. But, eventually, that time will pass. By then, it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” also known as clutter. How can you keep your paper trail from trailing back to the 1970s? Start at the front of the files and start purging, one folder at a time. It might be slow work, but one folder at a time, it will get done. I’m sure you’ll find entire files devoted to things unnecessary: a vehicle you no longer own, a project you decided not to start, a pet who has died. Next you’re going to need to revisit the files on an annual or semi-annual basis. Or, every time you put in a new piece of paper, you can take the last one out and discard it.
The second part of the process, of course, is to resist the temptation to file all these extra papers in the first place. Your credit card and utility statements are on-line, as are many of your investments and other business transactions. Maybe you don’t need a hard copy of these at all. Don’t keep records that you simple don’t need. There can be such a temptation to hold on “just in case.”
Think before you file, and you’ll only have to declutter once.
Today’s Mini Mission
Spy and declutter something electric.
Today’s Declutter Item
I didn’t have anything electric to declutter (surprisingly enough) so I instead I thought I would throw something in that is quite different. Years back (in our USA days) we accumulated a collection of naked back art pieces and since our bedroom is now less the half the size it used to be some have to go. These didn’t make the cut so they went off to the thrift store.
Something to be grateful for today
A day without a long to-do list. Just tidying up a few loose ends and making some yummy onion soup.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast