Who ever first coined the phrase paper mountain was not wrong. Tackling paper mountains are like climbing Everest. You think you have travelled a long way, you have been trekking for hours, to discover you have only reached base camp. A few days later, you walk long and hard, your backpack is weighing you down and then you have to stop and rest for a while. And there will be days of trekking and some days of going nowhere, before you finally conquer the mountain.
And so it is with paper. Start at base camp to acclimatise and tackle it one camp at a time. And like mountain climbers, accept that you can’t get to the top in one day. Rest is required. Be kind to yourself. And if a Sherpa offers to carry some of the load, accept that help.
The first thing you have to decide is what to keep and what to throw?
In the book, Unclutter your Life in One Week, the author says:
There are only two reasons, and only two reasons, to retain papers and files: To cover your ass (CYA) and to extend your knowledge.
I am going through cupboards, clearing shelves and purging the home filing system. I have just recycled birthday cards from 1985. My daughters. Her first birthday. Packed up and moved to five different houses and never looked at for 29 years. I rarely send Christmas or birthday cards, yet I have discovered 4 boxes of Christmas cards and a selection of birthday cards. Gathering dust and taking up space.
Payslips and P60’s and P45’s. From 1980. The P60’s all carry a warning of DO NOT DESTROY. Really? A current P60 is a CYA but one from 1980 is trash. I will keep the 2014 P60’s until the 2015 ones arrive. Scan and then destroy. What is the worse that could happen?
And then there is all the sentimental stuff. Like the pictures the children made. Stories that they wrote. Material for my blog now! Photos taken and the originals in the recycling box.
I did have a giggle at a letter from the Department of Employment, Unemployment Benefit Office. Pre Job Centre Plus days. The rate in 1989 was £37.40 per week. Their offices were in the road where my current workplace is. The irony is not lost on me, given the nature of my work. The building is still there and is a constant reminder to me of the bleak days of being unemployed and struggling to pay the bills. Yes, I have been there and got the UB40. More than once. And it seems I keep letters from 1989 to document this.
And while I have had a good 3 hours of sifting and scanning and filling up boxes for recycling, which is not easy, it has also been fun reminiscing. When I tackle the photographs I will use the advice Warren from Married with Luggage gave me.
For photos we dedicate a several hours to a scanning party. We sat down and went through them all, scanned those we wanted to keep, and ditched the rest. For us it was a fun day of talking about experiences before we met and sharing memories of those we did together. Now we can look at them any time we want.
Why do we keep all of this paper? Why do banks still write a letter to you to tell you that your on-line, paperless account is now set up? Why, to be able to book an appointment at my doctors surgery on-line, do I have to visit the surgery and complete a paper form to request this? Why has the Inland Revenue written to me to tell me about filing a tax return on-line?
The old me would keep the letter for 20 years. The new me is scanning it and recycling it. Because I don’t want the mountain to grow. I want to get to the top and fly my flag.
So I have to be ruthless. MOT certificates and motor insurance certificates from 2006. Goodbye. My birthday cards, from last week, gone.
Last week I went to a training day. Every delegate was given a wad of paper, covering the course. Then it was emailed to us a couple of days later. What an utter waste of paper, ink and time. That is now with growing pile of paper to recycle. A Recycling Mountain.
And as new paper comes into the house, CYA stuff will first be scanned then filed. All other items that are not junk will be scanned to Evernote and recycled. Even paper that allegedly extends my knowledge, such as the training documents from my course last week, if I can have them emailed to me, I will file and save in Dropbox or clip to Evernote. And add the hard copy to the recycling mountain.
And this is why. I have a box of paperwork that is going to be hard to go through. My Mom kept all the paperwork that related to her mom, my Nan. I have another folder of paperwork that I assembled while dealing with probate and conveyancing after my Mom passed away. And I have boxes and boxes of photos that Mom kept going back many years. All labelled, all organised. Stuff, I will never look at, that I no longer need. However well organised and labelled paper is, it is organised clutter. Holding me back from the life I want. Clarity. An Authentic Life. What my life coach is helping me achieve.
So I am de cluttering, not just for me, but for my kids. They will thank me.