Wondering if I can break the cycle of paper hording

I come from a long line of paper borders. In adddition to a bazillion photos and slides, my maternal grandfather left behind every checkbook register and check stub from every checking account he had ever held. Finding the 1940 receipt for his wedding brunch celebration to my grandmother was a gem that could have easily been missed among the rental table books for the Equitable building where he worked in the thirties and the programs from Oddsfellow productions, receipts and warrantees from appliances from two holdholds accumulated over a 60 year periods and just about every statement and receipt the man ever laid his hands on.

My mother carried on the tradition, I open my mail on my front porch next to my recycling bin in an attempt to avoid the mountain of mail that accumulated on the 4 foot long peninsula in my parent’s kitchen. It did disappear from time to time, relocate might be a better description, a hasty move to the top of the washing machine just prior to the arrival of guests or to make room for rolling out Christmas cookies or frying chicken in the electric skillet. However, most of the time it sat there taunting us, just waiting to explode.

I recall with horror opening up a cupboard in my parent’s living room shortly after my mother’s unexpected death at the age of 52 to find thousands of Christmas cards. Lovely cards with family photos, cards with handwritten notes and news of the year past, but more than 50% were just generic cards with “the Andrews family” or “love, Joan” nothing more. Who were the Andrews family? Joan? Why hang on to these?

Although I generally have the “mail” part of my families obsession covered, it is still a daily battle. Junk mail, fliers and solicitations immediatly hit the recycle bin. I open bills (unwilling to go completely electronic – especially with credit card bills that fluctuate from month to month) and write a note on my refrigerator calendar a week before they are due to remind me to make payment, recycling the outside envelop immediatly, adding any magazines to my reading pile (have given up most subscriptions at this point) and read any personal mail. Bills, personal mail I haven’t yet responded to and the I’m not sure what to do with it stuff ends up in my “box.” I learned a long time ago that if I did not contain things they would crawl and occasionally they still do but when the box starts to look like this…


…it’s time to organize – unfortunately – about once a week. So that when I am done it looks more like …


As I am currently job searching I have an extra “pile” next to the box.

Once bills are paid, the statement and any other statements, receipts, or miscellaneous paper goes into my personal box which has a lid and is kept in a closet or the house box (mortgage, taxes, electric, etc) that is kept in the basement. When they become full or unruly I mangage those – shredding what no longer is relevant or necessary.

Fighting the urge to save ticket stubs, letters, receipts is a never ending battle but one that become easier with each passing year as I realize that I rarely if ever need or look at the things I’ve saved and think about the fact that no loved one wants to have to sort through mounds of nothing to find the one gem. I keep reminding myself to keep a gem or two, but dispose of the rest!


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