Sunday, February 7, 2010

Records Purge Begins . . . NOW!

Once and a while, when my filing cabinet is threatening to explode due to the amount of paper stuffed in it, I do a purge of the records. I don't use a shredder; we happen to have a wood stove that likes to burn excess paper.

Sure, I could recycle it by taking it to work and putting it in the recycling bins there. But that makes for a nearly 100-mile one-way trip for those records, so the green burn I get off recycling the paper is probably negated by the fossil fuel used to get me there. Since we're already burning a fire to heat the basement, I just shove all the paperwork inside the stove and let it crackle away.

I don't know why I cling to all this paperwork: Utility bills that are paid in full and four years old, pay stubs from 2006 -- It appears the last time I did a purge was in 2006, because that's where all the paper records I have stop.

Not that we have a lot of electronic records, either. I just don't see the point. Maybe in some distant future when we have to account for every single atom of carbon shoved into the atmosphere, somebody might want to know how much I paid for electricity or natural gas in 2006. But I fthey want the information that badly, they can go to the utilities, not me. And they'll have to penetrate the bureaucracy in order to get that info out of them. Good luck with that.

I still have some sorting and purging to do. I've done the easier ones first -- power, water, gas, paystubs -- but the other ones are a bit more dicey. The tax records I scan in every scrap of paper and keep electronic copies, purging the paper records after a few years. If the IRS is that interested in going over my finances from 2006, they've got as many records as I have in their own vaults. Also dicey is the file that contains the manuals and warranty information for the small parade of minor appliances that have come through the house. I know we have instructions for at least three irons and six curling irons that have long since gone to the landfill, but who wants the agony of sorting through all that paperwork just to match up the correct manual with the correct appliance sitting upstairs? I don't, so I'm ignoring that file for the time being. Also daunting are the files upon files of newspaper clippings, from the era when I was a newspaper reporter. Many of them, thankfully, I've scanned in, so the paper copies are already gone. Others went up the chimney without a preliminary run through the scanner because it was all city councils, county commissions and such so who cares about that? Most of the stuff I have left are full tearsheets, and nobody I know has a scanner that big, so they'll have to hang about a bit for a while longer. Until another fit of despair comes and I just chuck them as well.

Other things are easier. Just a few weeks ago, I scanned in a pile of kids' drawing and other homework and such. I don't know that, years later, they'll want to know what they were doing and drawing in the fourth grade or in kindergarten, but just in case, some of it's there.

Then there's the issue of e-books. I have, at last count, more than 100 linear feet of books in this room alone. I've read most of them, and can't bear to part with them. I love the feel of the paper and the heft of the book, so e-books are lost on me. I've taken a shine to transferring CDs and DVDs to digital because then they're portable and I can watch them on the iPod Touch while going to and from work, where I spend a lot of time scanning in paper work records and storing them digitally and sending the papers back to the recycling, or the landfill, wherever they end up.

Anyway, I've babbled long enough about records storage at our house. One of these days, I'll have to sort through all the electronic records I've got. They dwarf the paper records, I can tell you that.

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