Saturday, August 11, 2012


Yesterday I shredded the last of the shreddables. If you ever have gotten lost under decades of paper clutter, you know what I mean. I had saved every bill and paper that could possibly be useful ever since I moved into this house 16 years ago. And before that, I saved a lot of stuff but culled it every time we moved (which was often). Since moving here, I just started sticking those boxes and stacks of paper in closets or the garage or the office, until my office was just overflowing. The saving papers had outgrown its usefulness; I couldn't even lay hands on anything important when I did finally need it! So I started filing the true "Keep" material and shredding the rest.

It's taken me months, with lots of breaks to sort non-paper clutter, but yesterday I found the very last stack of un-dealt-with papers. It was a foot-tall pile composed mostly of bank statements from 2001-2002. Back then, you used to get all your cancelled checks back, too, so every envelope had a bank statement and 15 or 20 checks to go through. I decided to just shred ALL the statements and only keep checks for things like home improvement expenditures.

Well, just looking at those old checks brought back a deluge of memories! It was like a time capsule. So much has changed in the last decade. There were checks for baseball and soccer expenses for my little boys, now grown. There was an astounding amount of money spent on daycare while I was working and going to school. Each check was a reminder of some event: the time our beater van broke down and we were stuck for hours on the highway in Seattle, the months I spent dating a man who helped me plant the trees in my front yard, the field trips my kids went on, the plumber who came to fix the flooded bathroom, the trip to see my dying mother. Some checks conjured up happy memories, while others made me furrow my brow one last time before I shredded them. And when it was done, I can't tell you how free I felt! I am *so happy* to have ALL of that stuff dealt with, sorted, and gone.

I've begun going through old pictures, too. They make me laugh and make me cry... the sweetness of my children's faces coupled with the keen awareness of passing time. I found a picture I had long forgotten I had taken; in it, the little girl who lives next door is standing beside a newly planted tree in my front yard. The "tree" actually looks like a little stick with a few leaves on it that someone had stabbed into the dirt. The child is shyly smiling, wearing pink sneakers, and being about 5 years old is not much taller than the baby tree. I stared at that picture for a long time. To me, it embodied the effects of time on everything around us. That little girl graduated high school with my son this spring and is moving away to college in a couple of weeks. The tree? It is as tall as my two-story house. Its canopy spans my entire front yard and when I look out the upstairs window, all I see is the leaves and flowers of this tree. It is almost surreal looking at that picture, which seems like it was taken yesterday but the incredible changes in both girl and tree tell otherwise.

I know it seems like we have all the time in the world to do the important things: read with our child, spend time with our aging parents, get fit, lose weight. But goals and thoughts and plans and "I'll do it tomorrow"s get swept along in time, which passes and changes everything whether we notice or not. Regrets are tough. You can't reverse time. You don't get a do-over, but you CAN, in a sense, because you are *right now* back-in-time. You are ten years younger than you will be when you wish you could go back ten years and do things differently. So do them differently. Take your do-over before it becomes just a wish.


April said...

I love going through old papers. I am in the process of going through my husbands papers and things he acquired before meeting me. I am learning so much about him. It feels good to purge!

MargieAnne said...

Congratulations on finishing an excellent job.

Talking of growing trees I keep this memory to remind me that nothing stays the same and bad things/times pass.

I was distraught over the situation one of mt children had chosen to live in. All I could see was serious harm and it grieved me deeply. I was driving past a newly planted pine forest when I realised that in a few short years the growing trees would change the landscape.

I knew then that whatever grief I was experiencing in that period of time the situation would look very different given a year or two. Somehow it eased my pain and the situation did change sooner than i could have expected.

That picture of time changing the landscape has helped me weather many difficult periods in my life.

Time to grow. We cannot short-cut this one.


Vickie said...

Loved every word.

Keeping paper stacks down is an ongoing effort for me. It is amazing how much still comes in on a weekly basis. I have gotten myself off every list possible, no longer subscribe to any magazines, do things as simply as possible, and there is still a lot of ongoing paper.

I did the same thing as you did, saved only what was vital and shredded the rest.

Steelers6 said...

You are on a roll!! Great job.

Anonymous said...

That is such a powerful last paragraph. I will put that up somewhere where I can constantly see it. Beautiful words.

Jessie said...

I loved this post, such a great way to look at life. Thanks for the perspective today!