paper chase

Do you ever just get tired of all the paper in your house? Some days, I’d like to walk away from it all.

Landisdad and I finally bought a new car this weekend. After we made our deal, we came home to look for the title for the wagon that we were trading in, and I couldn’t find it in my filing cabinet. So we looked a couple more times in the same places. Then we looked through a bunch of boxes in the basement. Boxes that hold our combined history, plus the history of some other members of the family, too.

It made me wonder why we save so much paper, and who we’re saving it for? Will my kids actually ever read journal entries that I wrote during my freshman year of high school? Or notes from a class that landisdad took in grad school?

I realize that we have some legal obligation to keep our tax records going back seven years (or is it five?), but why am I hanging on to credit card statements that are that old? Needless to say, the shredder got a fair amount of use this weekend.

Our basement doesn’t just contain our ephemera–there are also the seven boxes of photographs from landisdad’s family that we’re supposed to be scanning, so they can be digitally preserved. Landisdad’s grandfather was an interesting, well-traveled guy–one of the pictures is of him and his wife with Yukio Mishima–and I can imagine that our kids and their kids would want to have that. But there’s a part of me that just wonders what we’re doing all this saving for.

For me, I know that part of the desire to save paper has to do with the dissolution of my childhood home. There are few things that were saved, when my mom and stepfather moved to a new house, and I moved in with my dad. For landisdad, the opposite is true–his childhood home was intact until the year that we moved East, and our house is full of furniture and books that came from that house.

I’d like my children to have some kind of a happy medium, although I do worry that I’m going to leave them with a huge mass of paper that they have to sort out when I’m 90, and ready to go into a home. I hang on to all kinds of work-related papers that I think are interesting–but what am I going to do, donate them to a university? Or perhaps use them for the basis of my memoirs? It all seems so improbable–sure they’re interesting to me, but will anyone else ever actually want to read notes from a meeting that happened 50 years in the past?

As for the car title? It never did turn up. Thankfully, the fine folks at motor vehicles were able to print us a new one this morning. But that’s one piece of paper we be hanging on to for another ten years.


March 19, 2007. memory.


  1. sober briquette replied:

    This is momentous! What did you buy?

  2. thordora replied:

    My mother hung onto EVERYTHING-it was classified by class and year. It was insane.

    My father threw it all out the year after she died.

    I find I struggle to hang onto anything-Im not sure why. My husband on the other hand, whose mother is a bloody pack rat, can never EVER throw anything out. His music room is like your basement.

    The only thing I make a point of hanging on to are the letters I received from him as a teenager. I just can’t bring myself to throw them out.

  3. Liz replied:

    Congrats on the new car! Buying a new one is always so much fun. I think. 🙂 I try not to keep too much paper laying around. Taxes and bank stuff I keep for a long long time. Otherwise, it goes in the shredder.

  4. Suzanne replied:

    I am drowning in paper, too. I have an unhealthy attachment to paper records. I like those tangible links to the past too much, I fear.

  5. Anjali replied:

    Just list your house for sale. This is all you will need to do — it will force you to thin out everything in your house (ESPECIALLY the paper). Then when you’re done, you can take your house off the market, and look around — your house will be twice the size it was before.

    Congrats on the car!

  6. landismom replied:

    Well, I just took 6 bags of recycling to the curb, so there’s a little less paper tonight!

    And as for car type, SB, we bought a Prius, thanks for asking.

  7. chip replied:

    Ah yes, too much paper. And I also have recently wondered where our car title is, given that it has finally bitten the dust and I have to start thinking about buying a new one and selling the old one. Glad to know titles are replaceable.

  8. Lady M replied:

    I did a massive shredfest to clear away paper stored in what is now Q’s room. The piles have crept up in the last two years though!

    We once thought we’d lost the title to SwingDaddy’s car and I wrote the DMV for a new copy . . . and it turned out that we never had the title because we were still paying off the loan at the time. Oops.

  9. jackie replied:

    Anjali, that’s what we’re doing right now! We’re in the middle of buying/selling, and it’s certainly making me rethink whether I need all those grad school notes and handouts.

    What’s your position of children’s artwork? That forms a large portion of the paper in my house, and I long to recycle most of it, but fear the Bad Mommy Crown will be permanently mine if I recycle all those watercolors that are supposedly me and my girls holding hands and wearing rainbow dresses!

  10. Anjali replied:

    I have a large, flat plastic bin that fits underneath a bed. I take the stuff that comes home every day, and write the girls’ name and the date on the back. I then toss it in the bin. Then, about once every two months, I go through the bin and toss probably 75% of what’s in there. I keep the stuff that’s sentimental, the stuff that shows developmental milestones (such as, the first time one of them drew a face), and anything that conjures a wonderful memory. But everything else goes.

    Best of luck to you. I’ll check your blog to see how it goes.

  11. landismom replied:

    I have a similar system to Anjali’s — though it’s not the stuff that comes home every day, because once you hit grade school, the sentimental value of every piece of paper tends to taper off (at least for me). I know I don’t want to save fifteen pages of math homework that just have ten subtraction problems on the page (although I probably saved the first page of subtraction homework). I also save things like report cards (of course), exceptional tests, and paintings/art projects. I go through them at the end of the year, and keep the stuff that still moves me in the summer.

  12. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    We just bought a new vehicle too, a 2005 Nissan truck. It replaces our 20-year-old Suburban. My husband is so excited, it’s really cute! And I am glad not to pay $100 to fill up the gas tank.

    I LOVE to throw things away. Twice a year I do a big purge of the house. Like one of your commenters said, it makes the place feel a lot bigger.

  13. brettdl replied:

    What, you aren’t enjoying our “paperless” society?

    I tend to save bills and stuff because they have a way of coming back and haunting you. For example, on this year’s taxes you can get a refund on phone bills because of overbilling.

    The upshot? All of my old bills are in storage in California. Doh! Where is your clutter when you need it?

  14. Daydreams and Musings replied:

    My husband used to keep EVERYTHING, now he only keeps ALMOST everything. Actually, when he works on our files, they end up really organized and easy to use.

    But, of course, when we were trying to do A Girl’s taxes this weekend (as if doing our own taxes wasn’t enough torture, we now have a child who has to pay taxes AND who has reams of deductible expenses that have to be categorized etc.) we couldn’t find ANY of the documentation from one of her accounts. It was only around for a few months, but still. How could we lose financial paperwork like that when we manage to save every bloody magazine we get that we never have time to read? Of couse I was the custodian of the account which might explain the missing paperwork. I’m not the custodian of any accounts anymore, thankfully!

  15. why am I the fool? « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] that I wanted it to be, or anything. With my paper problems, the last thing I need is to be shipping my email to myself. Filed under: random other things […]

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