It has been engraved on my soul to save household documents by parents whose deaths bequeathed to me their tax returns from the 1960s.
I treasure those documents, because they contain my parents’ lives in very factual ways (income, taxes) and very sentimental ways (their signatures). But, ironically, I am now looking at a box of my own household papers going back nearly 10 years with the plan to throw them out.
Oh, I’ll keep the taxes stuff and the student loan stuff. I’m not throwing caution into the wind, here. I am, however, dumping the huge file dedicated to the long-lost Mitzy the Mitsubishi, a car I sold seven years ago. It’s a bittersweet parting, as without those papers I have no proof that I ever owned that car — I’m not even sure I have a photograph of it anywhere.
There might exist, in some distant future, a bit of computer memory hoarding my car registration records from the early aughts, but seriously who cares?
Even I, worrier extraordinaire, cannot fathom a reason I might now need to prove how my utilities bill of October, 2012, was paid (check #290, if you’re interested). One, my electricity wasn’t shut off permanently, so it was obviously paid; and two, the bank will have records if I somehow needed that kind of alibi (“yes Your Honor I did indeed write a check for $150.00 to TalGov on October 5, 2012.”).
Even my time on unemployment during my first year of grad school (thanks, really poorly timed lay-off) can be tracked via govt. records. The check stubs (back when they still sent checks, I think I was in the last batch to get paid that way) don’t have any purpose for me.
The archivist in me looks at such documents with wonder, though. I could literally rebuild my entire life from 2010 on with the papers in this basket.
Yet, starting about 2015, everything started moving to digitization anyway. I no longer receive bank statements by mail, and all my main bills such as utilities, my phone, and my internet are all handled online so I never get paper copies.
The IRS and collections agencies still do business by mail, and that’s about it.
Still and all, I feel a sense of loss throwing this crap out. It serves no purpose, and all the information is backed up somewhere on some computer if I really need it, but such scraps of paper do represent history. They are the aftereffects of life, I suppose.
Honestly if I had a large house I might just toss it all into an archival box and ferret it away in an attic or unused closet. But I live in a small apartment and space is at a premium, and I just don’t feel like making room for this crap when I have legitimately more important crap (such as art, and vinyl records, and books, and comics) to make room for.
Away it goes, then.
Also published on Medium.