Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Decluttering Tasks for January
by Nancy J. Cohen

Spring cleaning in my house starts as early as January. It’s a fresh year, meaning I like to toss out old tax documents and receipts that are no longer needed. This clears space for 2017 files. So what kinds of things does this include? Old financial statements from more than 7 years ago, except for December of each year and confirmations for investments still owned.

  • Old bank statements and cancelled checks except for December statements or for items still in my possession.
  • Receipts for lawn care, pest control, utilities, phone bills, and any other services performed that aren’t necessary to keep after several years.
  • Notes from classes taken or workshops attended that are outdated or irrelevant to my current situation as a writer.
  • Travel brochures for places I’ve been if I don’t need them for research or for nostalgia value; and for places I have no intention of visiting in the near future. This includes last year’s cruise catalogues.
  • Holiday gift catalogues.
  • Greeting cards from years back that I don’t need to keep for sentimental value.
  • Receipts and/or instructional booklets for items long gone, like small electronics and appliances.

I’m probably forgetting some things on my list, but this is what jumps out at me for now. What other suggestions do you have for streamlining your record-keeping, other than to scan the items in and keep them online? Even then, you’ll have to clean out those files on occasion and make sure the formatting is up to date, i.e. converting earlier Word files to the current version. There’s always something to do, isn’t there?

Comments

  1. My husband jokes that if it were up to me, we’d live in a home devoid of all furniture except for a single table upon which rests a single apple. In other words, I hate clutter. My husband loves to be surrounded with stuff. Therein lies the tension that keeps the spark in our marriage.

  2. I do two cleanings a year, one for each location. I usually do them shortly after arriving, so May and November. Of course, in all months I discover something I want is at the other place and with 22-hours driving between them, that’s just where it will stay until I get back.

    • We have two places also and I can’t remember what I have in our Orlando condo. I need to get better organized there but always seem to be short on time on our weekend jaunts.

  3. I’d love to get rid of records more than seven years old, but as soon as we do that, we start asking, when did we put that roof on or when did we buy that heat pump. As for my writing business, I occasionally review those early records and its a trip down memory lane. Oh, I was so bright and shiny and sure I had the tiger by the tail. For now, those old records are better than my memory at letting me know what worked and what didn’t. Fortunately, I only have a file folder per year of combined expenses and income. All the book contracts I keep in an active file drawer. My problem is stacks of actionable papers on my desk. This stack is for MWA, this one for SinC, this one for an upcoming conference. Once I file the folders, I don’t get that sense that something is pending – I need to see the physical files. My worst fear has become true. I have become my mother.

    • Haha, I hear you. Re housing improvements, I keep a spreadsheet because those costs will be important when you sell the place. I keep most of those records in my paper files.

  4. Allyson A. says:

    Must be a bug in the air 🙂 Yesterday, I got an urge to go through drawers and toss things out that have just been sitting, but haven’t got used. I started to form a list in my mind about things around the house that I’d like to do. (new banister, new area rug in the living room, etc) We usually do our taxes in February. Also, when we toss our receipts, old bank statements and so on. There is something about a new year and organizing.

    • Yes, so true. It’s like we want a fresh start. My problem is how to get rid of items that have value. Anybody want a overly tall set of brass candlesticks? Not part of cleaning out old files but old stuff in general.

  5. I turned over household financials to the Hubster after being the one in charge for 42 years, so I’m only involved in tracking my writing income and expenses. Someday I’ll go shred all the folders with “outdated” receipts and other stuff I’ve accumulated, but not until I run out of room. Part of it’s laziness, and they other part is that I know as soon as I toss something, I’ll need it.

    • Chances are that if you haven’t needed it in ten years, you may never need it…unless it is a receipt for household repairs/improvements, items you still possess, or other essentials.

  6. I tend to clean house in January also to prepare for tax time. I DO keep my travel information, however. You never know when you might need to reference something for a story!

    • I keep all of my personal travel journals forever. Tourist info, not so much. You can look most of it up online today unless it’s from a special trip and has sentimental value.