Days 365+119 Lent contra dance swapI’ve been saving pruning my desk files for a weekend – when I have more time. Unfortunately/Fortunately this past weekend was Pig Town Fling – an annual weekend contradance which “required” my full presence and hosting 5 people. My nod to giving stuff away took the form of donating 2 contra dresses to the dress swap and restraining myself from taking 2 dresses in exchange.

Today I tackled the job I’ve been avoiding – going through my work files which are in neat but stuffed hanging folders in my final desk drawer. It was prompted by a meeting with our accountant to prepare our taxes. This meant I had to go through my 2015 tax records. It’s done but I learned a few things about taxes and old files.

  1. Days 365+119 Lent tax forms & tapesTax receipts: I don’t need tax receipts from 2004. In fact, the IRS says I really only need the last 3 years of receipts. I decided to keep the last 4 years, just to be safe. That cleared a lot of space.
  2. When it’s old but you’re not ready: I found outlines from talks I gave over 10 years ago – all neatly ordered by date of course. I should throw everything out that’s over 5 years since most of it is on my computer anyway, but I’m a wimp and keep thinking I might want to refer to them. Solution – at least move them to the back of the drawer and label anything over 2 years “Archives.” When I’m braver, I’ll toss them.
  3. Decide when to be strong and let go: I don’t need “To Do” lists that are 2 – 20 years old? To be fair, these weren’t active “To Do” lists but often contained notes, old rosters, and other miscellaneous gems. I toughed it out and tossed them.
  4. Some decisions are easy: Miscellaneous conference programs from organizations that I am not currently involved with are not necessary to keep. Who would have thought?
  5. Let go of the pride that makes me think others want my old stuff. Tapes (I mean actual cassette tapes) of talks I gave back when cassette tapes were modern technology, could be discarded guilt free. But wait! What if I become famous and my grandchildren want to hear my actual voice after I die? Be strong, Susan, let it go. They won’t have cassette players around to play them on anyway.

This continues to be an experience of noticing that many things that seemed important to save in one decade, lose significance over time. The art is to notice what has lasting value and what does not. People are important, not the symbols of one’s accomplishments (or mistakes). In time my loved ones and I myself will pass away. The important thing is how I spend my time and relate to people now.