There. I did it. I finally cleaned out my file cabinets.
“Big deal,” you say? As a matter of fact, it was.
When I finished shredding my old bank statements, utility statements, and any other statement and piece of paper with personal information on it, I had filled four plastic garbage bags and 3 paper grocery bags, and my garbage can is full.
I guess I could have gotten to that stuff earlier.
The process was actually kind of fun. Well, except when the shredder stopped because it was overheating.
Seriously. Three times.
What also wasn’t fun was how testy I became because of all the paperwork needlessly retained by my wife, Jeanne. Please understand, I’m not picking on her. But she does tend to let things pile up. I would never do that.
Yeah, I know we’re supposed to retain records for a time. I even went online to get the recommended guidelines per Suze Orman (Read More). It’s reasonable as you can see. Here are Suze’s recommendations about what to keep for:
1 month – ATM Printouts.
1 year – Paycheck stubs, utility bills, canceled checks, credit card receipts, and bank statements.
3 years –Income tax returns, medical bills and canceled insurance policies, records of selling a house, records of selling a stock, receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support income or a deduction on your tax return, yadda, yadda, yadda.
And finally, 7 years – Records of satisfied loans.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I admit I’ve exceeded those guidelines in some (okay, in most) of those cases. I do have my tax records going all the way back to when I first started working. Why? I thought it would be fun at the end of my life for my kids to see how much money I made over my lifetime. Come to think of it, they might get depressed when they compare it to the inheritance left over after my lifetime of expenses and discretionary spending. But then again, they did help me spend a big chunk of that as Jeanne and I raised those wonderful offspring and continue to help them here and there, so I guess there’s that.
Okay, back to getting testy.
It was mostly the bank statements that grabbed my attention during the shredding session. For the last three years, I got smart and started scanning the paperwork for e-storage. My current “file cabinet” is the size of a flash drive. Quite cool, really. But that didn’t alleviate the mountains of earlier missives from the bank remaining in my dinosauric file cabinets.
Per Ms. Orman’s guidelines, I began with the 2019 bank statements and worked backward. After a couple of garbage bags of shredded material, I was back to the 2012 statements. Then 2011. Then 2010. (Heavenly Father, how far back does this go!)
2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. Really? 13-year-old records? I’ve moved four times since then!
As I was feeding the sheets into the maw of the shredder, I glanced at numerous pages trying to recollect the moment I spent the cash per the line items I saw.
Osaka Hibachi restaurant. (Hmm. Multiple entries. I don’t remember going there but once. I must have forgotten the rest.)
Walgreen’s. (Duh. Returned there frequently for recurring purchases.)
Radio Shack. (WOW! That’s a long-gone expenditure!)
And a whole mass of undesignated debits. (A lot of time, talent, and treasure linked to those.)
I sure spent a lot of capital on all of that.
Finally, after 2006, Jeanne’s bank statements finally stopped… but mine kept going. 2005, 2004…
Sheesh! I guess I was a bit over-zealous on the record retention side. But it was fun shredding the evidence of those transactions and debits into oblivion. As I emptied the bin into the garbage bags I looked at the teeny-tiny, teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy chunks of paper and thought how impossible it would be to reunite those fragments into some semblance of the original testimony of my financial life’s account.
And then came the dawn!
“I am the one, I sweep away your transgressions for my own sake and remember your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).
“For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:34).
“In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
God shreds our sins.
I had to pause and let that sink in.
When we confess our sin, that is, admit to the Lord our violations of His laws and standard of right living, those sins and any history of them are “shredded” and removed from our life’s record, never to be seen again.
Also, it’s impossible for us to find all the teeny-tiny, teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy chunks of those sins and reconstruct them into any semblance of the original testimony against my spiritual life’s account.
What about those forgotten sins? You know, like the times I don’t remember eating at Osaka Hibachi. Shredded.
What about those recurring sins that I keep returning to as illustrated by the returning Walgreen’s records? Shredded.
What about those long-gone, never-committed-again-because-they’re-now-defunct-sins (the Radio Shack entry). Shredded.
And what about that whole mass of undesignated debts, the secret sins known only by the vague line item but the very real expense to my life, the sins no one knows about but are still counted against me, the wrongs on which I wasted too much time, talent, and treasure?
Dropped into the waste bin to be incinerated into unreadable, irretrievable ash to be blown away by the Holy Spirit into oblivion.
Now that my file cabinets are clean and empty, I’ve made it my goal to not fill them up again. I plan to sell those cabinets. When the paper statements and bills come in, I mean to make short work of them by scanning them into my mini record storage facility where a simple click of a mouse button can delete them when needed.
And as I do so, it will help me remember to hand my sins over to the Lord often for a quick round of spiritual shredding.
Gotta keep those files empty, you know?