I admit it: I have a problem. I've posted quite a bit about the state of my apartment—junk, clutter, pigsty, housekeeper, blah, blah, blah–I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about it. This is a little different, or at least I think it is.
I have a paper problem. It's only one part of my general clutter problem, but it's a big'un. Piles of it here, piles of it there, boxes stacked on boxes of it, paper everywhere. I'm not one of those people who have mountains of newspapers dating back to 1952 or anything, but I'm close, perhaps dangerously so. I haven't had an avalanche in a while, but it has happened, and it could easily happen again. They'd never find my body.
Right now, I'm looking at a folder on my desk full of papers relating to a retirement account I closed in 2006. Somewhere in another room is at least one box full of statements from that same account, some of them never even opened. Not far from where I'm sitting is a crate containing expired insurance policies dating back to 1998—I'm not even with that insurance company anymore—each neatly stored in its own dated envelope, and under the window is a Coke flat brimming with year-old stock prospectuses I've never read and never will. I have a drawer full of envelopes stuffed with cash receipts (groceries, takeout, that kind of thing) all carefully dated, annotated, and in chronological order going back to 2005. I have bank statements going back I don't know how far (early nineties?), some neatly bundled by year (with their relevant receipts, of course), some jammed into an old wooden letter tray, waiting to be opened and sorted someday. And that, folks, is just the tip of the paperberg.
I do not need this stuff!
At least ninety percent of this stuff is no longer relevant, if it ever was, much of it is redundant, and almost all of it is completely useless. I know this. I've done my Googling and found list after list telling me what to keep and what to chuck; what to preserve for all eternity; and what to shred, burn, and stab with a fork to make sure it's dead. The trouble is I can't bring myself to throw any of it away.
I'm looking at this folder of retirement stuff, and I know I should pitch it, but I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it. This is an account I cashed in about a year and a half after I got canned from my last job, from which it originated. I closed it because every statement they sent me (two a month for some reason) felt like another twist of the pointy, stabby knife in my back. I couldn't bear to look at the damned things anymore, yet here I am nearly ten years later still holding on to every single one. That's a little sick, don'tcha think?
I know I don't need this stuff. I know
nothing bad will happen if I get rid of it. Nevertheless, I feel
like something bad will happen if I send it on its way. I opened up this folder today to start to deal with it, and I felt a wave of horror sweep over me at the thought of sending even one sheet to the shredder. What if? What if? What if?
What if what
I don't even know what if, but there it is, as real as my fear of heights or neighbors, that sudden gasping ache in the chest that says, "Stop! Don't do it! Or else!" Don't open the door, don't go down into the basement, don't answer the phone ('cause he's calling from inside
the house), all the old horror flick clichés. But this is paper
: flattened tree-stuff slathered with ink and transient importance. It shouldn't evoke such a reaction, but it does.
Anybody else have a problem like this, or am I completely crackers?