Keep the Stuff the Matters

newspapers$156.70. That’s what I paid an electrician in 1992 to put in an accent light on a painting in my Dining Room in my first house in Texas. If you need his telephone number, license or the kind of wire he used, it is on the bill I found meticulously filed away. Of course, he’s probably been retired for 15 years.Yikes!

I went digging last night for some records I need for an upcoming meeting. I practically needed the Jaws of Life to get into the filing cabinet in my home office. As I wrestled with the overstuffed folders, looking in vain, it dawned on me that it has been months since I really filed anything.  All this paperwork was kindling and it was really old. With all of my bills mostly electronic, I rarely see the need to keep anything in hardcopy. Meaning that what I was finding in the folders in my office is, embarrassingly, so old that the only true value is for fire starter. I guess I now know my weekend project.

But I contrast what I feel obligated to save with the papers I know are the ones that really matter. Most of those documents are tucked away in my dresser drawers and in memory books I have stored away for my child. They are the real documents that deserve to be under “lock and key” in my filing cabinets and safes.

It makes me wonder why we feel obligated to save old paperwork, but not old love letters.

Visit any decent financial advice or organization website, and they will give you great tips on how long to keep important papers related to your income, investments, life events, etc. We all need to be more diligent about ensuring that we are taking extra precautions to safeguard our personal identity and utilizing modern technology to put critical documents in accessible, digital lock boxes should the need arise. All good advice, but what about the rest?

Why don’t we keep old cards, notes from friends, thank you’s from the people who we have helped and blessed? They become the encouragement and motivation we need to stay on course in this journey of life. They turn into the gentle reminders of special moments, long gone, that mattered. We all need those periodic visits back to the spaces and places in our hearts and memories where we knew love, happiness and experienced the pain of loss. For in those moments — outrageously wonderful and gut-wrenchingly horrible — there are life lessons and glimpses of ourselves that we need to remember. I like to think those cards, letters and reminders are just all “cliff notes” of our lives and need to be periodically reread.

My most cherished document is a personal check I will never cash. It sits in my desk drawer and was written to my husband just days before my father died. His 45th wedding anniversary to my mother was something he wanted to commemorate with a special gift and he had enlisted my husband’s help to secure a nice piece of jewelry. Not well enough to shop, he described what he wanted and we had our jeweler overnight a piece, allowing Dad to fulfill his wish.

That simple check was the last time my Dad ever wrote his name. It is a constant reminder to me that love matters above all and making sure the ones you love know how important they are to you – even up to your dying day – is what matters most.  That was my Dad’s last lesson to me; the monetary value of that check could never come close to the true value of that little piece of blue safety paper.

Get your personal papers in order. Know what to keep, what to toss, and how to store those hard-to-replace documents. And above all else, keep the stuff that matters!

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