Spring Weeding

Source: Allthingsclipart
Source: Allthingsclipart

There’s a war occurring within just feet of where I am currently sitting. It’s me vs. sentiment and I am winning this battle.

I’ve embarked on a spring offensive aimed at shaking loose clutter in my home office. Specifically I am referring to employment papers that have sat in personal files of mine for years. It’s time for them to go.

These papers are no longer important. They pathetically cling to a kind of eminence and relevancy that is now literally yellowed with age. I do sort of feel sorry for them in that personifying way that we sometimes act out with objects. But sadly I only see them for what they truly are to me now: a faded, Norma Desmond-type glory representing only the past and nothing of my future. Where I once held on to them for security and ego gratification, none of that sentiment exits anymore. It’s all just… clutter.

Most of these papers are notifications of official personnel actions that occurred during my career, be it a raise, a COLA, or a change in work station. Everything relevant was always documented on this form, and a copy was sent to me along with it being placed in my official personnel folder. Over a 30+ year period I literally have enough of them to wallpaper my office. Move over, Dorothy Draper.

Also quite plentiful are the many performance appraisals I received, particularly at the start and middle years of my career. It seems I kept each one. Hanging onto them is like saving report cards and progress reports from your childhood school days. It’s a veritable land mine of good and bad memories certain to invoke a few flashbacks, some of them often better left in the past.

Sure, it’s nice to be reminded of the achievement award that I received back in 1987 for completing a multi-million procurement of lawbook subscriptions. But this is also balanced by the snarky reference a former boss made about my apparent less-than stellar ability to handle multiple projects at one time. The word “multi-task” had yet to rear its ugly head in management-speak.

Glancing through some of these papers takes me into a time tunnel of long-suppressed incidents and episodes that, up until today, had been conveniently buried. For instance, I apparently received a $50 cash award for getting our library’s automated system Y2K-complaint back in 1999. I absolutely do not recall this award at all, but I sure as hell remember the intra-office pressure to complete the mission. We were told that unless we updated our systems, hell would reign down in the form of untold plagues because of programming bugs in the new millennium.

Cruise missiles were going to be fired by mistake, and it would all be due to our not having updated the library’s aging mainframe.

Source: Rankred.com
Source: Rankred.com

I remember pseudo-techies like myself, each working in separate agency offices, and all of us forced to march in lock-step order so that our legacy systems could become certified. For close to a year, we all provided group therapy and support to one another in our collective effort to keep management happy.

On January 1, 2000, I went into work at the crack of dawn and performed searches on the library catalog to confirm that all functions worked properly.¹ An hour later the Chinese government lodged a formal complaint after bombs set off from Germany hit three of their remote provinces. But hey, I tried. What do you want for $50?

Also included in my files are financial documents that are rather quaint. Completely forgotten after all these years are the signing notes to my undergraduate and graduate school loans. They were my lifelines as I was graduating from high school. After sending my three older sisters to college, my parents sheepishly revealed to me one day, “Funny thing, but guess what? We’re out of money!

What makes these loan papers “quaint” are the dollar amounts. From 1979 to 1981, in support of my undergraduate degree, I borrowed in three different transactions a total sum of $5,900. A later loan for graduate school in 1985 appears to have been for an additional $1,300. I actually remember thinking at the time that the costs seemed reasonable. My familiarity with large dollar figures, relative to anything else at that time of my life, was nil but for perhaps for the car I bought after high school.

But I instinctively understood that paying for my education at a working class, state-funded school in Michigan was substantially less than what others had to pay at more august colleges and universities. I considered myself lucky at the time and now in hindsight too.

What came later in the way of tuition costs in all of higher education for Generations X and Y borders on predatory. Shame on you, Academia. It’s no small wonder that Bernie Sanders has tapped into something genuine with younger voters.

My student loan payoff letter from Sallie Mae.
My student loan payoff letter from Sallie Mae. The pleasure was all mine, Ms. Mae.

So it’s time for me to shred all of these papers. They can no longer do anything for me, and in fact keeping them poses some grave security risks.

Not so quaint at all is the fact that nearly all of them contain my complete social security number. We’re now quite used to seeing truncated representations of our SSN and credit card accounts, but there was a time not very long ago when the full number was always printed on documents. In a recent AARP Bulletin, Frank Abagnale (the former con man from “Catch Me If You Can” fame) advises shredding all documents with a micro shredder, plus never writing a personal check if you can possibly help it. This is great advice from someone who’s a bit of an expert.

So enough of this trip down memory lane. I need to return to the battlefield and jettison that whole “past is prologue” thing.

So what’s in YOUR files?

Until next time…


¹ I recall typing in the classics “Wuthering Heights” and “From Here to Eternity” even though I knew neither would actually be found in our catalog of mainly legal material. As protests go, it was silently wry.

19 thoughts on “Spring Weeding

  1. in my files? a lot of the same kind of things you mention… I still have IT Strategy documents from companies long passed, paystubs, snippets of programs written in various languages that I thought I should keep… all kinds of things – nice reminder that clearing these out is an important activity… just don;t sell back your LP’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I my last big purge about a month ago I tossed or gave away all my “work” stuff. Personal papers were shredded but leadership books and classroom training guides were passed on to others. I had a sense of finality about it all but it felt good. Shredding it all with a home shredder was a huge pain but I don’t trust shredding centers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Several years ago, I had a check I wrote to a utility stolen out of the outgoing mail box at work. The check was then “washed” to remove the information on the Pay to the order of line and the amount, leaving only my signature. It could have been used to drain my checking account if it hadn’t been found as part of a police raid on the operation. I wonder if that’s the reason for his no-check policy?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes, that’s precisely the scare. A friend of mine once wrote a check to his dentist (his dentist, for God sakes!) and a staffer there stole his banking information and was able to draw funds. It got corrected and he was made whole, but that made us all aware of the dangers. Better to pay with plastic and/or through your bank’s online bill-pay service. Scary times!


  3. Congratulations and Good Luck! In our loft I have a dozen boxes of files I took with me when I left my office for the last time three years ago. They include all the work diaries I have kept from my first editor’s post in 1987. The only thing that has prevented The Current Mrs Feeney from demanding I get rid of them is the fact that the loft also harbours her own, even older (and therefore even less relevant or useful) files from her newspaper executive days. We will shred them. One day. Soon. Honestly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am “paperless”. All patient entries are neatly done in on my computer and I pay for the software program. Such a relieve as files need to be kept for 12 years after they are closed in my province! My house would be a fire hazard, or I had to hire something.
    It was a lot of work though, to scan consent forms etc…..Not totally done yet, I have some stored and locked files.
    Thanks for your postings….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I am thinking about the amount for scanning you had to do. But, yes, so well worth it. Unmentioned in the post b/c it just would have been too long was that my wife’s computer was fried. She really only had ONE important file (I know, right? How strange is that?!) and it was backed up to a flash drive and on my own laptop. As we used to say back in my office: “Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy!”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post reminded me of my Y2K work for my credit union employer. I was the marketing VP, so my job was to develop all the CU’s messaging to our members and create contingency plans if everything went to hell at midnight (“sorry for any inconvenience…”). I have always wondered if nothing happened because of all the pre-planning, or if it was all a big nothing to worry about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it did turn out to be mostly a dud in terms of calamity. In your case you were preparing for the worst for your customers, which was good. For most IT operations it was mainly an excuse to buy new equipment. IBM, Sun, Oracle, Microsoft, etc., all made LOTS of money in the two years leading up to 2000 because businesses replaced their servers and client software. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting post, Marty. Over the years I was diligent about shredding outdated paperwork pertaining to my employment. When I retired a couple years ago, I set up a file folder to hold the measly amount of work papers I thought I wanted to keep. It didn’t take long to get rid of everything except a list of former co-workers’ phone numbers and emails for staying in touch. It feels great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet it does, Carol. Didn’t it feel liberating?! Not mentioned in my post to keep things moving, is the fact that my former, wonderful HR manager gave me a copy of everything electronically when I retired. So in fact I actually do have the most pertinent of documents. But it nonetheless felt good to toss the hard copy.

      Liked by 1 person

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