All I wanted was a new paint color. That’s it. But that one little wish pushed over the first domino in a long line of chore-related dominoes that landed me neck-deep in paperwork.
I blame the color brown for all this trouble. My home office, where I’m supposed to be creative and whimsical (on a deadline) was painted a horrible shade of brown. Inside the brown room was a brown desk. The built-in shelving unit on the wall? Brown. And guess what color the carpet is. If you said “brown,” you clearly see why something had to be done, right? I was bombarded by brown, and it was bringing me down.
“Honey, we have to paint this room,” I announced with conviction. “It’s sucking all the sunlight out of the room along with the energy out of my soul. It’s a depressing cave in here. I can’t take it anymore.”
Tom, who is used to these kind of far-flung excuses for why I’m having trouble writing, admitted that the room was dark. He even agreed to do the painting for me.
“That’s great!” I said. “I’ll get it ready to paint.”
I began moving things off the desk and into cabinets so they wouldn’t be exposed to paint splatters. But there was hardly any room in there because the cabinets were already full. I sat down on the floor and pulled out an overflowing basket of papers.
“What is this stuff? Do we even need any of this?” I asked, but Tom had conveniently vanished. As I leafed through the dusty papers, I realized most of them were paid bills, receipts, bank statements and tax assessment papers from more than a decade ago. We had at least three cabinets full of “just in case we need it” paperwork.
I asked Google how long I needed to keep these kinds of documents, and the IRS website answer was somewhere around three to five years. So that prompted what has become “The Great Sort of 2016,” which soaked up most of my weekend. By the time I finished, there was a huge pile of papers that will soon meet their fate in the fireplace. Perhaps we’ll roast marshmallows as the electric bills from 2007 go up in smoke.
One of the cabinets I purged was filled with photos from back in the time when we had to actually print photos if we wanted to look at them. I even found a bag of photo negatives from our wedding 17 years ago. Photo negatives seem downright prehistoric in this Instagram age, but a woman doesn’t toss wedding negatives. Back into the cabinet they went.
The last cabinet I tackled is home to a large box of mystery wires and adapters which seem to fit absolutely nothing that we still own but that Tom insists on keeping because “you never know” when he might need one. (Please note that, even if the mystery box does indeed have a cord or wire he needs one day, it would take more time to untangle that cord than it would to fly across the ocean to a Chinese factory and make the cord himself. Still, he was not swayed by my argument and insisted on keeping his beloved box of wires since I was stashing a 17-year-old bag of photo negatives.)
Despite an unglamorous weekend of sorting, purging and painting, I’m happy with the results. The walls lightened up to a crisp, icy blue, and the cabinets shed several pounds of paperwork. I’ve banished the brown and feel brand new in blue. How about you?
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.