Saturday, 10 January 2015

Notes on old records

I went shopping for meat and vegetables, alcohol and a salad lunch this morning after finishing up at mum's with the shredding; 6 bags again today.

I only did that quantity because I want to take it slow and steady. Slow and steady, we were always told, wins the race. So it's like my motto now. Just slow and steady to get the material all sorted into useful and unnecessary, with the unnecessary stuff getting shredded and bagged and thrown down the garbage chute.

Today there were legal documents relating to the sale and purchase of several different properties. Also paperwork relating to the payment of regular bills, like electricity bills, tax bills, picture framing, water, council rates and on and on and on. A never-ending stream of ephemeral paper. I talked with mum about this paper that was put away in cardboard boxes and pushed underneath the bed in the second bedroom of mum's apartment. We spoke on the phone yesterday. (I always get a little thrill when mum answers the phone in her nice telephone voice. With the nursing home phone she has no way to know in advance of enquiring who is calling her. Using the phone in her old place she could see if it was me ringing by the notice on the handset display screen.)

I said to her that when dad finally went into a nursing home in May 2009 she sort of went a bit psycho with paperwork, and that she just used to keep everything regardless of its apparent importance. She agreed with me. "Dad did all the financial and legal stuff when he still had his marbles," I said. "Yes, he did," she answered. "You went a bit psycho when he went into a nursing home," I proposed. "Yes I think I did," she admitted.

Once I get through all the stuff in the cardboard boxes that belonged to mum I can start on the stuff that's still in the garage and that belonged to dad. Dad died in March 2011. Mum moved into her new apartment in August 2011. That means that these papers of dad's have been sitting untouched in the garage of mum's apartment for three-and-a-half years. I have already gone through one box of dad's stuff, and (probably a bit brutally) shredded the things I thought were unnecessary to keep.

In the final analysis there will be noone to blame me whatever happens. There is noone to look over my shoulder now that I am doing all this shredding. And in fact noone really cares about all these papers. It escapes me why dad (and, subsequently, mum) thought it necessary to keep all these things. In the case of powers of attorney, for example, all I do personally is keep the original at the lawyer's office and if I need a copy I just email them and get them to post a certified copy to me, or to whomever needs to see it. But with mum there were dozens of copies of an out-of-date power of attorney in several different boxes that were stored under the bed in the second bedroom. None of these documents were accessible both because noone knew they were there and, secondly, because noone would have bothered to look under the bed to find them.

And so it goes. When you keep records make sure that they are accessible. That's my advice. Don't just chuck loads of crap in boxes and hide it in a closet. File your stuff away and make it easy for people who don't know you personally to find things quickly. If you take a bit of trouble in advance then you might save a loved one the trouble, in future, of combing carefully through your old stuff. They will thank you.

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