I always thought that once I retired I would have time to do everything I wanted to do. My house would finally be neat and clean and I would be able to take part in all the activities that I wanted. It didn’t quite work out that way, as I began caregiving for mom and dad even before I retired. I did get more time to spend with them, but at the expense of the time I was going to spend on other things.
This week I had scheduled the window cleaner to come and clean all my windows – inside and out. That meant I had to make sure he could reach the windows in every room. Several rooms had clutter near the window. I knew I would put the library books and other things that were on my bedroom end table right on top of my bed.
But, the workspace in my computer room (in front of the windows) had been cluttered for years. I started earlier this year and had already removed stacks of papers and filed them or tossed them. This time I decided to tackle the basket of receipts.
This basket had plastic bags with receipts in them. One was receipts for Christmas gifts purchased in 2012. Another bag was for Christmas 2011. I save them in case there is a need to exchange or return a gift, but somehow I never got back to them – even from 2011. I looked through these 2 bags and shredded most of the receipts, filing the rest.
The other plastic bags were even more difficult to work through. I had plastic bags of receipts from each of the trips I took down south to help mom and dad, and then for my winter vacations after mom passed away and I brought dad up here.
The first batch of receipts was from January through March 2009. I was amazed that I had this pile of receipts as they were 4 years old now! I looked through all of them and was reminded of the times I accompanied mom to her various medical appointments. There were receipts for transportation, groceries, etc. My original plan was to review them all and account for them in my financial software as I track where the money goes. I decided that was just not going to happen and I shredded them all.
Then there was the bag for January through March 2010. This was the last year that mom and dad lived independently in their mobile home. It was the year I tried desperately to get mom to agree to go to assisted living. Again I had lots of receipts for transportation, some medical receipts, some for groceries, etc. And again after reviewing them I shredded them.
Another bag contained all the receipts from when mom fell and broke her hip in November 2010 through March 2011 when I brought dad home. This was full of important receipts. Mom had told me directly that I was not to use my own money to take care of her while she was in the hospital. I told her I would straighten it out and pay myself back “later when you get out of the hospital”.
Mom never got out of the hospital. She passed away within 3 weeks. And I remained in temporary housing on the campus of dad’s assisted living facility through March of 2011. I had all the receipts for those 5 months in that envelope. I had lots of taxi receipts as I had to take a cab to visit mom in the hospital most days, sometimes with dad and sometimes alone. The ALF provided transportation to dad but only weekdays, not weekends and holidays. We spent a fortune on taxis.
In addition, there were receipts for things I had to buy for mom and dad while I was there. Mom wanted me to buy her bath powder and Band-Aids to keep in her room at the ALF (things she never got to use) and dad needed some clothing. I paid for many of these things myself and was going to get myself reimbursed “later”. Later never came and I just didn’t have the energy to sort through all of that. In the end I just shredded all except the cab receipts and a few medical receipts. This frustrates me as I shouldn’t be using my own money to support mom and dad. Later when dad is gone my brother, sister and I will split what is left. By paying in a few thousand dollars of my own money, I will get back only a third of it if anything is left. Still I am tired of having all that stuff sit on my desk and would never really want to go through it receipt by receipt.
Similarly, I had another bag of receipts from January through March 2011. This was just my own expenses and I planned to log it into my financial software to track spending on clothing, groceries, etc. (I do tend to shop for clothes more in the warm south just because it is easier to walk to the store and I don’t have enough room in my suitcase to bring enough with me.) That leaves me shipping at least one box home in the end!
Anyway, by that point, I just reviewed them and then shredded all those receipts also. That left me with a basket of empty plastic bags and I could just put those aside for another use later. It took me all morning, but I had emptied one basket from the top of my cluttered workspace! I felt like I had really accomplished something – especially realizing that some of those papers had been there almost since the day I moved into this townhouse!
Now my computer room is not yet clutter free. But I have made more progress this year than I had in any previous year. I still have a basket of donation requests from groups that I have supported in the past. The problem is that each one sends me a donation request every month. And they sell their lists so these requests multiply like hangers in a dark closet! I will have to tackle those next. Next time! Not today.