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Beacon Senior News

Sort through your bookkeeping clutter

May 01, 2018 03:27AM ● By Elizabeth Wheeler

Just got my taxes done—what a relief. I hate this yearly bookkeeping chore.

Frankly, I was a little peeved with myself when I went looking for a document in one of my desk drawers and came across information from 2008, and checkbooks with the address of my home I sold in 2010. Good grief.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’ve moved twice since then and I’ve done a lot of cleaning out with each transition. However, bookkeeping materials can be hidden from potential buyers by stuffing them in drawers, and are not nearly as hard to move as an old bookcase.

Consequently, my desk needs serious attention!

I’ve had several dear friends die unexpectedly in the last year, and their family members have told me how hard it’s been taking care of their loved one’s many financial requirements and collecting all the necessary information. Most couples think they have to sort through these things together and haven’t gotten them done because one of them keeps putting it off—but it doesn’t have to be done together.

Having gone through this same experience with my mother’s stuff many years ago, I want this miserable, tedious job to be as easy as possible for my loved ones. They shouldn’t have to deal with archaic checkbooks in the way of the important stuff!

I got rid of those obsolete materials immediately, instead of putting them back in the drawer to review them again “in the near future.” I ripped them up and tossed them in the recycling bin. I felt like I had just cleaned house.

But I’m not done yet. I still have other drawers to go through, but I’ve found that doing a little bit at a time on a set schedule is the best way for me to whittle away this unpleasant task. Another thing I’ve implemented moving forward is to only keep essential stuff in the first place.

After I check the mail, I go through it on my porch and separate it into two piles—keepers and “chuckers.” I immediately take the chucker pile to the recycling bin so it doesn’t even enter my house.

Then there’s email. A month or so ago, I had about 1,400 emails. I’ve pruned that number down to less than 400 and organize them into folders for receipts, golf, dog training, friends and family.

Going through email also made me think to give each of my daughters a list of all my passwords. They already have a list of bank accounts, investments, pensions and contact information for my financial planner, and several years ago, I added their names to my safe deposit box. I’ve also gone over my will and durable power of attorney with them.

As I slowly work my way through this clutter, I promise myself a treat when my daily goal is met. It’s amazing how an ice cream cone can motivate me.