Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

Masthead header

Running Life Through The Shredder


We’ve been cleaning out our basement recently.

With an eye on finishing the unfinished basement we obtained when we bought our house, my wife has been drafting designs and getting estimates from contractors. The reason for doing it now is simple: do it while our children can enjoy it. Also, we’re afraid if we don’t do it now, we likely never will. It’s been good to get rid of a lot of this stuff. Some of it is so old that even the junk scavengers avoid it when they peruse our neighborhood on the early mornings of trash day.

One thing that’s taken me some time, though, is boxes of old papers that we can’t just throw away. Old tax returns and other documents mostly related to health care or insurance were carefully preserved (stuffed and forgotten) in a number of boxes. I’m going through them, shredding most everything. I no longer need the taxes from when I either filing single or from the earlier years of my marriage. (I’ll never run for President, so I’m probably safe from false tax accusations by Harry Reid.) I definitely don’t need the oil change/repair records of a car we got rid of five years ago. I do keep year-end confirmation records from accounts where I might be required to provide a tax basis later (like college savings). However, most everything else has been hacked into pieces no bigger than a hanging chad from the 2000 presidential election.

Occasionally, though, I come across things that I still wish to save from the shredder. The last report card from the elementary school my older son attended before we moved to Georgia. (He’s now a teenager and in high school.) The hospital receipts related to the birth of my younger son. Most old documents are just old documents, but some tell a story.

Some stories are worth remembering.

When you clean out your old papers, what items do you end up saving? I’d love to know. One lucky commenter will win a $10 Amazon GC.

Clip art from



Carol Burnside - March 18, 2014 - 3:13 am

Oh, gosh, Walt, we’ve moved around a lot, so I’m familiar with this experience. We have a box or two of “stuff” we hang on to. It’s mostly old cards and letters from when Hubby and I were corresponding the old-fashioned way before we married. Some are special greeting cards from our kids, some of their artwork or a special paper they did well on. Some look like nothing, but only we know the story behind it, and they’re all previous pieces of our life.

Marilyn Baron - March 18, 2014 - 3:24 am

Unfortunately, our basement flooded and destroyed most everything in both the finished and unfinished parts. But in a way it was a blessing in disguise because we have been in the same house for about 27 years and we didn’t need all that junk. My husband does use a shredder but I’ve never used it,

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 8:33 am

Carol, we have some of those artworks as well. Our younger son was lauded for his artwork at elementary school and his art ended up being displayed publicly.

Marilyn, orry about the flood. We have a creek that runs behind our house. I’ve seen it run heavily and it did get high enough to take out a piece of fence in our backyard. Thankfully no floods yet. Our bigger concern remains trees. Lightning did strike one of the trees behind our house, killing the tree. When pieces started falling off of it, we hired someone to remove it.

Connie Gillam - March 18, 2014 - 9:40 am

As far old papers, I shred everything. The children’s artwork is kept in photo albums and so are their old report cards.

Now the basement is another matter. When you’re finished clearing yours, will you come and work on mine?

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 10:17 am


We had my sister over yesterday so that she and my wife could discuss ideas, as my sister has a good head for these things. My wife also invited two acquaintances of hers who are interior designers, asking for a review of our plans (actually offering to hire them). Couldn’t get a response from either of them. Something about basements.

Pam Asberry - March 18, 2014 - 12:33 pm

Omigosh, Walt, I need to do this too. It’s going to be one of my summer projects. I am dreading it with all my being.

Tamara LeBlanc - March 18, 2014 - 12:57 pm

I tend to shred or toss, my husband has always been a bit of a saver. Now that he’s so sick, I hate to throw out anything. memories…
Thanks so much Walt

piperhuguley - March 18, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Hey Walt,

I tend to hold onto old papers with writing advice or corrections. And drafts where people have done critiques for me. I do discard the papers of students and attendance records after a year has passed. That keeps my office nice and neat, but I have still held onto the bins of my dissertation drafts, in case I had to prove that I wrote it. I suppose all of that could go now….Thanks for the reminder!

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 3:37 pm

Pam,it’s good to air out the basement. Have fun.

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Tamara, my prayers for your husband.

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Piper, I still have all my written critiques. The electronic critiques are different. I print them off and go through them line by line, seeing if I want to make any changes. I then toss out the pages and log it on my computer that’s it been reviewed.

Sia Huff - March 18, 2014 - 5:12 pm

Good for you, Walt. We’re at the next level and cleaning out our house to get ready to put on the market. I’m ready to simplify, but careful choose what will stay and what will go. Good luck with a contractor and finishing your basement.

Sandra Elzie - March 18, 2014 - 7:42 pm

Hi Walt,
I save cards…years and years of cards. Oh, and my kids & grandkids drawings …and that’s not including tons and tons of pictures. When it comes to my kids or grandkids, I’m a pack rat.
After family things, nothing else seems to hold much value. :)

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 9:19 pm

Sia, good luck on selling your house. We’re nervous about doing the basement and want to make sure we do this right.

Walt Mussell - March 18, 2014 - 9:20 pm

Sandy, that sounds perfect.

Mary Preston - March 19, 2014 - 3:40 am

I keep anything that holds memories. All the business of living stuff gets a thorough clean out.

Walt Mussell - March 19, 2014 - 8:59 am

Mary, we should do the same. It just takes us awhile.

Maxine Davis - March 19, 2014 - 10:04 am

Walt, Your blog sent chills down my spine. I have GOT to make myself clean out the garage and computer room. They’re both scary. Other parts of the house? I tend to toss, but on second thought, need to toss a lot more! Good luck.

F O L L O W   U S
R E C E N T   T W E E T S