You never really think about how much paper can be accumulated over a person’s lifetime until you have to go through their things. My grandmother recently passed away and we are still finding piles of paper in every nook and cranny. According to recycling-revolution.com, “The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees.” However, according to tappi.org, there are actually more trees today then there were 70 years ago, forest growth has exceeded harvests since the 1940s, and over 2.5 million trees are replanted each year.
The question is what do you do with all of the paper? Well, most of it can be recycled. However, you don’t know what is “good” or “bad” until every piece has been at least glanced over. Some papers have social security numbers, bank accounts, and other personal information that can’t simply be tossed in the trash. It needs to be either ripped up or shredded (which could take an eternity) before it can be taken to the curb and recycled.
However, meticulously going through all of that paper can pay off. We have found some surprise life-insurance policies and stocks we didn’t even know existed and wouldn’t have if we didn’t go through each pile of paper.
We have learned some interesting things about my grandmother through the process. For example, she was a cancer-survivor. However, she was bound-and-determined she was going to die from cancer, which can be seen through the countless cancer-life insurance policies she had. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. Old age simply took its course, even though she never would have admitted she was “old.” She insisted on being called Nanny because Grandma made her sound old!
Sorting through the piles may be a long process; however, some of these documents aren’t simply paper. These documents are memories… memories of happy, sad, good, and not-so-good of times. Nevertheless, they are still memories to be cherished.
Helping my family go through all these documents has helped put things in perspective. My parents have promised to weed out their documents as they go so I don’t have as much to go through when their time comes. As I age, I will try and do the same thing for my family.
What about you? All of this makes me wonder, how much paper do you currently have in your house? Think about it!