When my parents died, they left me to sort literal hundreds of boxes of paper. Some of this paper is in a storage unit; some of these boxes have been in our garage for 8 years. It takes a certain kind of strength to go through these boxes. I sorted and shredded all the checks they wrote and the check registers that went with them and their bank statements from the era around 1960 to 1975. They had moved them when they moved from Tucker to Stone Mountain. Nicely ordered, each statement and collection of checks filed neatly in boxes. I shredded them one check at a time and it seemed like I was erasing their lives. It was painful. It took me days to mourn all over again.
I found my mother's checks she wrote while she was single in a nicely ordered neatly packed box. I didn't have the wherewithal to shred them. I took the coward's way out and just repacked them in a box to go through later. I am shredding all the Federal Income Tax returns that are over 15 years old (each neatly filed in a box labeled "FIT 1996, FIT 1997" and so forth.) Not only did she keep all these - since she also did my grandmother's and my father's father's taxes, I also have boxes labeled "FIT Papa 1984, FIT Papa 1985" and so forth. I suppose I could throw them out without shredding but some of the papers in the boxes have Social Security Numbers on them, so I'm shredding. I will have a huge pile of shred to nest in after I finish.
Other things that I have found: my Dad's collection of house plans, his collection of leatherworking patterns (an entire paper box of them), my Dad's full set of papers from his stint in the Army, birthday cards, get well cards, old software, supplies for a Smith Corona typewriter, a collection of really old Bibles, old magazines, unopened mail from 1999, pictures of my kids, picture frames (empty), all of my NASA curriculum, files from Fernbank (OK, those were in my boxes) and so forth. I have several more boxes to go in the living room that Bill has kindly brought over from the Loganville house. I am reducing their volume enormously if not pitching them away or shredding them.
Yes, this is what I do at lunch now instead of eat. Wish me luck. There is only a finite number of boxes. It only seems like it's taking forever!