Disposing an Accountant’s Lifetime of Hard Work
Posted by Vivian McNeil on
What should a retiring accountant do with the painstakingly handwritten files and working papers that he has in his possession for the last forty years? Some devoted professionals might look at the clearing out of an office as a morbid activity. What can one show for all years of hard work if not a beautifully decorated and organized office filled with filing cabinets and working papers? This is especially true when we realize that paper filing is a thing of the past. Doctors’ offices are notorious for having paper files in plain sight for all to see. I sometimes wonder if the doctor or his secretaries insist on these files remaining prominent to impress the patients about the number of clients they service. Who knows if those patients are still living? Herb Carlton's clients would have a hard time criticizing him for keeping old or deceased client’s files in his office since they are hidden in neat furniture quality filing cabinets or hidden in boxes in the office closets.
Keeping Paper Records Before Computers
Before the advent of computers, accountants would rely on green side bound analysis paper for the final write ups of accounting figures. Imagine handwriting thousands of columns of numbers in your lifetime only to realize that they are completely obsolete for two main reasons. First, most of the people or companies that you worked on are dead or closed. Secondly, no one is looking for handwritten analysis of a client's financial history that is decades old. Anyone who has come across old handwritten notes from high school or college will understand the feeling of nostalgia in attempting to throw away such items in the trash.
Before the advent of computers, accounting and bookkeeping was done by actual professionals. Each financial transaction would be recorded in the company journal. Today, by the click of a mouse information that might take hours to research is available to the accountant. Sensitive information of the client is protected by passwords and other safety features. Instead of the accountant bringing a briefcase full of file folders to the client’s office, the file folders are brought either on an encrypted laptop or arranged on a small, encrypted storage device.
Herb is being challenged by all this paperwork since he is trying to get ready to close his office officially. Most accountants never fully retire since they have loyal clients who trust only them with their finances or at the very least their annual tax returns. However, it is no longer necessary to keep an office and pay monthly rentals if your client base has downsized. Even regular businesses today are finding it unnecessary to rent office space because the computer or smartphone has become their business premises.
Heavy Duty Contractor Bags to the Rescue
If you would be privy to Herb’s file closets and cabinets, you would appreciate the devotion that he put into each client. Neat file holders hold papers that today have no meaning whatsoever. A clever way to get rid of these old archives would be to call in a professional shredding company and have your files chopped up and disposed of in neat heavy duty contractor bags. However, Herb is determined to clean and empty his office by himself and he is looking for the best bags to use to dispose of the dead documents that have no meaning presently. Many documents must be shredded because of the threat of theft and exposure of certain vital information of clients. However, other incredibly old files that should have been disposed of years ago can be thrown into heavy duty trash bags. It is akin to your grandmother’s attic which has items that should have been trashed fifty years ago.
The first thing that this accountant must be certain of is the strength of the contractor bags he purchases. There is a fine balance between filling the bag with enough garbage to get the full money’s worth out of it and overloading it. With a good heavy-duty contractor trash bag he will not have to worry about it ripping, he would only have to be concerned if he will be able to carry out the bags from his office, down the steps and into the garbage bin.
Herb’s wife was asked to help him clean out his office closets and files. It is quite a challenging task since she must ask Herb permission before disposing of each single sheet of paper. Sometimes there is a questionable batch of files, should they be trashed or saved? It was almost humorous several weeks ago when Herb made the fateful decision to throw out the files of an old client. He was so glad that this client had changed to another accountant since he was a pain and not a prompt fee payer. Last week out of the blue, this client called for information about his company. The truth is the info was not in the files that were thrown out, those were ancient. But it was funny that Herb genuinely believed that he would not ever hear from this client again.
If you hold a single paper in your hand, it weighs almost nothing so it is daunting to comprehend how a bunch of files could be so heavy. The contractor bags that are being used by Herb and his wife are so strong that no matter what they put into them they do not rip. “Sometimes I am tempted to just take a whole box of files and throw them in these heavy-duty bags. However, there could be a problem with pointed edges of the boxes protruding from the bags. I actually did try to put a box into the contractor bag, and it did not tear but I still would caution any cleanup crew to make sure to trash the boxes separately since I did not watch the garbagemen remove them and it could be in the rush to put the many bags in the truck a bag could be pierced.”, explained Herb.
Monthly Magazines & Periodicals
In the olden days, accountants as other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers subscribed to monthly magazines and periodicals that kept them abreast of the latest updates and breakthroughs in their fields. The monthly magazines are not so heavy, but the periodicals are quite weighty. Here is where the heavy-duty contractor bags really shine and do their job brilliantly. No inferior quality bag will do. Not only will the trash collectors be upset, but the person who disposed of the bags will be embarrassed if his private files become public.
If you have gone to the library, a store, or an online business you must have experienced the annoyance of the salesperson who says, “So sorry our computers are down we cannot help you now. Call (or come back) later.” This would never happen in the days before computers. Herb’s accounting files are so meticulously stored that they can be accessed at any time. Not only are they alphabetized but each client’s folders are chronologically contained. This is wishful thinking since paper files are long past due.
Safety of Computer Storage
Looking at the ledgers and paper accounting sheets and files nostalgically, we certainly can feel for older accountants who realize all their old files are useless. Looking on the positive side, there is no denying that computerized data is a massive improvement. Natural disasters or fires can destroy a lifelong effort at keeping client’s files up to date. The closets that housed the accounting files can now be turned into computer and copy machine sites. No more worrying about lost or stolen files since they are always available and easily accessed.
The project has begun. In between filing tax returns for his remaining clients and consultations which are usually emergencies, Herb and his wife are tackling getting rid of the past in his office. As most accountants are usually sick and tired of their profession when they reach retirement age, it is less daunting and painful for Herb to throw away the old files and ledgers. Herb has bigger and better things to look forward to. Together with his family, he is enjoying the happy occasions and family get-togethers that he and his wife did not have time for with his busy accounting schedule. If there are any important documents that he might need Herb will simply scan into his computer or take a picture of it on his android phone.
It is such a pleasure and so uplifting to see a person who realizes his whole life is not holed up in a bunch of papers that fit into heavy duty contractor bags. Rather, a fulfilling life is not weighed by how many clients one accumulates or how many tax returns one fills out. A meaningful life is filled with always learning about new and lofty teachings and spending time with family and friends. Thank goodness for the heavy-duty compactor bags that will keep them contained until the collectors come and put them in the trash where they belong.