Does it ever pay to be a hoarder?

You know that resolution you made back in January?

No, not that one.

The one about de-cluttering your life and throwing away the unnecessary paper in your life.

Well, you finally got around to the massive clean-up after only six months of the year had passed, and BOY DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING! You tossed all the utility bills and insurance statements because you don’t need those, right? Some official-sounding website listed what to keep and what to shred, and they’ve assured you that you need only keep bills that are outstanding,  and those policy documents which haven’t expired (except the ones needed for tax purposes because you already know the government can audit you within seven years of the tax return year).

And so a cloud has been lifted. You can breathe a little easier because the dust collecting on the piles has been cleared.

Until you get the call from the collection agency. They say you owe $544 for a cellphone you clearly did not purchase.

In 2009.

You’ve been hacked, and you are so fucked.

Because the onus is on honest, reliable, anti-hoarder you to provide proof of residency during the time period in which the crime was committed.

And you just recycled all of your evidence.

So, you scramble. You leaf through all of your files, looking for just two pieces of paper that will clear your name.

Then you remember that, in your effort to go green, you’ve elected to convert some of your statements into e-bills. When you made the decision to convert, you assumed you would have full access to your billing history.

Well, you do and you don’t. You’ll likely be able to download and print twelve months worth of statements. But what if you need something older than that? You first have to chat with a robot, that’s what!

During the conversation, you will be subjected to some customer service rep bullshit, an unsolicited advertisement for the company’s goods and services, and an unusually long wait for an answer that’s not to your liking:

“Please contact your local office, and they will be happy to prepare the documents you need.”

There’s no time for “preparation.” You need access NOW!

But then you notice it. That “to-be-shredded” pile you overlooked. And never have you been so happy to see a two-year-old home insurance policy declaration page and an Explanation of Benefits form which states you had dental x-rays taken in August, 2009.

So, you’re safe. This time. But how do you prepare for another such crisis without reverting to your old, cluttered ways?

Well, you can’t prepare. The smartest thing you can do is to periodically check your rating with the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to see if anything suspicious has popped up. The collection agency didn’t get in touch with me until 2 years after the fraudulent transaction had occurred. If I had been alerted to it via my credit reports, I may have had easier access to the documents I needed to prove my case.

So, I will do that. Because even though hoarding turned out to be a hero in this case, I will never live debt free if I allow clutter to leave a path of debris in my life. And I’m not just talking about paper.

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