One Thing Your Life Doesn't Need: Tax returns older than seven years
The rule of thumb is that there’s no reason to keep tax returns that are older than seven years. Once you hit that magic anniversary, your entire office or family can have a shredding party and commemorate how little money you used to have. The seven-year mark is one that is suggested by the IRS and most state governments, for questions about your earnings or if there is an audit.
Whether or not you actually have a party on your seven-year anniversary, the mark should be recognized as a clear signal: if one of the largest bureaucracies of government isn't interested in it, you needn't hang on to it. Extend the time frame to a decade if you like or if you’re a hopeless romantic for that return you completed with pencils and calculator in only 15 hours way back in 2001.
The seven-year rule can be applied to many of your dreams. Dream all you want, but letting go of that old flame or high school sweetheart could do wonders for your peace of mind. If you haven’t spoken in seven years, forget about it. She has moved on. So should you. After seven years, have you made progress in realizing your dream? If there has been no progress whatsoever, give it up. Spend time on a new dream. Out of the shattered rubble of unfulfilled dreams a beautiful new one can emerge. Failure can be celebrated. It certainly wasn’t your goal, but learning from situations and dreams that didn’t pan is a great silver lining. Some of the best entrepreneurs and inventors didn’t succeed on their first try. Edison's famous efforts to find a workable filament for the incandescent light bulb reportedly required more than a thousand attempts.
The seven-year mark is just a good and convenient rule of thumb; it’s certainly not gospel. It may only take you a year to realize that a relationship is going nowhere. It may take ten years to discover that your business should shut its doors. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself whether or not something is working and what should be eliminated from your life to free you for better and nobler pursuits. Your life doesn’t need stagnant dreams that have produced no value or benefit for seven years.
Getting rid of the many kinds of "tax returns" after seven years takes a bit of faith. The temptation to keep hanging on is very great, and your heart will dare you to hold out hope. But you need to be ruthless. If you keep hanging on, you’ll never have the open hand you need to grasp the next thing. Hold these memories and feelings delicately in the palm of your hand. Don’t grip them tightly. You’ll find out that you can hold much more with an open palm than a closed fist. Let circumstance take away that which you don’t need and give you what you desperately want. Be willing to say goodbye to opportunities that are older than seven years and watch for all the new opportunities you will be able to greet with a hello.