​​Why Does It Always Happen?

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I am a packrat. There, I've said it. I keep things. I collect things. I have a lot of trouble throwing things away. I am a packrat. (The first step is admitting you have a problem. However, the most important step is wanting to change. Haven't gotten to that step yet.)

Let me give you a few examples. I still have almost every book I ever owned and the total collection is currently just over 1,400. (I know this because I have recorded them all on a web site called librarything.com.) I have approximately 3,200 items in my collection of Disneyland memorabilia. (I know this because I have recorded them all in a database I constructed in Lotus Notes.) I have approximately 13 boxes filled with "stuff" from my old office – boxes I still need to unpack which includes miscellaneous bobble-heads, stacks of loose paper, "Tick" toys, Disneyland collectibles, toys, files, photographs, certificates, magazines, cds, books, office supplies, and miscellaneous other tchotchkes which shall go uncatalogued. (I know this because they are currently surrounding me as I sit in my home office.)

And I stand by the need for these collections with the ultimate defense any chronic collector/hoarder uses – you never know when you're going to need something. There is just something about throwing or giving anything away that goes against the grain. You know as well as I do that, the minute a certain item escapes my control, that will be the one item I am going to need.

But, with this admission off my chest (and nary a hint that redemption is even being contemplated), I also harbor a sneaky suspicion. Just how many auditors out there suffer from this same affliction? And after pondering this for some time - after thinking about the causes of this malady and the manifestations which are exhibited when one is in the throes of the addiction - I am willing to wager that the percentage of auditors that suffer from this disease (that as, the percentage of auditors who have been in the profession for any amount of time) is higher than for most other professions.

Here is my reasoning. We ask people for support. We expect people to have the support we request. We want full and complete support going back a sizable amount of time. We want auditees to be able to go back and quickly locate the support we need. And we break into cold sweats when such support cannot be located. Accordingly, we tend to keep more support than we may need. No, let me amend that – we keep a whole lot more support than we may need. (I have often said that auditors are the ones who look for controls and, accordingly, cannot allow themselves to be out of control. Here is my new corollary – we are the ones who are always looking for support, so we cannot ever give up any support we might have.)

Now, I recognize that my sickness has reached extremes that are not normally exhibited by most professionals. Accordingly, I do not expect every auditor's work area to exhibit the pell-mell onslaught of paper, plastic, and paraphernalia which litter my office like the residue of a storm-churning avalanche. 

However, I do find it a very rare event to visit an auditor's office/cubicle/desk and not find some small evidence - a stack of files that is larger than might be necessary, a drawer that doesn't close all the way, a slowly moving computer, a stack of thumb drives stored in a top drawer – that shows the profession's proclivity for maintaining just a little more documentation than may really be needed.

Two examples: A good friend I worked with had a notoriously clean desk. However, under that veneer of normalcy she harbored a collection she had maintained for untold years – pads and pads of paper where she had taken notes from phone calls, meetings, etc. Another friend (with a similarly clean desk) used to go into paroxysms of panic when there was even the slightest belch from his computer – years and years of files meticulously stored under a Rubik's cube of names that no one else could decipher.

And, with this scantest of evidence obtained from noticing the activity of some co-workers, hearing stories from other auditors, and my own intuition, I have the distinct feeling that more than a lot of us suffer from one form or another of the disease known as "I can't throw that away, I may need it."

And I almost forgot. The reason for the title at the top of this blog? Prior to my retirement I thought I got every file transferred that I would need. Surprise, surprise. The ones I am now looking for (a series I had maintained for up to five years) cannot be found. There is no soft copy; there are no hard copies. Thirteen boxes and untold numbers of computer files, and I cannot find the group of documents I really need right now. 

Which means, much to the chagrin, embarrassment, and frustration of my wife, I will be just that much more paranoid about ensuring I keep everything I could possibly need.

​Come on, admit it, you agree with me. Don't you?

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