Ugh…Paper clutter. One of the big complaints I get from clients when I go into their home is, How to organize paper clutter! But not just how to organize paper clutter, how to get rid of paper clutter once and for all!
Get Rid of Paper Clutter 101: What kinds of paperwork are necessary to keep and what aren’t?
I received the above email with the following questions and would like to share some ideas. Thought you might benefit from my thoughts, which are bolded.
– Old life insurance policies. Keep only current copies of insurance policies plus two older policies for comparison purposes.
– Old bill statements: gas electric, phone, utilities. Keep bill statements for this year until April of next year (or when you do your taxes). If you don’t need this paperwork for taxes, they can then be discarded.
– Receipts. Keep receipts for this year until April of next year (for smaller purchases) and then do the same as with bill statements (i.e. discard if not needed for tax documentation). Put receipts for larger items with their respective warranties and instructions for long-term filing.
– Old check registers, and duplicate check carbon copies. Keep for seven years (for IRS purposes). I usually do a ten-year turnaround, because it is easy to remember. Therefore, any 1998 and older items can be discarded in 2009.
– Receipts from things we have used for tax right offs in the past. Keep for seven years (for IRS purposes) if for personal taxes. Again, I usually do a ten-year turnaround, because it is easy to remember. On the other hand, keep all business documentation until forever.
– Old insurance statements. Keep only current and two in the past (as reference documents).
– Bank statements. Keep personal bank statements for seven years (for IRS purposes). Again, I usually do a ten-year turnaround, because it is easy to remember. Business bank statements are kept forever to keep the IRS happy should they decide to visit.
After the important decision as to whether or not paperwork needs to be saved permanently, a formal filing system can be set up one of several ways. One system uses alpha-numeric techniques to retrieve paperwork readily. Another relies on alphabetical filing to retrieve papers. Some filing systems use the technique of filing by topic.
How to Get Rid of Paper Clutter: Set up a filing system that suits your needs.
Make sure check out our post on How to Organize Papers because this is where your life will really change. This is where we teach you how to get rid of paper clutter from the mail, kids and school, and everything else. It all has to do with a good filing system.
There are more helpful ideas in the “House of Order” Handbook, Chapter 21, “Files”, concerning these alternatives.
How Long Do You Store Paperwork?
How long do you keep all of those papers, especially utility bills, bank statements, and credit card bills etc.?
This is a great question with an easy answer. I use a simple system to handle this kind of paperwork:
I have found the best way to deal with bills is to open the envelope, discard all unnecessary paperwork and then staple the rest together, with the sheet to be sent with the check on top. When I am ready to write my check or pay online, I remove the top sheet to put with the check and then file the rest of stapled paperwork in my This Year’s Taxes folder. This is the first step to keeping order.
I have found that saving all paid bills until its time to prepare the following year’s taxes is sufficient. I keep my paid bills in my current year’s tax folder, use their information for deductions if necessary (in which case this paperwork is saved with my taxes paperwork) or I throw them out as part of my tax preparations.
I save bank statements for one year, too, but keep the canceled check images indefinitely. This means that the bank statements for last year are tossed when I do this year’s taxes. I also save credit card bills for one year. For example, I kept all paperwork for 2016 until April 2017. By that time, I had a four-month buffer of new paid bills in my “2017” This Year’s Taxes folder.
That’s all for now! Join our Clean and Organized Facebook Group for more great tips!
And if you have clutter accruing from kid’s art projects, you might consider one of these ideas for a kids art display
How do YOU get rid of Paper Clutter?