Melissa Smallwood is a professional organizer, mother of three boys, mommy blogger, and the owner of the informational website, Organized Life by Design . You can catch up with her on Twitter @multitaskingme.
Decluttering All the Paper – Week 2
Dealing with paper, in general:
Newspapers- If you use the internet, all major newspapers, including many local papers, are available (in their entirety) on line. If you are not computer savvy or prefer to hold the newspaper than be sure to recycle or toss newspapers at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy and create a fire hazard as well!
Important personal papers- These include your will, birth certificate, social security card, passport, etc. Keeping these in a fireproof box is safest or use a safe deposit box at the bank.
Other files you may have include:
- 401k statements
- Bank statements
- Mortgage statements
- Stock/bond/IRA statements
- Warranties/instruction manuals
- Car information, including car insurance and title
Keep your files organized and accessible according to how often you access them. If you only access certain papers once a year at tax time, then file them in a banker’s box in the attic. Keep files you need on hand in the file cabinet.
If you find yourself with various piles of paper scattered throughout the house, consider a portable file box. When you need to do filing, the place to file the papers will be right there. Easy access makes it more likely that you consistently file what needs to be filed.
How Long To Keep Types of Paper Files
We are often asked by clients how long they should keep various types of paper. These are general guidelines that we use when working with people. But remember, it is always important to check with your accountant or tax advisor about your individual situation before shredding any documents.
- Auto records- Keep these as long as you own the vehicle.
- Appointment books- some people like to keep these as a type of journal, I keep them for a few years as back-up for mileage purposes. Keep them up to 10 years for this type of reason.
- ATM slips- Keep them 6 years for tax related purchases. Store them with your bank statements.
- Credit card statements- 6 years for tax related purchases (such as owning your own business) Otherwise keep until you receive the interest statement issued with by the company annually. Then you can shred them.
- Dividend Payment Records- Until you receive your annual statement.
- Health records- Permanently
- Home improvements- As long as you own the home. Store these with your tax records.
- Household inventory and appraisal- As long as they are current. Update them annually (we will talk more about this next week when we talk about organizing for a transition).
- Insurance policies- Auto, homeowner’s, liability: through the statute of limitations. Disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella: keep for the life of the policy.
- Investment purchase records- As long as you own the investments.
- Investment sales records- 6 years for tax purposes.
- Mortgage or loan discharge- As long as you own the home or 6 years after the discharge.
- Pay stubs- Until they are verified by your W-2 statement.
- Property bill of purchase- As long as you own the property.
- Receipts- As long as they are current, or as determined by your accountant.
- Safe deposit box key and inventory- As long as they are current.
- Tax records- Current year plus 6 years prior (can be filed away in a bankers box).
- Utility bills, etc.- Until they are paid (your cancelled check is proof you paid and the company keeps records as well).
- Vital Records and documents- Birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates: permanently.
- Wills, trusts, estate plans- Permanently
Catch Organizing with Melissa next Wednesday for “Decluttering All the Paper – Part 3”. Visit Works for Me Wednesday for more life organizing tips.