When I look at my desk and office area this first thing that I see that needs organized is papers. We have so many that come in the mail; bills, pay stubs, bank statements etc. Here are some tips to get all of those papers under control.
What you will need.
- Paper Shredder
- Trash Can / Recycle bin
- File Folders
- Plastic File Storage Container
- Label Maker (optional)
Many financial institutions and utility companies offer e-billing. I can not recommend this enough. Not only do you not have paper cluttering your desk, you are saving trees, and there is an online record of all of your statements. I choose this option when I can. You can always print a statement if you need a paper version for any reason.
Another huge space save is evernote or dropbox as a way to digitally store your files. Both are fantastic!
Go quickly through your house and throw away all the junk mail, expired coupons, catalogs, and old grocery lists that you see. Any little-scribbled notes that you no longer need should be tossed.
Take it one step further and prevent the useless paper from entering your house in the first place. Open your mail over the recycle bin. Opt out of credit offers, and remove your name from catalog mailing lists.
When to toss
I tend to hold on to some documents too long. Here is a great reference list to check on how long you should hold on to those papers.
- Paid Bills – 3 Months or less.
- Pay stubs- Until you Receive w-2
- Bank Statements– 6 Months or less (the bank has records available anytime)
- Tax Returns- In most cases, you should keep tax returns for at least 3 years, since that’s the time limit to amend a return or for the IRS to audit good-faith returns. (There’s no time limit for the IRS to audit fraudulent returns.)
- Auto Records- Keep maintenance records for the life of the vehicle.
- Insurance Documents- When you get the new insurance card in the mail, throw away the expired cards. You don’t need to keep insurance paperwork that expired or that covered property you no longer own.
- Health Insurance- Keep Medical Bills and documents for one year if you claim as a tax deduction.
- Warranties & Manuals- Keep while the warranty is still in effect or the life of the item.
- Coupons- When they expire. You can also send expired coupons overseas to the military bases. They can use them up to 6 months after they expire. For more info go here. For tips on organizing coupons check out my post here.
Receipts need their own category. When the transaction has been entered in your checkbook and has cleared your account, you probably don’t need those little slips of paper anymore. The only reasons to keep them would be:
- the possibility of returning an item
- insurance valuation for expensive items
- for taxes, such as sales tax credit or home upgrades
Almost all other receipts can be tossed after you’ve checked your bank or credit card statement.
Fraud is rampant in our country. Please take the time to shred your important documents before you toss them in the trash. They contain all of your personal info, and you don’t’ want that to get into the wrong hands. You can order a Paper Shredder very reasonably from Amazon.
Once you have tossed the trash and gotten rid of the bulk of your paperwork it is time to file. Label each folder clearly! I like to use my label maker for this. File paperwork in order of importance.
Any document that you do not feel comfortable throwing away yet, but you don’t’ need access to on a daily basis can be placed in a Plastic File Storage container and placed in a closet or garage. You will still have them if you need them for reference, but they won’t be cluttering your filing cabinet.
I hope this helps you get your papers in order and makes your life feel Simply Organized!