by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Once you decide what papers are important and which aren't, you don't have to make that decision again.
If you’ve never created an effective filing system or feel that you must save anything that could be potentially useful, then chances are you’re holding onto more paper than you need to.
While a lot of people feel that holding onto documents ‘just in case’ is a safe route to follow, you're now filling your file cabinet with unnecessary paperwork, which could make it more difficult for you to locate or identify important documents.
By keeping everything, you are saying that everything is equally important. But that isn’t the case. An ATM slip that you’ve cross-referenced with your bank statement isn’t as important as, say, a W-2 document.
Decide What to Keep
elow are links to a few sites that list which documents to keep forever, a year, or a month. Of course, if you can download documents from online (say, your bank statement or electric bill), then you could consider that source your back-up.
Just because you can print out a copy of something doesn’t mean you are obligated to do so. You could save a digital copy if you feel you need to keep something.
Basically, hold onto paper that record that some big event has occurred in your life (you were born, married, divorced, bought a house) and that prove or confirm that you’ve done something (you bought a refrigerator, you deposited money in your checking account).
This is a highly simplified suggestion; and, since I’m not a lawyer, financial planner, or accountant, I’ve provided links to a few sites so you can use the information you feel most comfortable with.
Dave Ramsey – Important Documents
Life Hacker – What to Keep and What to Shred
Good Housekeeping – Important Papers to Keep
The Spruce – How Long to Keep Documents
Toss the Rest
Now is the time to open your file cabinets and pull out the papers you don’t need. There’s no easy way to do this. Grab the file folders at the front of the drawer, open them one at a time and pull out what you no longer need for reference. Return what you want to keep.
Don’t worry about relabeling file folders or filing any new papers. First, clear out what you don’t need and create some space.
If you have a lot of papers to shred, investigate local shredding services. You might have to bring boxes of paper to an office supply store or a shredding center; although if you have years of old paperwork, you can find out if they can come to your home. Yes, you have to pay for this service, but it can be cheaper than burning out multiple paper shredders; not to mention the time it can save you.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.