Clutter control needed STAT! I don’t know how all of this paper clutter enters our home. OK, I know it’s brought inside in the middle of the night by paper demons and then it breeds. 😉 Newspapers, junk mail, receipts, car and house insurance policies, unpaid bills, paid bills, health insurance updates, and retirement information. So much for the modern paperless society!
Here is an article from Consumer Reports, How Long to Keep Documents, that lists what to toss and what to keep and how long to keep it. The article makes it sound much easier than I’ve found it to be in real life.
To regain control of your home the first thing you need to do is reduce the incoming flow of junk. Throw out the receipts you don’t need. Staple the receipts for household appliances to their manual and file them. Put receipts for items you may return in a designated spot. Sort your mail right after bringing into your house. Recycle the junk, shred the credit card offers, and file the insurance policies, health information, and tax information. Put your bills in their spot.
No spot for your bills? Make one. I bet you already own a decorative basket or tray or in box that would work. Set it on the desk where you write your bills out or next to the computer that you use for online banking.
Remember, you will have to do this sorting every day. Do not set the mail down in a pile and expect it to sort itself. Piles of paper breed more piles of paper.
OK now that the incoming clutter has been reduced lets talk about what to do with what’s left. Check out this handy chart from Consumer Reports, “Where to Keep, When to Toss Documents.”
Once you’ve paid your bills you should file them until you receive the next bill. Check to be sure they received and credited your last payment and then shred the old bill. Unless they are tax deductible. Many people like using a 12 slot accordion file for this. If the slot for August is full you pull out last August’s bills and shred them. No need to schedule or find time to clean out the file. If they are tax deductible once you’ve checked the statement put it in the current year’s tax file.
No tax file? Get a manila folder and write “TAXES 2011” on it. Put everything you’ll need for taxes into this file as it comes in the mail. If you don’t have room for a traditional filing cabinet you can use large manila envelopes. The envelopes can be stored in a box or piece of furniture or a closet. Just remember where you’ve put them and keep all of your financial records together. This will simplify finding the information when it’s time to fill out your tax forms. The IRS can audit you for at least six years so keep those old files, IRS Audit FAQs. Speaking of taxes you’ll need to keep some investment information, such as when and at what price you bought a stock until you sell it. That could be many years. Kiplinger’s has the details.
Clutter Containment Chart
1) Throw out newspapers after reading them. Within a day the news is old and no longer accurate.
2) Sort mail right after bringing it into the house. Recycle the junk mail and put the bills in their spot. Shred those unwanted credit card offers.
3) Set aside a time daily or weekly to file all of the insurance policies, bank statements, and tax information.
4) Tax information is important, make sure you keep each year’s information in a folder or envelope. Being organized with taxes can save you time and money.
5) If you own your home and spend money on permanent improvements, such as gutters or storm shutters you will need to keep that information for possible deductions from your profit when your home is sold. Label the file or manila folder with the home’s address.
6) Keep receipts for items that you might want to return or big ticket items. If you buy a new TV staple the receipt to the TV manual and file it. Throw away other receipts once they have accurately posted to your credit card statement.
7) Really important papers, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports should be kept in a waterproof and fire resistant box, or in a bank safety deposit box.
8– Similar to the do not call list, the Mail Preference Service removes your name and address from junk mail lists. This is good for your war on clutter and good for the environment. Contact them today, don’t delay!