Organizing Paperwork – What to Keep and What to Discard

Although in many respects we are moving toward becoming a paperless society, most households still have plenty of opportunities to acquire substantial amounts of paperwork.  Whether we will someday become a 100% paperless society remains to be seen.  In the meantime, here are some handy tips to get your own personal stash of paperwork manageable and accessible.

Fire-Proof Safe or Safe Deposit Box

Some paperwork is so valuable, it is best to keep these pieces either in a fire-proof safe in your home or in a rented safe deposit box at your local bank or credit union.  Some of these types of paperwork include:

  • Birth certificates,
  • social security card(s),
  • anything requiring a title such as a vehicle, boat or home,
  • paper stock certificates,
  • a copy of your homeowner’s insurance,
  • copies of your last 6 year’s tax returns and supporting documents,
  • life, disability and/or accidental death & dismemberment insurance policies,
  • paperwork that has sentimental value such as your child’s first report card or a copy of your wedding invitation,
  • and any other piece of paper you absolutely need to keep in the event of a fire or flood in your home.

Managing the Every Day Stuff

Other types of paperwork that tend to pile up are bank and credit card statements, receipts from various types of purchases, junk mail, and statements for various bills such as utilities, garbage collection, vehicle payments and so forth.  As much as possible, try to sign up for paperless billing for all your bills and other types of notices you may receive.  Most banks, credit unions, credit card companies and the like keep a history of your statements that you can access online.  If you have any concerns, contact them to see how far back they are willing to keep records for you.

Junk mail is best discarded immediately.  The best way to do this is to have a shredder readily available and use it.  Many garbage collection companies offer ways to recycle your unwanted papers or check with your bank or credit union to see if they have paper recycling opportunities.  Receipts can vary as to their level of importance.  If you make a large purchase such as new set of appliances or furniture, you should staple the receipt to any warranties you receive and keep this type of paperwork in a safe place.  For regular purchases such as groceries, keep the receipt until your check clears or you pay your credit card bill, or until you think there is nothing on the receipt you might want to return at some point.  Have one spot in the home such as a drawer or a covered box where you keep all receipts.  That way you know where all your receipts are in case of a return.

For more information on what to keep and what to discard, please contact us!

Shot of Files in cabinet

Shot of Files in cabinet