I think one of the most common complaints for someone who works from home especially is the difficulty with organizing paperwork. Today's blog post is specifically concerning information I have gathered on organizing paperwork in your home and/or small office.
Paper - loose papers, incoming mail, papers that need to be filed away, papers you don't know what to do with exactly, papers you want to keep to read more closely later, drawings or school papers from your children - it all adds up and before you know it, every flat surface in your once clean home has been consumed, and every corner has suddenly become a teetering mountain just threatening to overtake you if you walk too close to it. I think most of us have been there at one point or another, probably more times than we would like to admit.
Hopefully, the following guidelines for helping to organize paperwork will be helpful, for both you and me!
Sorting through paperwork, deciding what to keep and what to shred, deciding how to store what you do keep so it is easily within hand's reach if you need it, can be an overwhelming and daunting task for even the most organized person.
Following is a breakdown of the most common household paperwork, and what to keep for one year before shredding, what to keep for 7 years before shredding and what should not be tossed.
Recommended to keep for one year:
Bank records. It is usually recommended that you keep bank deposit and ATM receipts until you can reconcile them with your monthly statements, then feel free to shred them. File and keep your monthly checking and savings account statements for a year, then you can shred them as well, although some people feel more comfortable keeping these particular records for longer.
Credit card bills. It has been reported that you don't actually need any of your credit card bills after you have checked them for accuracy and paid them, unless of course you need a particular bill to support a deduction for taxes or an item bought under warranty. In that case, you want to keep that credit card bill, with the warranty or receipt with it, and then you would keep it until that warranty runs out.
Current year tax records. This includes all of the information you gathered and contributed to filing your taxes. After the year, move these to wherever you keep your 7-year records and begin a new folder for the new year's records.
Insurance policies. Keep policies that renew each year, such as home, apartment, car, or boat. Keep until you get the new ones, then you can shred the old ones.
Pay stubs. Keep the calendar year's records until you reconcile them with your annual w-2.
Receipts. Most of these can be shredded immediately, unless you are tracking your spending, itemizing tax deductions or holding specific receipts for possible purchase returns. I would highly suggest not trying to keep all of your receipts. I am sure there are some families out there that do this and manage it well, but that is a lot of minor paper with relatively minor information to have to manage.
Household furnishings. Keep receipts, warranties and instructions for major appliances and electronics together.
Loan documents. Keep closing documents for mortgage, vehicle, student, and other loans. When the loan is paid off, you can shred them if you wish.
Savings bonds. Hold in a secure place until you cash them in, or you can now convert them to electronic form.
Vehicle records. Keep purchase receipts, titles, registration information as long as you own the car, boat, truck or other vehicle. Store the maintenance and repair records also.
Recommended to keep for seven years:
Personal federal and state income tax returns and their supporting records. These should be held for 7 years.
Recommended to not toss:
Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, child support enforcements, social security cards, military discharge papers.
Keep any estate-planning documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.
Life insurance policies.
Make and keep a list of all documents/items in your safety deposit box if that is where you decide to store some of your important papers.
Remember, these are just general guidelines. For whatever reason, you may feel inclined to keep certain records longer, and that is perfectly acceptable. Hopefully, this will give you a good starting off point to being a little more organized so the next time someone asks for a particular piece of paper, you will know exactly where you put it, and not have to spend time looking through several places before finally finding it.
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