Decluttering, organize

What to Do With Paper Clutter

Paper clutter is my nightmare. It’s the only thing I don’t enjoy organizing and sorting through, but it’s so important to know where important documents are in your home. My husband and I have a small file box where we keep all of our important documents.

We’ve only been married for 4 years, so we haven’t needed to upgrade to a full blown filing cabinet. But I know someday it’s coming.

Before we finally created our filing system, we had so many papers scattered in different places all over the house. It was CHAOS trying to find anything when we needed to make copies of birth certificates or anything like that.

The painstaking work of sorting through ALL of our papers was well worth it. Our recycling bin was full to the brim with useless papers. Every once in awhile, we have to sort through it again and get rid of anything that we don’t need to hold on to anymore.

Before you touch your paper piles, here is a guideline for what to keep and for how long.

Keep Forever

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Marriage licenses
  • Personal identification cards
  • Passports
  • Insurance policies
  • Wills, living wills, power of attorney, beneficiary instructions, etc.
  • Year-end statements of investments
  • Home deeds, mortgages
  • Vehicle titles
  • Medical records
  • Medical and burial instructions
  • Education records, diplomas, certifications
  • Pension and retirement plan records
  • Family history records

Keep for Seven Years

  • Tax records and receipts
  • Mortgage documents, home sale, home improvement documentation
  • Bank statements
  • W-2 or 1099 forms
  • Receipts for tax records
  • Disability records
  • Unemployment pay stubs
  • Medical records and bills

Keep for a Year

  • Pay stubs
  • Expired insurance records

Keep for a Month

  • Utility bills
  • Purchase Receipts
  • ATM/bank deposit slips

Keep Until No Longer Useful

  • Warranty documents and receipts


Shred Everything Else

My husband’s job is to shred all the paper stuff we don’t need to keep. We only shred things that have our personal information. Everything else gets recycled.

Phew! Overwhelmed yet? It seems like a lot of stuff to keep and organize, and it is. Here is my tip for making things a little easier and more efficient.


Go Paperless!

You can save a lot on paper clutter by going paperless with your monthly statements and bills. Visit your bank or credit union’s website or call and ask about how you can start getting your statements sent to you electronically. All you have to do is download them and save them when they are ready to view.

You can scan and digitize many of the documents and records listed above to save on even more space.

Of course, you need to keep the originals of any official certified documents. Pretty much everything you need to hold onto forever. But it wouldn’t hurt to scan copies of these documents as an emergency preparedness precaution.


How to Organize Your Documents

I don’t think there is a wrong way to do this. As long as everything is organized in a way that makes sense to you and is easily accessible, you’re on your way to having a filing system to keep the clutter away.

I like to keep my system fairly simple and organize my documents by category so they are easy to find. I keep a file labeled “Important Documents” for all of the birth certificates, social security cards, our marriage license, passports, and similar documents.

We have other files with labels such as Insurance, Bills, Tax Records, Bank and credit union information and statements, Work, Educational documents, Medical records, Home records, Receipts, and Warranties.

Dealing with papers and documents can be really stressful, but once you have a working filing system, it becomes a lot easier. And it feels good to have all of your important information together and organized.

Did you find this post helpful? How do you keep your paper stuff organized at home?

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