Get a handle on boxes and bags of papers

Even though we are moving into an age where people attempt to go paperless, we seem to have a ton of paper around the house. Getting it sorted and organized seems like an endless task. Here are some tips on making the process easier.


This part of the process is the most difficult. You need to figure out what papers are important and which ones are not. Most tax records need to be kept for six years, but check with the IRS or your accountant because different types of documents need to be kept for different lengths of time.

Of course, things like birth certificates, wills, car titles and other legal papers need to be kept forever. Some investment and insurance papers need to be kept as well.

Stacks of bills and other mail should be sorted. Recycle the outer envelopes, junk mail and extract the bills that need to be paid. If possible, sign up for online bill paying and you will stop getting some of that mail. If you get a lot of catalogs that you never use, call the company and tell them you no longer wish to receive their mailings. You will stop getting catalogs that lay around the house. You will also help the company by saving printing costs for catalogs you don’t want. For a shortcut, go to Catalog Choice to unsubscribe from a huge variety of catalogs.

Magazines and newspapers can quickly pile up around your home. If there is an article you want to keep, you can scan it into the computer or cut out the page instead of keeping the entire magazine. Consider getting the publications online instead of the print versions. Most magazines and newspapers are now available on mobile devices.

Filing and tossing

Once you have sorted your papers, you can start getting rid of what can be thrown away. Sensitive information or personal papers should go into the shredder and not just put out on the curb for recycling day. A good rule of thumb is to shred whatever you wouldn’t want a stranger to see.

Shredders are a great investment and inexpensive ones go for less than $50. My own experience is that the less expensive shredders break sooner, so it might be wise to spend a little more to have it last a lot longer. Bank statements, ATM receipts and credit card statements can be shredded after a year. Always shred them. If you do not want to invest in a shredder or have too much to shred, there are companies who shred papers and keep your information confidential.

Important papers you need to keep can be further sorted into two categories: file or action. The file papers can be organized either in an accordion file or file cabinet, whatever works best for you. We also offer the handy P.A.C. (Paper Action Center) to help organize active papers. Active papers include bills that need to be paid, letters you need to answer or other things that need some kind of action on your part. By using a tickler file, you can take a daily peek at the items that need your attention. That’s how you can keep your countertops from accumulating more clutter.

Once you sort, file, shred and throw out paper, you will be amazed at the difference. The stacks or boxes of papers take up more space than you realize. After it is organized, you will enjoy a wonderful sense of accomplishment that is well earned.

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