How to Learn Anti-Clutter Tricks for Paper Files


If you're like most people, old bills, receipts, legal papers and pay stubs can pile up until you're overwhelmed by paper clutter. Even if you file your papers, it doesn't take long for your files to be bursting at the seams. If you can't fit anything else in your files or you want those stacks and boxes of papers to go away, you need to know what you can safely discard and what you really need to keep.

Your largest pile of papers is probably pay stubs, utility and other regular bills, credit card and bankstatements, canceled checks for minor purchases, receipts for minor cash purchases, and mortgage receipts. They should be kept one year at most. Save only those items that you need to verify tax and warranty claims. ATMreceipts and credit card receipts only need to be kept until you get your next monthly statement.

You can discard ´╗┐Social Security and all quarterly or monthly financial statements when you get your annual statements.Keep your insurance policy, passport, and will until you get a replacement.

Copies of tax returns, W2 and 1099 forms, self-employment expense records, receipts, canceled checks, and statements need to be kept for three to seven years. Tax returns can be audited for three years after you file, but if you under-report your income by more than 25%, the limit goes up to six years.

You should never throw away birth certificates, Social Security card, marriage certificates, adoption papers, diplomas, transcripts, military papers, and other legal papers. Keep them forever.

If you follow these guidelines at home and work, you can regain control of your paper clutter, enjoying manageable files and a neater, more organized environment.

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