Here's the evidence of how I have been ignoring our paper situation...
That's about 6 months worth of paid bills, bank statements, and junk credit card offers that I just stuffed in that office cubbyhole because I couldn't bring myself to deal with it. If you look closely at the bottom left, there is also a nice sized pile of junk that I needed to shred, helpfully sitting on top of the shredder.
But I steeled myself to make room in the file drawer and empty out that huge pile of stuff. There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there on the internet about how to organize your paper. Even the US government has a guide. I decided to follow the table from the government's guide on how long to keep records, with a few tweaks.
|Document||How Long to Keep It|
|Bank statements||1 year, unless needed to support tax filings|
|Birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, passports, education records, military service records||Forever|
|Credit card records||Until paid, unless needed to support tax filings|
|Home purchase and improvement records||As long as you own the property|
|Household inventory||Forever; update as needed|
|Insurance, car, home, etc.||Until you renew the policy|
|Investment statements||Shred your monthly statements; keep annual statements until you sell the investments|
|Investment certificates||Until you cash or sell the item|
|Loan documents||Until you sell the item the loan was for|
|Real estate deeds||As long as you own the property|
|Receipts for large purchases||Until you sell or discard the item|
|Service contracts and warranties||Until you sell or discard the item|
|Social Security card||Forever|
|Social Security statement||When you receive the new statement, shred the old one|
|Tax records||7 years from the filing date|
|Vehicle titles||Until you sell or dispose of the car|
Luckily we have gone paperless for the majority of our bills, banks, and credit cards. Thank goodness, otherwise the paper would have totally taken over the office by now. So, I don't keep physical copies of bank statements in our filing cabinet since electronic copies are stored by the bank.
Important documents go in our fireproof safe: birth certificates, marriage license, passports, Social Security cards, vehicle titles, home inventory, etc. I also think I will move our back-up portable hard drives to the safe.
In our file drawer, I cleaned out all of the bills and statements over a year old and dumped them in the shred/burn pile and re-arranged everything into a few big labeled sections. I have folders for each year of our taxes. Then a section for everything related to our house (loan, refinance, account numbers for utilities). Then a folder for our latest home and auto insurance policies - they will get shredded each time a new renewal shows up in the mail.Then comes a section for important receipts (fridge, washer/dryer and other large purchases) and a big folder for user manuals. Then one copy of a statement for each of our bank and credit card accounts, just for reference. Then I have legal sized paperwork from our house purchase sitting off to the side. And that's it. I hope to keep the amount of paper that we store pared down to no more than this.
I also set up a paper action station on our kitchen counter, since that is the first place we dump the mail when it comes in the house.
It is now the home for pens and pencils, gift cards and post-it notes and has sorting sections for bills to pay, outgoing mail, paper to file, and then paper that needs to stay out and visible (mostly coupons and our 2012 tax folder so we can add to it as tax statements and W-2s trickle in). Junk mail will go straight into our newspaper recycling box by our fireplace (for non personally identifying junk) or directly into the fireplace to be kindling for the next fire (for credit offers and such).
Incidentally, here is the gigantic pile of paper that needs to be shredded or burned. This doesn't even include the huge bag of envelopes and paper that could just go straight into the recycling bin. I think it will make good kindling for the next time we have a fire in the fireplace...
Linked up to:
Delightful Order's Monthly Organization Challenge
IHeart Organizing's Monthly Organization Challenge