Deciding What to Do With Your Documents

Shredded papers

Nothing piles up quicker in your home or office than paper. Keeping track of all your documents can be a nightmare because it’s not always that easy to decide which you should keep and which you should discard. Evaluating your documents, and figuring out where and how to store them can really help you organize and clean up your home or office. Here are some tips.

First of all, decide which documents go where. For easy organization, make three piles:

Documents You Should Keep Permanently

These documents include:

  1. Annual tax returns
  2. Year-end financial summaries and reports
  3. Stock and bond certificates
  4. Deeds of property and ownership, auto titles, and insurance policies
  5. Home improvement records
  6. Health records, wills, and powers of attorney.
  7. Birth certificates, adoption and custody records, and death certificates.

Since you are going to hang on to these, it would be prudent to store them in a long-term storage facility. To make sure the documents are safe, it would be worthwhile considering a storage unit with climate control. Pack these documents into boxes or even more secure plastic tubs to make sure they aren’t ravaged by dust, dirt, and damp.

Documents You Should Keep Temporarily

This pile is for documents you need to hold onto, but for a finite period (1-7 years).

  1. Paycheck stubs until you have yearly income reports, like a W-2 or 1099 to verify income.
  2. Phone and utility bills (keep for one year).
  3. Monthly bank and credit card statements (keep for one year).
  4. Monthly mortgage statements (keep for one year).
  5. Brokerage or mutual fund statements (keep until the end of the year).
  6. Year-end statements from credit card companies (keep for seven years).
  7. W-2 and 1099 forms (keep for seven years).
  8. Canceled checks and receipts for all tax-deductible expenses (keep for seven years).

You should probably store those documents that need to be kept for seven years in your long-term storage unit with the documents from the first list. With the other documents, however, it would be prudent to have them accessible in your home or office. Consider storing these documents in a small filing cabinet. This will at least have the documents out of sight while keeping them both safe and organized.

Documents You Should Discard or Shred

ATM, bank-deposit slips, and credit card receipts after you receive your statement.

  1. Non-tax-deductible receipts for minor purchases.
  2. Old magazines and articles That you have not read in the past six months.
  3. Receipts, instructions, and warranties for items you no longer own (or for which warranties have expired).

Getting your documents organized is a great way to make you feel a lot more in control of your life. If your documents are getting the better of you and cluttering up your home or office, follow these tips and keep your documents safe and secure in a storage unit.

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