Ditching The Clutter: How Long To Keep Important Papers.

There are people I know who still have “important” documents from 20 years ago stored in their house – and I don’t want that to be me. In the last 6 months, I have gone through all the paper files I have had with me over the years and done a purge of any and all of them that I don’t need to keep. And now that I am down to the bare minimum amount of paperwork and I refuse to go back to keeping everything, I have a system in place for new documents I need to keep for a little while and those I need to keep long term. Most everything that I need to keep that isn’t a tax return is scanned into Evernote and the rest is simply shredded and recycled. But it took a little bit of research to find what paper items I needed to keep for a bit and which I could get rid of, so I figured I would share what I found with you because some of you guys might also be wondering the same thing about your paper clutter. Hope this list helps you determine what needs to be kept and what you can toss…

Keep Physical Versions Of Forever:
– Marriage/Divorce paperwork
– Birth/Death certificates
– Receipts/Transaction records for major purchases such as houses, cars, etc.
– Tax returns

Keep Physical Versions For At Least 7 Years:
– Any and all paperwork related to tax returns, including W-2’s, receipts, 1099 forms, etc.
– Investment information (although I would keep this forever digitally in case of any sales down the road)

Keep For 1 Year:
– Your pay stubs, or in my case, records of self-employment income
– Bank statements (I only have these in digital format)

Keep For A Minimal Amount Of Time:
– Credit card statements (I only have these in digital format)
– Bank deposit receipts
– Receipts for small purchases such as clothes, etc.. Then scan it into Evernote or something similar.

With banks and other institutions helping to make our lives paper-free and software like Evernote to take care of everything else, there really isn’t much paperwork you need to keep anymore. And because of this, most people don’t need gigantic filing cabinets or shelves at home which results in way less clutter at home. Just be sure to back up your computer files often (both at home AND online) in case of emergency and you will be on your way to only having minimal paperwork cluttering up your home!

  1. November 30, 2009
  2. August 2, 2010
  3. August 9, 2010

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