Paperwork Reduction Weekend

Julie_MI_Z5August 21, 2006

Hey--I did good! Last week I opened a rarely-opened tall metal 5 drawer file cabinet in the basement and realized that I had financial statements from the early 80's! This weekend I filled three brown paper grocery bags of paper to be shredded, and one bag with paper to be recycled.

And I've only tackled 2 drawers! LOL The empty space didn't last long as I now use it for the Boy Scout paperwork that was previously stacked in the bottom of my closet.

It was an easy job really--you would have been SO impressed at how everything was organized and filed together by account, by year. ROFL I had never seriously de-cluttered the file cabinet before because I *knew* what was in there.

Three drawers left! The thrill of getting rid of hidden clutter is I can re-appropriate the space to clutter that is not hidden (like the pile of papers that fall out of the hall closet every time I open the door!).

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As Talley says, it's not the stuff that sitting out which is the clutter. It's all that stuff tucked away! I've been doing pretty well with old papers since I made a date with myself on New Years Day to clean out files. We did get a few things mixed up in the move. I was hunting for a file from a collection agency (who just won't believe I don't owe that money.) The envelope had been put in the box with the old house papers. I knew I hadn't thrown it away, but it was probably one of those things I shoved together "just for the move" and never thought to look in thqat box again.

I hate papers. I really, really hate papers.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 8:34PM
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This weekend I shredded all of DH's EOBs starting with 2005 and back. What a waste of paper they are. Then, got together most of the greeting cards and envelopes we have received from various charities and took them to the Sr. Center where they sell them individually. Also took a freezer bag full of old (still usable) highlighters, pens, etc. which they can always use.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 9:11AM
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I'm getting ready to move & am attempting to organize as well as declutter. I have a lot of bills, receipts, etc., that go back at least 10 years.

How far back (I thought it was 3 years?) are you supposed to keep documents? i.e., bank statements, utility bills, etc. (I'll keep the tax returns, of course). I really want to shred the bulk of it, but don't want to destroy stuff I should be keeping.

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 6:03AM
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zanesmom - This link should take you to a Real Simple article on just that subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: What to keep; what to pitch

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 7:52AM
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I move a lot so I've been keeping everything sorted by where I've lived which gives me a timeline. As of right now, I have 3 places of receipts going back to 2001. But it's time to let go of this (as well as my "pretend" wardrobe).

We don't have a business or own a home at the moment so this shouldn't be that difficult. Should I keep paperwork of all previous leases and mortgages?

The Real Simple site said to keep for 7 years the "Year-end statements from credit-card companies". I have all my credit card statements stuffed into the proper file but not organized in any fashion. Must I go through all of these to figure out which are the year end statements or can I just get rid of everything over 1 year old?

I'm not sure about utility and phone records? How long do I hold onto these?

Besides this, I will keep all my medical records because some family members have certain issues and having moved around a lot, we've used various doctors. Of course, I'll also keep tax stuff and receipts for big ticket items.

Thanks for any advice you can also give me.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 11:25AM
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marie, maybe giving some thought to the "why's and wherefor" of the papers might help. We've established you don't need the papers for taxes, so we'll ignore that issue.

Lease-contract between you and the landlord. Once you have each fufilled your obligation it can be pitched. Security deposit back in your hand means the lease is in the trash. Keep the landlord's name and contact info in your address book incase you need a future rental reference. Same with mortgage papers. Once the house is sold, the mortgage has been paid in full. We did our last sale FSBO, so we will keep a copy of the contract for three years. Then it's trashed. If they can't sue me for something in that amount of time, they are out of luck.

I read the Real Simple link and I thought it was confusing on the year end credit card statement so I asked DH to read it. He gave me the example of what happened to us last year. We were sitting on several mortgages before our old house sold and we didn't want to liquidate any of our funds. We did a credit card cash advance for $17,000 on a zero interest card and put that money in our account. If we were audited for that year, the auditor would run an income test and say we under-reported our income by $17,000. We have the credit card paperwork to show the cash advance, therefor it's not income.

If you don't need it for taxes, you don't really have to save the thing. Many of us are now paying lots of household bills with credit cards and keeping that statement is a simple way of showing the bill was paid. But depending on the statue of limitations which I "think" is six years, it may be hard for someone to come after you for payment six years later. Marge would have an idea on that. The monthly statement has to be checked to make sure the charges are correct and your account has been credited with a payment, but otherwise, there isn't a need to save. Same with utilities. Check to see if they received your payment, pull off the new bill portion and pitch the rest. Same with the phone bill.

Those of us with tax needs, business deductions and all of that other good stuff keep a ton of this information. For the average person who just files a regular 1040 and isn't messing around, those records aren't needed.

Make sense?


    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 6:47PM
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Thank you, Gloria. You answered all my questions. I'm under the weather right now but when I feel better, I'll be tackling all this paper and finally clean out that closet. But I do need to purchase a shredder first.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 7:45PM
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