Should It Stay or Should it Go? Reduce Your Paper Clutter

Here's How to Get a Handle on Which Documents You Should Keep and Which You Can Toss.

Paper is often the most challenging area of any office. Here are some tips to help you conquer the stacks of paper piling up on your desk and slim down your filing cabinet drawers.

  • We only access 20 percent of the paper we file. So as you file something, ask yourself if you’re really going to need to look back at it. Think about if you are able to access the same information online.
  • Go paperless! A scanner (such as the Neat Receipt Scanner available at Staples in Middletown) allows you to digitally store and organize documents, business cards, receipts and more on your Mac or PC. This will help you free up your filing cabinets and storage space.
  • Control the amount of paper that comes into your home or office: Do you have too many magazine subscriptions? Cancel the ones you never have time to read. Set your bank account up to pay bills online, and subscribe to receive all of your statements via email.
  • Delete your name from various lists by visiting these websites:
    • http://dmachoice.org (marketing mail)
    • http://optoutprescreen.com (credit card offers)
    • Email abacusoptout@epsilon.com to request removal from catalog lists. Include your full name (with middle initial) and complete address.
    •  www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference/ (Do not mail list)
  • Organize how you sort your daily mail: As soon as you bring it from the mailbox to your counter, don’t let it sit and pile up, go through it right away. Put junk mail in your recycle bin right away before it has a chance to become clutter in your home.
  • When sorting through a pile of paper, be sure to tackle the entire pile at once. Otherwise, you may miss an important document or payment for a bill at the bottom of the pile.
  • You may be holding on to paperwork that you don’t need to. Follow these tips from Financial Planner (and Patch columnist) Frank Zocco to determine if you should keep it or toss it:
    • Retirement plan/401(k) statements: Keep quarterly statements until the annual or year end arrives. Shred the quarterlies and keep the annual statements until retirement. If you have an IRA, keep those statements permanently.
    • Brokerage accounts (non-IRA): Keep statements until you sell the security and file your taxes.
    • Taxes: Keep for seven years
    • Paystubs: Keep until year end and if they match your W-2, then shred.
    • Credit card statements: Keep to reconcile, then shred. Unless they are needed for tax purposes, then keep for seven years.
    • Audit reports: Keep these forever
    • Bank deposit slips and statements: Keep for six years
    • Housing records: Keep for as long as you own the home, plus six years
    • Vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.): Keep forever
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