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Organizing Household Paperwork

October 6, 2010

I want to share something my husband has been doing for several years. When we get the first statement from any business, he clips off the return address portion of the envelope or statement. He then cuts out the name of the business and slips it into the little plastic sleeve on the green hanging file folders. Neither of us is able to write small enough to get it on those little tabs. It takes a few minutes but it only has to be done once per business. We've had several people remark about it so I thought I'd share it.

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By MartyD from Houston, TX

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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh
May 8, 2006

Tax time is a good time to clean the filing cabinet and eliminate yourself of old paperwork. Yet, the fear of throwing out financial papers causes many people to save everything, leaving a packed filing cabinet with yellowing paperwork.

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

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7 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

July 7, 2013

What to do with all the information, such as reminder notes merchandise, doctors, coupons, everything? I always jot this down on scraps of paper which I can seldom find.

By Julie

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July 9, 20130 found this helpful

I have an 5x8" spiral bound calendar that I use as my "bible". In it I write not only on the monthly page of what has to be done, but on the daily pages I write lists of things to remember. I also staple, or binder clip, all of my little notes on the front of the calendar so I can use them until I've written them down somewhere, or finished with them. I also carry a picture of my husband and me on our wedding day. That's for inspiration on a lousy day.

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July 9, 20130 found this helpful

I use a regular spiral notebook like kids use in school. I jot everything in it that I need to do, remember, buy, etc. When done I either X it out or if it is a separate page and I never will need it again, i.e. a grocery list I tear and toss. Other memos, i.e. MD appts, etc I just keep all in the notebook. These notebooks are several for a $1 in back to school sales. Buy a bunch in August.

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July 15, 20130 found this helpful

I keep a pocket organizer in my purse where all reminders and appointments are recorded when I make them and coupons and ads are kept in a small organizer that I keep with my canvas shopping bags. Larger notes and postcards, etc., are paperclipped to my large kitchen calendar near the appropriate date.

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October 26, 20140 found this helpful

I use a spiral notebook, and scotch tape to tape all my bits of paper into it instead of rewriting all that info into the spiral.

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How do I select "what" business or personal papers to trash? (I am a "compulsive hoarder").

By PARKER1981 from Phoenix, AZ

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July 5, 20120 found this helpful

Keep credit card statements, utility bills, statements for car insurance, pay stubs, etc. about a year. Review them as you go if possible and then after a year, trash.

Keep all documents related to any real estate or businesses you still own (deeds, tax statements, etc), life insurance policies, car titles & associated paperwork (that you still own), your income tax returns, birth and marriage certificates, divorce papers, death certificates, military service papers, certain medical papers like shot records or surgeries, major accidents, other litigation items such as law suits, forever. (Some people may argue that you don't need to keep tax returns for only 7 years, actually you need to keep the related paperwork for those 7 years of returns if you itemize (in other words you can trash the itemization items, receipts, etc after 7 years), but a couple of CPAS I have known suggested that I keep the actual returns forever.) And if you ever should need one, the IRS charges a hefty fee to give you a copy and they will charge the hefty fee for every return you request.

Keep product warranties until they expire or until you no longer own the item. Keep pet paperwork until you no longer own the pet. Separate pictures and articles away from the important stuff.

Consider carefully how much info you keep. If you save recipes, articles from the newspaper, etc. You can end up with huge amounts of paper that clog up your life that you never do anything with!

I have 2 bags where I keep important papers. One is very important papers and has my tax returns, birth certificate, pass port, etc. (Which you might want to consider putting in a safe deposit box).

The other one is semi-important papers, mostly warranties and things that will eventually expire or become obsolete (rental agreements when I had an apartment), request for time off from work, etc. It helps to keep the really important away from the not so important items.

Stay on top of junk mail, by reading it as you come in the mail and tossing it right away (I recycle it.) Always open junk mail though, because occasionally it is not junk mail and you could be tossing something more important. (More than once I have found a check inside an envelope that I thought was junk mail.) If you use coupons, try to stay on top of them and use them or toss when they expire.

I have "excess" tendencies myself and I find paperwork to be one of the hardest things to manage, so be kind to yourself while you get this sorted out. Don't beat yourself up in other words. And honestly, there are very few people who are always on top of it.

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July 6, 20120 found this helpful

I purchased a file cabinet at the Thrift Store. I can file all my papers, taxes, receipts, and owners manuals, also box of photos, takes a lot less room than boxes and I can easily find what I need. You could put it in a storage room or back bedroom in closet.

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July 8, 20120 found this helpful

Personally I don't know why anyone unless for business purposes, would find a need to keep credit card statements, past utility bills or old insurance statements. I keep only the most current ones and shred and trash the rest. I've been doing this for years now and, as of yet not found a need for any of them. If I ever do I can go online and print out a copy. I don't even keep appliance manuals. Most can be downloaded from the internet if I ever need one. I keep receits of large purchases. I have scanned a lot of paper documents on a thumb drive and keep originals in a safe deposit box.

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I am trying to re-organize my home - sort of downsizing everything, including paperwork. I need to know what I need to save, how long I should save it, and how to save it. I know about tax info. I'm talking about receipts, instructions, Medicare stuff, medical stuff, etc. Just about everything I've been holding on to that takes up 4 file drawers.

I grew up with "save everything for 10 years" - canceled checks, bank statements, merchandise receipts for big items, etc. I just need to know how long and what do I keep. I really want to get a handle on our paperwork so that if someone asks "Where's this?" I can pull it with ease.

Diane McIntyre from Lewiston, ID

Editors Note: Here is another helpful ThiftyFun article: Should It Stay or Should It go?

Answers

November 19, 20070 found this helpful

Many of the ideas shared here are great; however, keeping things for 4+ months is really difficult for me due to lack of room. I've tried the breakdown Cindy S. describes and it works great but my husband's medical stuff fills a full file cabinet drawer! I have oodles of hanging folders - 4 drawers of a standard file cabinet full and each folder is full plus I have 4 storage tubs full of paperwork for only the past 7-10 years. I don't know what to pitch, what to keep, how long I need to keep it, etc. I am searching all over the Internet for ideas but am finding there are organizations that charge hefty fees to help you organize. There has got to be free information out there somewhere.

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By kate (Guest Post)
July 22, 20080 found this helpful

i have seen on various websites that you should just scan all your papers and keep the files on your computer or a flash drive. it will definitely help out having papers since I'm living in a small space but it's not very safe, is it?

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By TechieBird (Guest Post)
September 26, 20080 found this helpful

I read Getting Things Done a few years ago, and I recently wrote a (very long) post on how I adapted a small part of David Allen's approach to get some kind of control over my household paperwork. I was convinced when I started that I'd need about four filing cabinets, but the secret is not to put your 'current' stuff and your 'archive' stuff together. That way you can have the things you need daily where you can access them easily, and the archive in a back room or on a high shelf where you don't have to worry about it because you only need to get to it once in a while. (And you'll probably end up with less of both than you imagined - check out the photo for my day-to-day filing box which holds 1-2 years worth of filing at a time.)

bwain-dump.blogspot.com/.../one-day-yes-really-to-clear-your...

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June 8, 2017

Adding some drop in files to a cardboard box allows you to effectively use it to store your important papers, projects, and more. This is a page about how to organize a cardboard file box.

An organized box with hanging file folders.

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