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Put Your Paper Shredders and File Cabinets to Work

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Put Your Paper Shredders and File Cabinets to Work


Decide which paperwork to pitch, scan, shred or save

Creating an organized system for household documents is a great way to reduce clutter and keep important files close at hand. Before tackling your paperwork, first determine which documents to keep, toss or shred.

Pitch It

The first step in organizing paperwork is throwing away unnecessary documents. Items like old birthday and holiday cards, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, invitations, desktop calendars from previous years and thank you notes can go directly into your recycling or waste receptacles. Items with sensitive information, such as bank and credit card statements, should be put into paper shredders before disposing. Paperwork that can be immediately thrown into waste receptacles includes:

- Receipts from everyday purchases

- Expired coupons

- Warranties from products no longer used

- Schoolwork from the kids (only special assignments should be kept)

- Outdated information like old contact lists

Save It

You might want to hang on to some papers for the short term, but other papers should be kept indefinitely. Invest in file cabinets   and labeled manila file folders   to create an efficient storage system for your saved papers. Then, sort your files according to the length of time you need to keep them. The following guidelines can help you determine what needs to be included in your long-term files.

Keep for the duration of ownership:

- Investment purchases

- Loan documents

- Vehicle records

- Product warranties

Keep for a year:

- Financial statements and year-end summaries

- Pay stubs

- Bills and bank records

Keep for seven years:

- Tax documents, including W2s and 1099s

Keep forever:

- Birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates

- Social security cards and passports

- Military discharge papers

- Retirement plan information

- Life insurance policies

Scan It

Electronic files are a convenient way to keep permanent records without the hassle of paper clutter. You may want to scan important paperwork with a document scanner and keep the electronic copy as back up. Then, save it on a hard drive, thumb drive, burned CD or an external hard drive. Some items to scan with a documents scanner include:

- Tax records

- W2s and 1099s

Shred It

Be careful throwing away any paperwork with personal information—especially anything that could be used to steal your identity. Even credit card solicitations can contain the valuable personal information identity thieves seek. Rather than throwing these sensitive documents in waste receptacles, where your information could be stolen, the safest plan is to destroy these documents with paper shredders. Paper shredders allow you to quickly dispose of confidential documents in seconds, including:

- Financial statements

- Medical records

- Credit reports

- Cancelled checks

Understanding what to do with paperwork can save you a lot of hassle and help you to better organize your home or office. Sort through papers a few times a year to determine what to save, throw away, scan or shred. Either utilize manila file folders to store documents in file cabinets or discard of unnecessary paper to keep your filing systems organized, consistent and efficient.


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