Unmanaged paperwork around your home and office can be quite stressful. Searching for important documents may seem hopeless. Interest charges and late fees can pile up quickly on misplaced bills. Deadlines are easily overlooked. Getting on top of your papers and developing a good paper management system will reduce your stress.
Choose a Convenient Location
Where you manage your paperwork should be convenient. Going to a secluded area of your home may not encourage you to manage your paperwork. If it is not an area you enjoy being in, you won’t go there.
The workspace should have ample surface area, basic office supplies (envelopes, pens, address label), computer and printer, paper recycle bin and paper shredder.
Remove the Unnecessary, Immediately
Sort your mail as soon as it comes in with a recycle bin and shredder within in arm’s reach. Junk mail should be recycled immediately. Refer to the document retention guideline for guidance on what documents to keep and for how long.
Do Initial Sorting
Create a temporary, simple filing system for the initial sorting of your paperwork. This file system could include files labeled:
File – for files to be filed
Pay – for bills to be paid
To Do – for items that require attention within the next month
Read – for documents that will required your dedicated attention
Regularly go through and Pay, Sort and File
Set up a weekly time to go through the temporary files. Coordinate your bill paying with your pay dates. File papers from the ‘file’ file. Review your ‘to do’ file for items needing attention within the next week. Take some time read through the files from your ‘read’ file.
Choose Physical or Electronic Files
Decide if you prefer physical or electronic files. It’s nearly impossible to completely do one or the other, but designating one or the other as your filing system will help to manage your paperwork.
It is important to always be aware of what papers, documents and receipts enter your home. Receipts can be sent via email or not retained at all. Be selective of what documents are collected at trade shows, conventions and seminars. Only accept the documents that are relevant to you. Be mindful of the mailing lists, marketing emails and promotional lists you sign up for.
Once your paperwork system is set up, plan to set aside time every week to maintain and manage your paperwork. Staying on top of your system will reduce stress and ensure you keep on top of your work and bills.
If setting up a paperwork management system is overwhelming for you, a professional organizer can help. Contact Jayme with Top Shelf Home Organizing for a consultation to see how we can help.
Are your filing drawers overflowing? Do you have several stacks of paper documents with no idea as to which you need and which belong in the trash? Are you overly concerned that the IRS will come knocking at your door and you won’t have something you need? Your stress is over. This checklist on how long to keep all your financial and other important documents will help guide you!
Documents to Keep Forever
- Income tax returns
- CPA audit reports
- Deeds, mortgages and bills of sale
- Legal documents (wills, living wills, power of attorney designation, medical and burial instructions, beneficiary documents)
- Vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption)
- Investment trade confirmations and statements that indicate buying and selling, retirement and pension records, year-end statement for investments
- Trust documents
- Receipts for warranties
- Automobile titles
- Current insurance policies
- Medical records
- Education records
- Important correspondence
- Property records (keep until sale of property)
- Car records (keep until sale of car)
- Insurance policies (keep for life of policy)
Documents to Keep for 7 Years
The IRS may go back 7 years to audit your tax returns for errors or incorrectly claimed deductions – so it’s important that you keep all tax-related documents for that length of time.
- Bank records
- W-2 and 1099 forms
- Receipts for tax purposes
- Personnel and payroll records
- Cancelled checks
- Disability records
- Unemployment benefit records
- Settled accident claims
- Mortgages, deeds, leases on sold property
- Records on sold stocks and bonds
Documents to Keep for 1 Year
It’s rare that anyone is going to want to see an electric bill or credit card statement dating back more than a year. But you may choose to keep the following NON-TAX-RELATED papers:
- Checkbook ledgers
- Paycheck stubs (keep until reconciled with W-2)
- Monthly financial statements
- Monthly mortgage statements
- Credit card statements
- Utility records
- Medical bills (in case of insurance disputes)
Documents to Keep Less Than 1 Year
There are always those papers that don’t fit into any of these categories. Retain these records according to the following guidelines:
- Credit card receipts (keep until reconciled on your credit card statement)
- ATM and deposit slips (keep until reconciled on your bank statement)
- Bills (keep until the payment verified on the next bill)
Now, it’s time to simplify!
Now that you know the guidelines on how long to keep all of your documents, it’s time to get organized. Start cleaning out those file cabinets or sorting through those paper stacks that are taking up space and causing you stress.
*NOTE: This checklist is a guideline. Please be sure to consult your accountant and/or the IRS for the most up-to-date rules.
If you don’t have the time to get your business and personal documents organized, Top Shelf Home Organizing would love to help. Call Jayme: 262-373-9416.