Got Paper Pile Up? Do this.

Got Paper Pile Up? Do this.

When it comes to our bills, circulars, letters and other important mail, do you have a pile? I will embarrassingly admit I do. I have a growing pile of papers on my kitchen table and I am constantly moving it around to hide it from guests.

Now do not get me wrong, I do have filing cabinets and a file system. There is just something that prevents me from filing. Maybe the lack of time to sit down and just do it. Or just the idea of what to save and not to save. That is the question.

We do have to keep certain documents up to life:
  • Academic records: Diplomas, transcripts, and any portfolio work that may be used in the future when applying for a job
  • Adoption papers
  • Baptismal/Bris certificates
  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates: May be needed for tax purposes
  • Driver's licenses
  • Employment records: Any clauses, agreements, disciplinary files, and performance reviews.
  • Marriage certificates
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • Passports
  • Retirement and pension records
  • Social Security cards
  • Wills

These are the documents you need to save for a few years time:

  • Credit card bills: Keep credit card statements for 60 days unless they include tax-related expenses. In this case, you should hold onto them for 3 years.
  • Bank statements: One month.
  • Bills: One year for anything tax or warranty related; all other bills should be shred as soon as they have been paid.
  • Paychecks and pay stubs: One year, or until you've received your W-2 statement for that tax year
  • Investment records: Seven years after you've closed the account or sold the security.
  • Tax documents: Seven years, including your filing and all accompanying documents such as W-2s and receipts.
  • Sales receipts: Keep for the life of the warranty for major purchases such as appliances and electronics. For things such as groceries and clothing, only keep the receipt until you know that it won't be needed to return merchandise.
  • Leases: Keep until you've moved out and have received your deposit back from the landlord.
  • Home improvement receipts: Keep until the home is sold.
  • Vehicle records: Keep until the boat, car, or motorcycle is sold.

Now that is a LONG time. This means you are holding on to documents for at least 1 year.

Anyway, I have decided to go DIGITAL! Yes... finally I know. Moving to digital has so many benefits. I can not believe it has taken me this long. Contact your credit companies, insurance companies and others to make sure they set you up on electronic statements. Start paying your bills online.

One reason for doing this is that I will not need to continually keep so many files, paper and have a need for a floor file cabinet or cabinets. Another reason, maybe more than clutter, are emergencies. For heaven sakes lets hope we are never in a horrible situation like a fire, flood, accident, etc. What would happen to all these documents? More than likely get ruined.

Some people suggest keeping these documents in a water tight container. That may be good for some situations but not all. Can you see yourself running around as you get your family safe for documents? I think we would be more worried about our family's safety. The next best thing - if not the only best thing - is to store it in a cloud based system.

I know we have to have originals for many instances like a birth certificate, license, social security card, etc. However, if those do get ruined you will have a back up saved. A digital backup will be easier to retrieve those items as a way to get copies of the original. This system will be easier to show a law enforcement agency, bank or the government who you are until the new originals are mailed to you. This is not just files saved on your hard drive. A cloud storage service saves your documents and photos in a huge server that you can get for free or pay for.

I lost my social security card a long while back and I had a back up. Luckily, I had other items to prove who I was when applying for my new card. However, I think having the copy helped the process as well. It is better than having nothing.

To go digital is not difficult. You do not even need a scanner. Your phone can do.

Scan your documents into your computer. Or use your phone to take a photo and save as a file. There is a way to do this so it is not an image. Got to your Notes on the phone. Select the camera option and you will see "Scan Documents" Follow the steps and... walla.. you have a scanned document.
Find a cloud storage system (like Apple Storage or Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. or my favorite* where you own the storage) so you can save these documents and photos and organize them.

Organize for each member of the family or by subject. This is up to you. Make sure another family member who you trust can gain access if something physically happens to you.

I would still save the originals of the items you have to have for life. Just place it in a plastic Ziploc and then in the water/ fire proof container. Keep it in a safe place and remember where you placed it for easy access to grab and go.
Shred documents you do not need or are older than the time you need to hold them. They can contain pertinent information that can affect your security. If you do not have a shredder, take the papers to a Staples or Office Depot to shred for you. They usually price per pound.

And there you have it - an inexpensive and clutter-free way to save the most important documents in your family's life. I would love to see your before and after photos of the pile removal process and read your comments below.

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