Paper files: What do you really need to keep?

Did you know paper makes up the largest percentage of waste produced by Americans? Paper is also one of the hardest and most time-consuming items to organize and purge. It makes sense, 100 pieces of paper stacked take up just a very small amount of space while 100 of just about anything else is going to take up way more physical space. I’ve spent countless hours helping clients throw away things that they easily could have thrown away themselves at the moment it entered their home. The biggest offenders here being junk mail, monthly statements and magazines.

The main problem with paper is people just don’t know what they need to keep and what they don’t. Well fret no more! I’m here to help:

Here is what you need to keep- medical records, important documents like birth/marriage certificates, vehicle and home improvement receipts (only if you still own), tax records from the last three years (yes, three not seven, click here for the IRS’s official position) .

Here is what you don’t need to keep- everything else. No I’m not kidding. Yes, you may have a circumstance where you need to keep something that isn’t on the above list but there is really no reason at all to be keeping things like bank statements and old bills (as long as they have been paid). Once we start purging paper my clients are always surprised how much they were keeping for no reason at all. It can be really liberating when you throw out a file as thick as an encyclopedia of old Verizon receipts.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t keep more paperwork than this if you want to. Of course you will have stuff like memorabilia or you just might be more comfortable keeping your credit card statements for the current year. My point here is that you should really ask yourself why you are keeping your papers. If you have a good reason then go for it!

Okay, so now where do you start? Check out my article here which contains the basics on purging paperwork.

Leave a Comment