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How long to keep papers?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
We have a TON of papers in our office. My friend is coming over to help me with organizing the office, but I am curious about how long stuff should be kept. I am tired of having a ton of papers and I know a lot needs to be shredded and we are planning on scanning the rest (to make pitching it easier) and to keep the clutter down.

Thanks!
post #2 of 7
Heres just one list on what to keep, if you do a search you'll pull up different ones, but generally they are all about the same. I just started the process of creating a new filing system this video since ours was no longer suiting our needs. So far I am loving the simplicity of it. I have yet to file all the permanent stuff, but just knowing I have a system to the madness is helping. You have a great friend to be willing to pitch in time to help with such a task!
post #3 of 7
I keep tax records for seven full years.

I keep medical records forever, although I pitch out the clerical fluff once a year.

I keep our loan records until the loan is paid in full and we receive confirmation of such. (We refinanced our mortgage earlier this summer and I just shredded all the previous mortgage docs last month.)

I only keep the annual statements for investments permanently, but save whatever they send me during the year until I go through all the files once a year in February.

Some receipts are kept long-term (durable goods or quirky interests).

Most everything else is stopped before it gets in the door or is recycled/shredded each week when I do our family finances (after I confirm proper charges/credits and reconcile).

What a great friend!!
post #4 of 7
i'm like sunny, there. i keep certain receipts long term--like for warranties on electronics--with those papers, which are kept in a specific file where all electronics papers are kept. but, i don't have many of those.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks! The Freedom Filer system looks interesting. I am not sure how it would work with my scanning plans, but it definitely is cool. Right now, I am still going through papers. It is a mess. There area a LOT of them

And yes, my friend is awesome. Actually 2 friends. One watched all the kids (her 2, my 1, and the organizing friend's 1), while the other helped me out. DS did not get a nap for the day, but he did ok (although was a bit crazy by the end of the day - hopefully, he will sleep well). They are coming back Monday for another small session and I hope to get through more of the papers by myself beforehand.

Do you guys keep all this stuff in folders or do some of them go into binders or scanned electronically? I am really liking the idea of having most of this stuff on my computer (and backup drive!) so that the amount of paper running around is minimal.
post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Climbergirl View Post
Thanks!

Do you guys keep all this stuff in folders or do some of them go into binders or scanned electronically? I am really liking the idea of having most of this stuff on my computer (and backup drive!) so that the amount of paper running around is minimal.
We have one lateral file drawer at the bottom of an Ikea custom cabinet (the upper cabinet holds all our office supplies and has doors). I have the hanging file folders for each main topic, such as Bank, Medical, Receipts, Taxes, etc. Within each hanging folder, I have a file folder for each company/category/person (depending on the main topic). I don't keep a whole lot of paper stuff, so it fits easily and is easy to manage. Just takes a few minutes each week when I do the family finances.

I don't bother scanning stuff because the time it takes to scan it and organize it on the computer and then manage it (saving/retrieving/deleting) as needed takes me a lot longer than just putting the piece of paper in the drawer.

When DH or I purchase something online or receive electronic bills, we don't bother printing those out. We have a place to save those in our respective email programs (if received via email) or a file elsewhere for easy retrieval when/if needed. All of our computers get backed up regularly in several ways.

You may want to think about this issue in reverse to truly wrap your head around the big picture. Where is all the paper coming from? Why is it such a big issue in your life? What is your daily/weekly/monthly routine regarding paper? Once the backlog is taken care of, do you have an EASY, DOABLE routine/solution for keeping it current and never developing a backlog again? How much time do you have to devote to a routine? Does your plan meet your time availability? (No need to answer here; just some food for thought.)

I recommend a multi-prong approach to truly solve the paper dilemma:
1) Remove yourself from as many mailing lists as possible. Keep the unwanted stuff from ever entering your life. Take the time to make the phone calls required. I promise you it is worth it!
2) Think about the points of entry for paper into your life. How often do you get the mail? Do your kids bring stuff home from school? Who else contributes to the paper influx? DO YOU HAVE A CENTRAL PLACE TO HANDLE IT ALL???
3) Work on systems to process the paper as soon after it enters your home as possible. Whoever physically walks it inside should get rid of the fluff instantly and then place the important part in the holding spot for when it can be properly handled. Anything that CAN be handled right then, DO IT.
4) Set aside regular time to handle the paper that cannot be handled immediately. Take it through to completion (shredding or filing or recycling/trash) each time or as often as possible. Don't pile stuff for "later". Even if you only have time to do a few items, do those few all the way to getting rid of the paper (scan and toss, if that is your plan, or file it away).

Best wishes!
post #7 of 7
i have a box/basket that is not very large, and in it i have accordion files that have their labels. the largest is the one for taxes, which has the dates on it for this year (which will be filed next), last year, and seven years back. each year's taxes are put into a file envelope and clearly labelled. so, it is easy to grab. I have another accordion file for medical, another for the household bills that are paid monthly (these then get filed with taxes when they have been paid). We have another file for business receipts and invoices and the like, which gets turned over to the accountant every two months anyway.

So, we don't actually have a ton of files or paper really, or at least, not at the amounts i'm used to since my husband used to be far more paper-heavy. now we are serious paper conservers!

We also don't scan everything. we started to, but it became too much for me to manage easily, so instead we just put it into our balance sheets that we then pass on to the accountant via email (if he prints it out, it's up to him--we send all of our business invoices to him via email as well. anything we can avoid printing, we do).

That's us. keep it simple.
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