Paper sorting is a dreadful, time-consuming ordeal. Not to mention if you have downsized your desk, workspace at home. This downsizing can make it challenging to know what to keep and what to trash. Here are 9 Tips on How to Sort through your Papers and Mail, as well as ground rules on what you should keep and what you should shred or recycle before you move.

9 Tips on How to Sort through your Papers and Mail

9 Tips on How to Sort through your Papers and Mail

These are all Keepers

1. Official Record

These consists of hard to replace recirds likevyour birth and death certificates, adoption papers marriage licenses, divorce decrees, estate plans, Social Security cards, passports, records of paid mortgages and military discharge papers.

Some states, 17 to be exact, are the only ones you can replace your social security card online. All the other states require you to go into the office, carry a whole lot of supporting documents to replace.

2. Motor Vehicle and Motor Cycle Documents

If you have a car loan, ensure you keep the loan papers until the loan is fully paid for. Keep in an easily accessible place, your car insurance for your vehicles. According to consumer reports keep all receipts of bike purchases along with all repairs and maintenance. This will aid in the resale of your asset. Your ability to show your potential buyer the service history will go over better in negotiations.

Trash These

What is wrong with us? We keep so many papers with just the, “I may need this later” mentality. As such we have a bunch of junkie papers that are cluttering our lives and creating a nice haven for bugs. Get rid of them, through them in the trash!

3. Financial Account Statements

Sign up for electronic statements, full stop. In this day and age save the trees and ensure that you are reducing your negative impact on the environment. Records for your accounts can be accessed by the bank at your request. Keep a hard copy of your account number, customer service phone number, user ID and password.

To avoid identity theft, never save this information on your computer’s hard disk or in email. Instead, consider using an external memory source such as an external hard drive or a USB drive. Another option is to place this information, whether in a paper printout or an electronic storage device, in a home safe. 

In my 18 Month Planner, there is a Password Log that can help with saving your information. Download it free here.

If you are not comfortable going paperless, I recommend that you keep your year-end statements but shred your monthly and quarterly statements.

4. Appliance Manual

If you are like me I never ever ever ever ever look at the darn thing! Throw them away. Most appliances have a sticker somewhere that will have a model number and so forth. As well as care and usage information can be found online.

5. Credit Card Statement & Utility Bills

Once you start getting an electronic bank statement, you can now request that you get your utility bills and credit statements via email as well. You can set up to have your bills paid electronically from your online banking portal. You only need to keep credit card and utility bills for tax purposes. Again ensure you keep account number, customer service phone number and website login information in a secure place, such as a safe and grab the FREE PRINTABLE LOG SHEET in the Chic 18 Month Planner.

6. Komono/Miscellaneous

Here is when you get creative. We all have papers that dont fall into any real category. Jury duty request, frequent flyer number, supermarket receipts. If you have gotten comfortable going paperless, you can take pics or scan them and store them in a folder or start a miscellaneous folder for these papers. Taking a photo will be most effective because over time some inks fade.

Optional: Toss or Not to Toss

7. Pet Records

You can decide whether or not you want to throw out pet records. Your veterinarian should have your pets medical records on file. If you do need them, scan into your computer, toss the originals as recycle paper.

8. Medical Records

There is no need to cart this information around either. You can decide whether or not you want to keep them, again your doctor or the hospital will keep records. Oh, I do suggest keeping electronic copies, again scan your records along with any payment information and keep on an external drive to reduce the risk of identity theft.

9. Personal Tax Returns.

According to the IRS, in most cases, personal tax returns should be saved for three years. However, special circumstances might require you to save your returns for up to seven years. Check IRS.gov or talk to a tax professional for specific examples that might apply to you. When given clear guidelines, you can feel confident about getting rid of any tax returns and supporting documents that are older than three to seven years.

How to Get Rid of Documents Effectively

I suggest you get a paper shredded. Tearing with your hands may not be effective enough. If you have a grill or fireplace you can also burn them, of course be careful when doing so.