Paper, Paper Everywhere!

Paper is everywhere.  Even in our technological world.  Mail. Letters. Ads. Coupons. Magazines. Books. Receipts.

There are two major traps that befall those of us surrounded by paper: 1) Keeping things we can actually get rid of - just in case and 2) Keeping things to read.....someday.....

Keeping things we can actually get rid of:  The IRS has a lot to do with what I recommend everyone keep.  They suggest you keep some items related to the taxes filed each year.  However, it's a pretty long document to sift through, at seven pages.  Still, it is specific enough to state not only what to keep, but how long to keep it.  Remember to shred and not toss the things related to your taxes, when the time comes to get rid of it.

Consumer Reports breaks it down a little more easily for us. 
Keep for 1 year or less:
  • Bank records (checking and savings)
  • Credit card bills (for non-tax related expenses)
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment Statements
  • Pay stubs
  • Receipts
Keep for a limited time:
  • Large purchases for the home
  • Investment purchases
  • Loan documents
  • Savings Bonds
  • Vehicle records
Never get rid of:
  • Defined benefit plan docs
  • Estate planning
  • Life insurance
  • Safe deposit box inventory
Forbes and The NY Times also have some good information available on what to keep and how long.  Always check with your accountant, lawyer and/or tax preparer to make sure guidelines are specific to your situation.

Keeping things to read....someday......  In a perfect world, everyone would have more than enough time to read and absorb all the things we'd like to.  But, those magazines, articles and books stack easily, don't they?  Let's start with items that are hanging around because you'd like to remember the information available in it (opposed to stories, etc.).  Ask your self two questions: 1) Am I still interested in reading about this topic?  2) Can I find this information somewhere else? Keep in mind, there's the library and the Internet - both a wealth of information!

What about the things that just look like a good read?  Stories, novels, something for fun?  Again, two questions to ask yourself: 1) Am I still interested in reading this story?  Maybe your interests have changed since it was added to the pile.  2) Do I have the time to give to this article?  With the free time I have available, do I want to spend it reading this?  Perhaps yes, perhaps no.  Be realistic, too.  Be realistic about how long it would take you to finish the article or story, and be realistic about how much time you have to commit.

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