Organizing Tips

Jan 28

Paper: What to Keep and How Long to Keep It

Have you tried to get a handle on your paper clutter, only to freeze when you realize you don’t know what to keep and what to toss? Here’s a fairly comprehensive guide* for how long to keep certain documents. When in doubt, ask yourself “how will I use this?” If you can’t come up with a good, plausible situation, it can probably exit your life.

*I’m not a financial professional; check with your tax or financial advisor to be totally sure of what you can let go.

Keep Forever

  • Identity documents like birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, Social Security cards
  • Proof of ownership (as long as you own it) like house, auto, mortgage, and initial insurance documents
  • Tax returns (toss documentation after 7 years)
  • Estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Military discharge papers
  • Medical records
  • Annual investment statements (keep until you sell the investments, then store them with your 7 years worth of tax documentation)

Keep for 1 Year (or less)

  • Bank and credit card statements: for most banks and credit cards, you can get at lest the past years’ statements online, so just go paperless and don’t worry about it!
  • Pay stubs
  • Explanation of health benefits

Keep Until The Next One Comes

  • Social Security statements, which are now online as well
  • Insurance statements
  • Investment statements (monthly or quarterly; see above for annual statements)
  • Retirement plan statements

Get Rid of It Now!

  • Receipts for anything that you can’t return or write off
  • ATM slips, if the balance is correct


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