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Monday, September 9, 2013

This 'n' That - Decluttering Paper


After I decluttered several magazines and catalogs, I had copies of Consumer Digest and a few Discipleship Journal magazines that I am keeping and needed to find room to store them out of sight, but still handy for referencing. So I then needed to make some room in a drawer of the filing cabinet. The most logical (so far) was the drawer where all the income tax files are. I still had every year of income tax papers from all the years since my husband Les and I were married, and that is almost 24 years ago! Time to get rid of all but the last 10 years. I can probably go even further and save only the last 5-7 years, but will go with 10 for now. It sort of gives me the heebee-jeebees to get rid of them, for fear that I will need them in the future (but never have so far).

Here is the stack I worked on.

And here is were that stack went:

And this is what I ended up with:

Two garbage bags full of shredded paper and enough room in the file drawer for those magazines. (maybe a picture of that drawer will be forthcoming after I have finished decluttering and organizing it, but I am not there yet.)

Today, as I write this, the garbage has been picked up by the city. I first dumped used cat litter in each bag, plus added all the other garbage for the week, dividing it all up between the two bags. I have read that it is a good idea to use the cat litter when disposing of personal information as well as old drugs, as that deters anyone from rummaging through the bags to dig them out. Never flush old drugs down the toilet as they then get into the city water treatment plant (or septic tank) and contaminates everything. Actually, the best way to dispose of old drugs is to take them to your pharmacy and they can dispose of them properly. 

Do you wonder what papers you need to keep and which ones you can toss? I can't always remember so have a list that I got from FlyLady. I know some of you are familiar with her. If not, check her out at flylady.net. She has a very good program for keeping house.

Here is her basic list of what to keep and for how long.




birth certificates
adoption papers
custody agreements
death certificates
deeds to property
divoce papers
list of previous employers
loans that have been paid off (canceled notes or other evidence)
marriage certificates
photographic or video record of house and household contents
record of any governmental employment (e.g., armed forces)
income tax returns (supporting documentation may be destroyed after 6 years)
tax forms and supporting records relating to non-deductible IRA contributions
tax forms and supporting records relating to sale of a home


bank statements: 6 years
brokers' confirmation slips for purchases until security is sold
canceled checks: 6 years
contracts: 7 years after expiration
credit card statments: 6 years
receipts for home improvements that can be added to tax basis of home
6 years after home is sold in a transaction that is not a "rollover" transaction
insurance papers (all types of insurance): 4 years after expiration
mortgage records: 3 years after paid off
owners' manuals for appliances: until item is discarded
receipts for major warranted purchases: until item is discarded or sold
records supporting income tax returns and deductions (W-2s, 1099s, receipts): 6 years
warranties and extended service agreements: until expiration

THROW AWAY (shred):
owners' manual and warranties for appliances and cars you no longer own
receipts for credit card purchases if not major or related to a tax deduction

I might also mention that most of the things on the 'KEEP' list should be kept in a bank deposit box, including house inventory.

The IRS website does offer a different length of time on tax papers so you may want to check there for more information. The above list is a good guideline to begin with.

Have I done everything on the list? I have to admit that I have not. But I need to. There goes my procrastination gene again. Maybe some day. . . . .


  1. 24 years of income tax files! How were you able to keep them intact for such long time? *salutes* The issue of storing against shredding financial documents is something serious. Ideally, three years is enough before you get rid of those papers. It is as tied to the IRS statue of limitations. All the same, your sense of organization is still matchless! Ruby@Williams Data Management

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ruby! Please read the other reply below.

  2. It is easy to keep them intact when you put everything in the large envelope from the CPA and put in the file in front of the last year. LOL I will eventually get back to that drawer and shred the rest of the old ones. I just wish the rest of my life was as well organized!!

    You should have seen the mess my husband had when we got married. He had about 40 years of tax papers in big boxes in the basement! He and his first wife were both self employed and had no filing system at all. When there were receipts and other papers that were needed for tax filing, they got thrown into a box throughout the year. Then the box was taken to their tax preparer to sort and try to figure it all out. I feel sorry for him!

    My husband was semi retired when we met so things weren't quite as bad, and then he fully retired. What a relief! I could almost do the taxes myself then, except for the complicated investments. Eventually I waded through all his old boxes and got rid of so much that I only had one box left, and filed in order. That was all gone before he passed away. It is very freeing to have paper clutter gone, so I will keep working on it.


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