Did you know that October is National Clean Out Your Files Month? Yahoo! A great way to celebrate would be to do a little home office organizing and purge all of the papers you don’t need or want…the papers that are getting in the way whenever you’re looking for something you do need or want. While the option to scan papers has been around for a while, I find that paper pile ups are still pretty common.
Studies show that individuals lose an average of 30 minutes per day looking for papers and files. That adds up to 10 hours of lost time per month. Boo! That’s no fun!
A common glitch in purging papers during home office organizing projects is not knowing what to keep and what to toss. It’s always best to check with your legal and tax representatives for the precise answers for your situation, but below are a few general tips:
What you truly need to keep:
Proof of identity
Proof of ownership – home, auto, high value items for insurance purposes
Proof of correct tax return numbers/calculations
Proof of legal, tax, government, investment and real estate transactions that still affect you today
Proof of identity and status – social security cards, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates, etc.
Keep for 7 years for tax/IRS purposes:
All supporting documents used in filing your returns
(Technically, you only need to save docs for three years, but if you get audited and the IRS questions anything, they can ask for up to seven years of documents.)
Legal documents with original signatures
Real estate transaction documents with original signatures
What you can toss:
Papers that don’t fall into one of the above categories
Papers/information you can access online
Papers you’ve already scanned (and have a digital backup)
Once you decide what you can purge, how can you get your shredding done in a hurry?
You can take your papers to a shredding company.
You can drop off your papers at big box office supply stores that offer shredding services. (Note that many contract with the shredding companies for pick-ups, so you need to ensure that your papers will be in a locked container until pick up.)
You can look for a free shred day in your area. Popular months for the free shred day events are:
January – National Get Organized Month
April – usually the first Saturday after April 15 (tax day)
October – National Clean Out Your Files Month, National Secure your ID day, and October 15 is a tax deadline for many companies and individual with extensions. As of this writing there is one free shred day event in the San Antonio area on October 11, 2014. Details are here.
And as long as you’re in your office area digging out papers to get rid of, consider also parting with office supplies and furniture you no longer utilize. Goodwill would be happy to take those off your hands! Your donations fund job training and veterans assistance programs.
Happy Space Creating!
Image by © StacyMorrison/zefa/Corbis