If you have a stack of papers piling up in your house and it’s taking up too much space, it may be time to go through them and clear some space. Just like going through items, deciding what to do with certain papers can be difficult. Therefore, we have created this guide to help you decide whether you should shred it, scan it or store it.
The first step you should take is to collect organizational items to help you sort your papers. File cabinets, folders, hanging file folders, label makers, writing utensils, and post-its will all help you organize papers that you intend to keep. A scanner, computer, and flash drive will help you virtually store copies of significant papers. A recycling bin and shredder will help you properly rid of the papers you no longer need. Also, be sure to clear an open workspace to help you organize your papers into various categorical piles.
It’s easy to accumulate a large pile of papers when you’re worried you will need one as soon as you throw it away. To reach your goal of creating more space, though, you will need to get rid of as many of the papers in your pile as possible. If you do not have a shredded, you can simply rip the paper into smaller pieces. Just be sure that any personal information is no longer readable. This way, if anyone comes across the thrown away paper, they cannot steal your information. Getting rid of papers can be difficult because certain papers need to be kept for a certain amount of time before they can be thrown away. Here is a brief guide of papers that can be thrown away and how long you should wait before you throw them away.
Throw Away Now
- Junk Mail – Advertisements, catalogs, expired coupons, expired appointment reminders.
- Unimportant Receipts – Don’t throw away important receipts for warranties, proofs of purchase, taxes, etc.
- Quick Reminder Notes or Shopping Lists – Keep lists on your phone instead. It will save paper.
Throw Away Monthly or Annually
- Bank and Investment Statements – If you want to save paper, try signing up for electronic statements.
- Pay Stubs – These can usually be shredded once you are finished with your taxes.
Throw Away Long Term
- Loan Contracts – Should be kept as long as you are paying off the loan.
- Repair Records for Your Home and Car – Should be kept as long as you own the house and should be passed on to the next owner after you sell the house.
- Membership Documents – Should be kept for as long as you are a member.
- Rental Contracts – Can be shredded after the period of rental ends.
- Service Contracts for Cable, Electric, Etc. – Should be kept until the contract expires.
- Warranties – Should also be kept until they expire.
- Your Pet’s Medical and Ownership Records – Should be kept for as long as you have the pet.
Scanning allows you to keep a document’s information without the paper taking up space. Many companies are now turning to digital receipts and communication to help preserve the earth. Try converting your important papers to digital forms so that you can both clear up space in your home and help protect our forests. Here is a list of documents you can scan in and save to your computer:
- Tax Returns – Should be on file in case the IRS wants to audit your taxes.
- Tax Documents – Save anything that gives evidence of statements you make on your tax return such as receipts, credit card statements, donation records, bank statements, etc.
- Annual Investment Statements – If you’re saving for retirement, a college fund, etc., save records of these investments in case any issues arise.
- Pension Documents – Keep these in case an issue arises.
- Social Security Statements – Be sure to store this information in a place that is not easily accessible.
- Old Photos – If you have old family photos you can scan them in so you have a backup in case something happens to the originals.
Many papers in your pile are likely to be important original documents that you definitely don’t want to throw away. You may want to use color coded sticky notes to help organize these papers into separate categories so you can easily store it in separate folders later. Here is a list of types of documents you should store:
- Estate Documents – Wills, insurance policies, powers of attorney, health proxies, etc.
- Loan and Mortgage – Keep statements from all the loans you have paid off or are still paying.
- Military Service Records – Serving in the military is an honorable feat, so keep proof of your service.
- Medical Records – You never know when you will need them so remember where you stored them.
- Important Certificates – Birth, death, marriage, divorce, or even just awards from school, work or a club you are a member of.
- Social Security Cards – Keep these in a very safe where no one can steal the information.
- Titles and Deeds – Keep these to prove ownership for as long as you own valuable items such as a car or house.
- Old Photos – Someday your children may want to know about their family history and you should store your old photos to show them later.
- Projects Your Kids Made for You – Keeping special cards, drawings, etc. that your children make for you shows you care, so keep a few special ones.
If you don’t have room in your home to store all of your documents, you may want to look into using DAK Self Storage in Leesport, Pennsylvania. They have a variety of storage units in different sizes and with different features. Some features available at DAK Self Storage include swing door or roll-up door, indoor or outdoor units, and climate control units. If you are storing very important papers, be sure to put them in a locked safe so they cannot be stolen. It is also a good idea to put the most valuable items in the back of your storage unit. This makes it more difficult for robbers to get to.
If you live in Berks County near Leesport or Reading and need a place to store your items while you are moving or just trying to do some cleaning, DAK Self Storage can help. To view available units, follow this link: https://ecom.quikstor.com/dakselfstorage/ShowAvailableUnits.aspx