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Love It or Lose It!

Organizing tipDo you love your stuff? If you don’t love it or use it, LOSE it!

Unfortunately during this pandemic many donation drop off locations are closed. So it is a bit more difficult to get rid of your unwanted things. My most recent blog, How To Get Rid of Stuff will provide you with some options and resources. Please stay healthy.

pile of papers on table

Paper: What to Keep and for How Long

A question I get asked all the time is, “What papers do I need to keep, and how long do I need to keep them?” So, in response to that I’ve come up with a list of paper retention guidelines. It will help you figure out what to keep and for how long. I must point out that I am not an accountant, CPA, lawyer, or tax specialist. This list is my recommendation, but you must always do what you feel most comfortable doing. If you have questions seek another opinion from one of the previously mentioned professionals.

Auto & other vehicles
Accident records – as long as you own vehicle
General maintenance receipts – 1 year
Insurance documents – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Insurance monthly payments – 1 year
Loan agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Loan payments – 1 year
Purchase agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Sales agreement – 3 years after sale of vehicle
Title -as long as you own vehicle
Warranted services – as long as you own vehicle

Bank
Account documents – for as long as you have account
ATM slips – verify against statement then shred
Check register – verify then shred
Loan documents – 3 year after loan has been paid
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years

Credit cards
Account documents – for as long as you have account
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years
Purchase receipts – verify against statement then shred, unless for warranty or taxes

Employment
Awards – individual preference
Certificates – keep until verified with employee records
Handbook – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Licenses & Contract – keep most recent 2 years and discard previous versions
Pay stubs – until end of year and verified by W2
Pension information – keep most recent 3 years and discard previous versions
Performance reviews – 5 years or job termination
Resume and references – individual preference
W2 and tips – 3 to 7 years or forever

Financial
Investment documents & IRAs – 3 to 7 years
Monthly or quarterly statements – 1 year, verify with year end statement
Purchase agreements – for duration of ownership
Sale agreements – 3 years after sale
Year-end statements – 3 to 7 years

Home Improvement
Instruction manuals – if used as long as you own product
Receipts for improvements & energy incentives – as long as you own home
Service contracts – as long as you have service
Warranties – as long as they are viable

Insurance (home owners, life, renters, supplemental, vehicles)
Policies – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Statements – 3 to 7 years

Mail
Advertisements – recycle
Announcements – recycle
Catalogues – 1 month then recycle
Circulars – 1 week then recycle
Correspondence – individual preference
Coupons/offers/promotions – use or recycle
Greeting cards – individual preference
Invitations – until event, then individual preference
Magazines – 1 month then recycle
Newsletters – 1 month then recycle
Newspapers – 1 week then recycle
Pledges – donate and keep for taxes or recycle
Solicitations – take action or recycle

Medical & Dental
Bills – 3 years after payment verification
Explanation of benefits – 6 months
Instructions – keep until no longer valid
Medication information and prescription slips – read then shred or keep until expired
Reference information – 5 years or until outdated
Routine visits receipts – 1 to 2 years
Surgery and special visits receipts – indefinitely or individual preference
*If you itemize your medical and dental expenses keep all supporting records for 3 to 7 years, including travel, parking and toll records.

Military
Admission papers – indefinitely
awards and honors – individual preference
Discharge – forever
Military ID – forever

Property/Real Estate
Deed – as long as you own
Lease agreement – as long as you lease
home improvement documents – until you sell
maintenance – 3 years
mortgage statements – 3 to 7 years
purchase and sale agreement – as long as you own

Purchases
Instructions – if used keep as long as own
Manual – if used keep as long as own
Sales receipt – recycle after decision to keep is made, unless for warranty
Warranty – keep for duration warranty

Taxes
Documents: 1099, 1095 and all forms, alimony, business income & expenses, charitable donations, child care & education expenses, excise tax, gambling, interest statements, investment papers, tax payments, real estate tax, refund receipts, tax return (federal and state), W2s
3 Years – IRS has 3 years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors, and you have 3 years to amend a return if you discover a mistake; therefore keep all tax returns, payment receipts, and supporting documents for at least 3 years.
7 Year – IRS has 6 years from your filing date to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25% or more
Forever – there is no limit if you failed to file a return or filed a fraudulent return

Utilities – electric, gas, internet, phone, other
Bills – verify then shred
Maintenance – 1 to 2 years
Warranties – until no longer valid

Vital documents
Birth and adoption certificate – forever
Death certificate – forever
Deeds – until sold
Divorce decree – forever
Estate-planning documents (health care proxy, life insurance, living will and will, Power of attorney, trusts) – update every 5 years
Passport – keep most recent
Marriage license – forever
Naturalization papers – forever
Social security card – forever
Titles – until sold

©February 2020   Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer   All Rights Reserved

Valentines and Sentimental Cards

Organizing tipI love giving and getting greeting cards in the mail. Valentine’s day is one occasion where I send hand-made cards. I recommend that those who receive them, display and enjoy them for 2 to 3 weeks. Then toss them. For those of us who want to preserve the cards, do so digitally. Take a photo of the cards, up-load them to the cloud, and revisit them every February 14th. This can be done with all sentimental cards.

3 Clutter Buster Tips

First of all, what is clutter? What does it look like to you? My definition of clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction. It’s piles of mail, heaps of clothes, and a tangled mess of adapters and earbuds. So how do we get rid of it?

Clutter buster tip #1

Reclaim order often and ask yourself two questions:

  1. What decisions do I need to make in order to get rid of this clutter?
  2. What actions do I need to take to reclaim order?

Reclaiming order is the process it takes for us to create order after we’ve made a mess of things. For example if all the laundry was clean and put away, how long would it take for more dirty laundry to appear?  Less than one day, right? That is natural disorder. We wear our clothes and get them dirty, and then they need to be laundered. Those three steps create the organizing flow (see diagram). The more often we complete the organizing flow circle, the less clutter and mess we have to address. I’m not recommending we do laundry every day, but I am recommending we do it often enough so it doesn’t become an overwhelming task. This organizing flow circle works for all areas of clutter, mail, clothes, cosmetics, tech paraphernalia, email, and the like. The key is to reclaim order in a timely manner so clutter doesn’t have a chance to grow and take root.

 

Clutter buster tip #2

Stop - Do not enter sign

Say No! and use gatekeeper questions.

A very effective way of reducing clutter is preventing it from coming into our homes in the first place. This is often easier said than done, but there are things we can do to stop clutter at the door. One option is to get removed from mailing lists, both electronic and snail mail. Use the national do not mail list. Another option is to see what makes up the piles of clutter and figure out who brings it into the house. Is it clothes, books, paper, or toys? Have the person responsible use a list of gatekeeper questions before bringing anything new into the house. These questions help determine the usefulness and practicality of items. Some examples are: Why are we buying you? What value will you add to our household? Where do we have a place for you? What will happen if we don’t buy you today? The point of these questions is to make you stop and think about what you’re bringing in before it gets to your door.

Clutter buster tip #3

tiny house key Adopt a return-home-routine.

Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes when you return home to take care of anything you brought home with you. I mean anything. Put your keys and handbag in a specific spot. Hang up your coat and put away your shoes. Take care of receipts, mail, and other items you carried in with you. Find a destination for any new purchases you bought. Do this every time you enter your home so it becomes a habit. This helps prevent piles of clutter from growing. We need to be diligent and have a do-it-now attitude, because clutter is a social creature and will attract other clutter if we let it.

 

©January 2020  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Loose 10lbs of Clutter

Happy Organizing in 2020!

Wishing you a very happy new year!

How are you? Is your new year off to a good start? I hope so. Although I’ve had a bit of a head cold, I’m gearing up for a great year. This January marks my 12th year in business and I thank you for your support and patronage throughout the years.

Ready to Get Organized in 2020?

Follow this path to success…