In writing this new series of “Decluttering” the first topic is the dreaded….. “TAXES“, yes I said it, Taxes. We do only have 3 1/2 months to get them ready, but why wait till April 13th when January is the perfect month to start the de-cluttering process in your own office.
After you get all the Christmas decorations put away and throw the rest of the candy out to stick with your losing weight resolution (all our candy went out the 2nd, it felt GREAT) make some time to get to your office and start going through your files. One by one, get them out and go through everything for 2011. As you go through them you’ll start thinking of how you want to organize yourself better.
If you’re really wanting to clean out your files but you think you need to keep some papers, if your printer has a scanner, scan them. Create a file with the year and title EX: 2009 Tax Returns, 2010 Investment statements with a scanner and your computer (depending on the amount of memory), you can store everything on your computer. Always remember to back up your files so they’re saved in two places.
What to keep: Tax Returns- especially if you had to pay the IRS any amount of money. You want to keep those documents & the proof that you paid them. ALWAYS keeps records if you had to pay. Save your property records & Loan records. If you pay off your mortgage (YEAH) you’ll want to keep those records for at least 7-10 years. State agencies & Financial Institutions do make mistakes, so you’ll want to keep proof that it was paid off. You’ll want to keep your warranty information. These have different terms, so in my filing cabinet, each vehicle has its own file, everything from oil changes, licensing, insurance, parts all go in to that specific vehicle folder.
What can you TOSS in the shred bin, NOT the garbage can. Tax advisers say you only need to keep things for 4-7 years. Your old utility bills after 2 years, you don’t need to keep the tax reference book from 1998, all of those are online, toss them out. That alone will save you a drawer in your filing cabinet. Do you really need to keep all those magazines? NO, toss them in the recycling bin. When my parents moved my sister & I found my mom’s magazine stash, she had Better Homes and Gardens magazine that dated all the way back to….. 1980.
She said “I’ll read them”, we both said ” No you won’t” and tossed them out. The best part about all those magazines is, they’re online whenever you want to read them. One of the BIGGEST things we have in our filing cabinet is Owners Manuals from baby items to power tools. I have 4 huge files JUST for manuals. I thought the other night, do we still have some of the items. I went through them and got rid of 1 file folder, we didn’t have those items anymore.
January is the month of Junk. Spend a little time each day if you can to get in your office and get it done. The only time I can get in my office without a mess is when I put my youngest down for a nap & my oldest gets to play his favorite game on pbskids. I get to spend from 30 minutes to an hour going through things. I have 2 piles so far, 1 is for shred, and the other is for my husband to look through since the receipts are mostly for car parts & hunting. Get in your office and start de-junking.