How to Declutter Paper and What to Keep

Last Updated on September 23, 2020 by Ellen Christian

Learning how to declutter paper is next on my list of things to do.  I have a small file cabinet that I keep my paperwork.  The truth is that it has been so full of paper that I have been just making piles of papers in other areas because there is no room.  I know that I don’t need to keep all of the papers I have.  I probably have bank statements that go back several (if not more) years.  I have instruction books and warranty paperwork for things I don’t even own any longer. This post contains affiliate links.

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How to declutter paper and what to keep

How to Declutter Paper

I primarily have old bank statements, annuity statements, tax paperwork and warranty information in the file cabinet.  I  know I don’t have to keep these things forever but what’s the real rule?  This information is my understanding. I am not an expert – just a busy mom trying to declutter her house. When in doubt, ask an accountant.

  • Bank statements:  Keep them for a year or two years if you are planning on applying for a loan or mortgage where you have to prove expenses. You can ask your bank for information past that point. Some banks charge a fee for old statements.
  • Annuity and Investment statements: Keep quarterly statements for one year until you get your annual report & then toss them.
  • Tax paperwork: The IRS has three years to challenge your taxes, BUT if they think you haven’t reported income, they have six years. Honestly, I keep these forever.
  • Warranty paperwork and instruction manuals: Toss the warranty information when the warranty has expired. Toss the instruction manual when you no longer own the item. For easy access, file these in a binder with sheet protectors. I just filed them all in one file folder since I rarely use them.

When deciding how to declutter paper, a lot will depend on how organized your paperwork is.  If you have piles all over the house, pick a room and start there. Bring all the paperwork to a central location in that room and divide it by type.  Make a pile of things you can toss like old magazines or newspaper, old sales circulars, junk mail, etc. Then separate the rest of the paperwork by type. Make a pile of bank statements, a stack of tax information, a stack for kid’s artwork, etc.  Now, what?

How to declutter paper and what to keep

  • Recycle anything non-sensitive: magazines, newspapers, junk mail, restaurant menus, kid’s papers you don’t want to keep, sales circulars, etc.
  • Alphabetize, put in chronological order or otherwise organize what you want to hold onto so you can access it quickly.  Label the folders, files, tabs, etc.
  • Anything that you want to get rid of that has sensitive information on it like account numbers, social security numbers, bank numbers, etc. should be shredded.

Now that you know how to declutter paper, do you need to do it at your house too?

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3 thoughts on “How to Declutter Paper and What to Keep”

  1. Oh my ~ I would be embarrassed for anyone to see the mountain of papers that I need to go through.  I think that it has gotten so high I just can find the motivation to go through it.  But the neat file drawer helps.  I have to go through my files to make room for some new ones!  Thanks for the tips.
  2. It is nice to get tips on paper clutter.  I never know what I should keep or what to get rid of and when.  My file cabinet is packed also.

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