We feel it's safe to say that when one thinks of paper clutter, feelings of anxiety arise. Maybe even visions of pure torment from sitting down with piles of papers surrounding you as if to consume your entire being. A little dramatic sounding, I know. Just trying to drive home the point of how horrible paper clutter can get. It's often an area we get a lot of requests for help in.
So we thought we would share some unfussy, simple techniques for you to implement in your war against paper clutter. We are happy to have our friends from Carefully Counted, an awesome accounting firm, share some tips they have on what docs to keep for tax seasons and how long!
To keep things simple, we would like to share our formula for a successful paper declutter and organization.
- We start the process with the BIG paper declutter first! You must start here, organizing it all comes at the end. Grab a cup of coffee and put some music on, this one will take some time. Filter through each and every piece.
- Create three piles : To File, Recycle, Shred
- Sit with your stack of papers and filter through each piece and place them into the appropriate pile. It's a necessary step to take to see what categories you will need to create.
- Now that you have your "To File" stack ready, you can begin separating those into categories. For example "Home Mortgage" or "Rental Agreements", "Health Insurance" or simply "Car" which could include , Insurance, registration, Title, Smog checks. You get the idea.
- Last step will be to label and file away into your, hopefully small, filing box!
As we will soon learn, there are very few hard copies we do need to keep these days! SO EXCITING!
We talked with Delaney, the founder of Carefully Counted, to verify which docs to hang on to and for how long. She also shared with us her personal favorites for storing important documents to insure they do not go missing and some tips on how to get organized for tax season!
Humble & Grand: What are the most important documents to keep hard copies of and for how long?
Carefully Counted: You have to keep all supporting documents used to complete your tax return. You need to be able to support your income and expenses in case of an audit. Yes, unfortunately, this does include receipts. The good news is, in most cases, you only have to hold onto these for 3 years. Now is a perfect time to sort through all your old tax documents and get rid of anything older than 3 years!
H&G: How do you suggest keeping receipets organized from the year?
C.C: Well, start by going through and getting rid of any receipts that will not be used for tax purposes. Thankfully that is probably a majority of them. Then once you have the necessary receipts I suggest organizing your receipts electronically. This would mean gathering your receipts that are already digital and taking photos of the ones that are not. Once you have them all compiled start saving them in a convenient location. This way when tax time comes, you will not have to spend days sorting through crumpled receipts and you will not miss any valuable write-offs.
H&G: What can be kept paperless and what should remain paper?
C.C.: You have no reason to keep any paper copies of really anything... and bonus points the IRS is totally okay with digital records as long as it's legible. Paper creates clutter and adds unnecessary stress to our lives. So, it's totally okay to store your documents in a digital format and throw the hard copy away!!!
H&G: Do you have any favorite apps or programs for keeping your bills, receipts, and other important items contained and organized?
C.C: As a small business owner, I am a huge fan of Quickbooks or Freshbooks which allows you to keep digital copies of receipts and bills all in one place. These accounting softwares have an amazing app that has a receipt capture feature where you simply take a photo and it stores the receipt for you to reference back later.
So, as you can see, Paper clutter does not need to exist any longer. Tackle this project once, set yourself up with a new system, where very little paper even exists! Clutter truly does cause us feelings of anxiety and clouds our thinking. When we free ourselves of these unnecessary items we make more room for important things, we have more clarity and feel more stillness.