A Place for Everything: Decluttering Your Papers

 Hello Readers!  So, this past weekend my husband Ryan and I finished up working on our office decluttering and began on our master closet focus of our declutter project of the year.  Wow!  What a difference it has made in our lives!  So far, we have gotten rid of so much excess stuff, and our paper collection is down to about ten percent of what it was before.  So, let me get into what we’ve kept and what we tossed.

First of all, I was always a stickler for keeping at least one year’s worth of old paper bills “just in case”.  I kept them in my really cute fabric filing cabinet from Thirty One Gifts, and I tried to stay on top of it.  From my former employment with a rental car company, I knew that there may come a time when my current and paid-in-full bills from my utility companies may come in handy as they would be useful in providing sufficient credit examples for renting a car with a debit card.  This is a necessary requirement in our area with rental car companies, and so I’ve always kept copies of my bills.  And then, something hit me a few weeks ago.

I was paying my bills online like I always do when I remembered that I could access all of my billing statements from the previous year in my online accounts.  I had known about this before, but I never thought much about it, partially because I didn’t have a printer at that time.  But this revelation hit me when I realized that our household has way too much stuff.  So that got me rethinking my process.

I mean, why am I hanging onto these useless documents when I can just as easily access them when I need them?  Especially now that I have a working printer again.

And so, the bills had to go.  In one afternoon, we overheated our document shredder twice just getting rid of the excess paperwork we had in our filing system.  Gone were the previous year’s utility bills.  Gone were the medical receipts and statements we kept from our son Sean’s birth, which had been kept for over a year in case of a discrepancy from our previous health insurance provider.  I realized that the excess papers just bogged me down.  While I would love to say that I was always on top of the stacks of mail, it didn’t always happen that way.

And after shredding the excess documents, getting rid of the filing system, and sticking to my virtual access, I felt like a huge weight had been taken from my shoulders.  For one thing, even though all that paper was organized in our filing cube, getting rid of it freed up some much needed space in our office area.  Secondly, it forced me to evaluate my system and decide on a new one.

After all, why should I keep the statements after I’ve paid the bill or the payment has been processed through our bank account?

And so, after careful consideration, we changed our system.  As mail is collected each day, we keep in the same location until the payments are made.  Luckily for us, we only receive one paper statement; our other bills, including my student loans, are all paperless at this time.  Once our payments are made, then I will shred the papers.  I figure that this will mean I will need to shred our excess papers just once a month.  Aside from our bills, we only receive roughly two or three credit card offers per month.  So, shredding our documents once a month is sufficient for our household.

As for the rest of the mail, our system is fairly easy.  We only keep the ads for the main store we visit each week.  I rarely even look at other stores’ ads.  I know that this may seem counterintuitive for some penny pinchers.  However, our favorite store has great deals every week, and our average spent at this store is close to what we would pay at a large superstore like Wal Mart or Target.

So, we don’t keep the other stores’ ads.  We also tend to toss junk mail as soon as it comes in our home.  I can’t believe how many “Current Resident” letters we get from cable providers, phone providers, and carpet cleaning companies!  And for our household these advertisements are obsolete.  And so we automatically toss these since our names are not listed on them.

Now, as for the documents we’ve kept, we’ve kept the most important documents only.  Our legal documents, like birth certificates, tax documents, insurance paperwork, banking accounts and financial statements, car titles, and anything that is necessary for legal purposes.  All of these documents were placed in our fire safe, as well as our photo albums and wedding mementos, sentimental papers, and baby book.

And we have not regretted this decluttering, nor have we seen a drawback to it.  If anything, it has actually motivated us to continue on this trend with our master closet and the rest of our home.  And we actually love our lack of paper clutter in our home.

So, I highly recommend that you also start shredding your old bills and unnecessary documents.  Ensure that any documents still on hand have been settled and are no longer needed, such as old medical paperwork that no longer matters or extremely old taxes that are more than ten years old.  Be sure to keep the most pertinent and legal information, but take the time to clear the excess paperwork from your house today.  It is definitely worth the space it leaves behind.

Until next time,

-BBM

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