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No matter who you are or what you do, we are all bombarded with paper; junk mail, bills, magazines, newspapers, memos, reports… It’s endless! So what should you do to regain control over your environment and your sanity? By following these simple rules, you can permanently reduce your stacks and piles.

How long do I have to keep it?

The best way to start getting organized is simply to purge what you don’t need any more. Consider these questions when you’re unsure whether to toss or save;

• Is the information RELEVANT to my life, personal interests or job?

• Has the information become outdated? Can I find a more CURRENT document?

• How easy would it be to REPLACE this information later?

• What is the WORST THING that could happen if I got rid of it?

The last question can be a complicated issue. There are some documents that you MUST keep forever, like income tax returns, stock records, and retirement and pension records. You should check with your accountant or attorney before pitching out any important legal, business, or financial paperwork. It’s a good idea to reference Business Retention Guidelines for specific guidelines on how long to hang on to certain documents.


Safely Disposing of Paper

Once you put anything in the trash it becomes public property – a scary thought! To protect yourself against identity theft, which unfortunately is a very costly and growing crime, be sure to dispose of your important records properly. Any piece of paper that contains account numbers, your social security number or other sensitive information should be shredded.

Heading it off at the Pass

 Americans receive approximately 1,500 to 1,800 pieces of junk mail every year! It’s easy to see how kitchen countertops can get cluttered in no time. You can request to have your name removed from junk mailing lists that solicitors buy – effectively reducing the junk mail that comes to your door by 75 percent. And remember to shred anything with any of your personal information on it.

Storing it

So now that you’ve reduced the amount of paper you receive from other people, what do you do with the rest of it? Store your paper documents in a binder with tabs or a filer, so they are organized and easy to find. Consider scanning less frequently used documents and arranging them on your computer to save space.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll quickly see your stacks and piles disappear. And if you spend a few minutes a week on maintenance, they’ll stay away forever.


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