Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Purge-athon Part 4: Paper Clutter

I hate mail.  I love my shredder.  A lot of churches and synagogues in my area recycle paper to raise funds.  Therefore part of my Purge-athon resulted in this ----------------------------->

Yes, folks.  Three -- count'em -- three 33-gallon trash bags of shredded paper went from my home to a local recycling bin where finally they are doing some good.  Given that volume, one might think Granny hasn't a firm grip on the problem of her family's paper clutter.  One would be right about that!

This problem has two facets:
  1. Granny gets way too much mail and is much too paranoid to throw it away.
  2. GrandDad Fabuloso thinks it's cool to hang onto a copy of every bill he ever paid.

The solution to the first problem is easy:

Any catalog, advertisement, insurance quote offer, etc. that comes to my house -- and likely to all my neighbors, too -- goes straight into a paper bag.  When the bag is full, I put it in the car and drop by one of the local recycling bins some time when I'm out and about.

The problem is the scary mail:  the credit card solicitations, loan offers, "convenience checks," notices about my car warranty, basically anything that is targeted directly at me by people who are trying to sell me something I don't want.  Whatever information these people have about me that makes them think they understand my needs and desires is not information I intend to share with the rest of the world via my garbage can.  So I shred it.  When I get around to it.  And that's the problem:  I just don't get around to it often enough, resulting in, well, you can see for yourself.

In Purge-athon Part 3 I discussed dealing with general clutter.  So, having eliminated all clutter from my laundry room, I have now made the laundry counter the permanent home of my trusty shredder.  And I now shred the scary mail the minute it comes into the house.

The solution to the second problem is also easy:

This is just a nice way of saying "throw his useless old stuff out whether he likes it or not."  If he protests, just tell him the government said you have to.  Seriously, here it is:

The following document retention information is provided by the U.S. government.  For more such information, follow this link.

DocumentHow Long to Keep It
Bank statements1 year, unless needed to support tax filings
Birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, passports, education records, military service recordsForever
ContractsUntil updated
Credit card recordsUntil paid, unless needed to support tax filings
Home purchase and improvement recordsAs long as you own the property
Household inventoryForever; update as needed
Insurance, lifeForever
Insurance, car, home, etc.Until you renew the policy
Investment statementsShred your monthly statements; keep annual statements until you sell the investments
Investment certificatesUntil you cash or sell the item
Loan documentsUntil you sell the item the loan was for
Real estate deedsAs long as you own the property
Receipts for large purchasesUntil you sell or discard the item
Service contracts and warrantiesUntil you sell or discard the item
Social Security cardForever
Social Security statementWhen you get your new statement online, shred the old one
Tax records7 years from the filing date
Vehicle titlesUntil you sell or dispose of the car
WillUntil updated

So now I have a system in place.  I file anything I need to keep for more than a year, noting the "keep until" information on the file folder.  Anything that is only good for the current year goes into a box to be shredded next year.

As God is my witness, I will never be a paper hoarder again.  Not me nor any of mine will ever be paper hoarders again.  Fiddle-dee-dee.

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