The quickest way I know to organize old papers is to categorize them using the broadest category as possible to sort the papers.
For example, bank statements would be filed by bank and year. (Example: Suntrust/2011) Put all of your bank statements into a shoe-box or a file folder marked with the year and store it in an out of the way place because you probably won’t need them unless you are audited. Then after 7 years passes, you can shred the statements. (Disclaimer: consult your accountant first.)
Tax returns – Put all back-up documents into one big manila envelope. Write the year on the envelope. Put the envelope into a big box with other tax year envelopes.
Receipts for things you own – Make a file called “Receipts”. Put your receipts init by year with the oldest in the back. If you don’t own the item anymore, toss the receipt.
Paid bills – If you’re not saving them for taxes, what are you saving them for? Shred ‘em.
Investments – Save for the life of the investment + seven years. Make a file or box for each investment account. Put the statements in the box by year, oldest to newest.
Medical records – Make files for each person in your family and put their medical records in there (not the insurance explanation of benefits). Only keep paperwork that indicates when you’ve had shots, procedures or tests done, the results, and other medical information.
Personal keepsakes and memorabilia – Get a big plastic bin with a lid (like this Rubbermaid Clever Store bin pictured here) Put your keepsakes in it for reviewing later.
When going through the papers, always ask yourself why you are keeping them at all.
Have a shredder nearby as many of these papers have personal information and account numbers.
And most of all, keep it simple if you want it to go quickly.
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