Tidying Up Financial Clutter

Spark joy by parting with all those old statements, tax returns, and utility bills.

You just watched the show with that organizing consultant who helps
people de-clutter their lives. It’s inspiring seeing others go through closets
and part with useless stuff they’ve unnecessarily hung onto for years.
You shut off the TV and head into the home office to check your email right
before bed. Piles of unopened envelopes fill the desktop. Drawers are full
with old paperwork. There’s no rhyme or reason to how it’s all stuffed in
there. Suddenly, it dawns on you. Disorganized financial papers may be
just as worthy of a life-changing de-cluttering project as cleaning out a
messy basement.
Here are some simple steps to get started.

Say Goodbye
The problem is many of us don’t equate holding onto financial paperwork
with untidiness. We think it’s important stuff we’ll need at some point.
But truthfully, most of it’s really not worth keeping. If anything, it may be
costing you time (looking through all your stuff) and money (when late bills
and fees incur because of forgotten envelopes in that pile). You have to
learn to say goodbye and discard.
Say farewell to ATM receipts after checking your bank statement. When a
bill payment clears or you decide to hang onto a purchase, it’s time to part
ways with statements or sales receipts, too. Unless it’s needed at tax time
(keep for at least three years if used for a deduction), as proof of value for
insurance in the event of loss or damage, or for a warranty, it’s probably
time to get rid of it once it’s been used.

Learn What to Keep
Here’s what you need to hang onto and for how long:

Make a Shredder Your Best Friend
Invest in a quality paper shredder or get the okay to use
one at the office. Shredding is key when getting rid of old
documents. If it’s going away, it needs to be shredded to
prevent anyone from acquiring any personal information
about you. Recycle what’s left.
For the important stuff that remains, develop an easy to
follow filing system that you’ll actually use. Invest in colored
folders with tabs and a label maker if you don’t already own
them. Categorize, label, and keep them in a drawer or filing

Switch to Digital
Going digital with your statements and paychecks can help
solve a lot of problems. Almost every bank, credit card
company, investment company, and employer now offers
a paper-free option. Take them up on this and switch to
paperless delivery.
Although opting in to e-delivery helps prevent additional
physical clutter, you may still have a big mess on your hands
in time. This one will just be on your computer. So, make sure
you employ the same thinking there as with your desk. Keep
it clean and organized. Regularly go through your emails and
purge the ones that are no longer relevant.

Get Started Now
Make upkeep a normal routine. Play some music to get in the
mindset for firing up that shredder. The longer you wait to
tackle that mess, the bigger that mountain of paper will grow.
Having your own organizing consultant can help in the
undertaking. Luckily, you have one already. Talk with your
financial professional about other methods of dealing with
your financial clutter. Together, you can develop a strategy
of what you should hang on to and what you can find joy in
parting with forever.