a messy desk covered with piles of paper

Because it’s still early in the year and you are determined to make a dent in your resolution to declutter and get better organized, how about starting with a little paper purge? By removing what you no longer need now, it will be much easier to file, find, and retrieve what you do need later. A paper purge almost always provides great relief, and it often turns up that piece of paper you’ve been looking for.

How to do a paper purge?

  1. The first step is understanding what to keep and what can go. The most frequently asked question I hear when it comes to paper is “How long do I need to keep this?” If you search online for “document retention guidelines,” you will find a plethora of resources and lists with varying details. The IRS’ guidelines for document retention is an excellent starting point, as is your tax preparer, accountant, or attorney. These individuals should be consulted for their professional input based upon your specific situation.
  2. With your retention guidelines list nearby, place three receptacles before you: one for papers to recycle, one for papers to shred before reycling, and one for thermal receipts that should go into the trash and not the recycling stream.
  3. If starting with a pile, go through it and dispose of the obvious papers that you don’t need to keep. Think: the packing slip for the camera you ordered last year (file the receipt with the users manual/warranty in a folder for manuals!), the assortment of grocery receipts that are half faded, the magazines or newspapers that you know you won’t read, etc. Complete one pile then move on to the next, and so on and so forth. If you are starting in a filing cabinet, meticulously move from the front to the back of each drawer before moving onto the next.

A paper purge now will make future purges quicker and less painful! That’s right, this should be an annual ritual. Mark your calendar now!