Having just finished my taxes, both for the business and personal, I'm thinking about paper retention. A primary reason we keep documents has to do with taxes, so that we have what we need to both prepare and (pray this isn't the case) defend our submissions. While I've evolved in terms of what I keep, I’m still highly influenced by the time I grew up in. For years, I faithfully saved, organized and filed all my bills, receipts, bank statements, etc.. After completing my taxes, I'd archive everything from the past year to banker boxes (first cardboard, then with the joyous arrival of The Container Store, plastic). A few years ago, I wondered if all that was necessary and really cut back on what I was keeping. Bank statements were available online, as were my American Express bills. I had never needed a single utility bill I’d kept.
Once your taxes are done (and after a good nap), take a hard look at your files. What are you keeping, why are you keeping it and where should it be kept. For files to be useful you have to be able to find what you need in a reasonable amount of time. Having files for the current year, then archiving works well. Once taxes are done, I take the current years files that I've kept in a file drawer near my desk (receipts, tax documents, medical paperwork, etc) and archive it, organized by year, in banker boxes that I keep in my storage closet. That keeps my file drawer manageable so that when I need something, I can access it quickly. If I need something from a previous year (almost never), I can get to it but it's not clogging up the files I use all the time.
This annual process is a great time to look at the rest of your filing to ensure that you need to keep what you’ve retained. Just this week, I was going through my file drawer and discovered a thick file of manuals and warranties, both for things I still have and some that have been discarded. In reality, I needed none of them as everything was available online. Pulling up a searchable PDF (type the model number into the Google search bar) is way easier than digging around a bunch of booklets then thumbing through endless pages of information.
It's not about simply getting rid of paper, it’s about only keeping what you need. When you do that, keeping up with your filing is easy. So is finding what you're looking for!
If you need some help, give us a call ...