Should Old Paper Be Forgot?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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Reflecting on the past and setting goals with promises of new beginnings are the things we typically focus on as we start a new year.  New Year’s is when people think about the changes they want to make in their lives and the resolve to make those changes a reality.

The top ten New Year’s resolution lists rarely change.  They include quitting smoking, losing weight, saving money, and getting organized.  Setting the goal of “getting organized” is something most of us could benefit from, but it may be a bit too broad to actually achieve.  Many people fail at achieving their resolutions because they try to do too much.  Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to organize your home office.

The biggest problem with my home office is paper.  As a matter of fact, the paper has escaped my office and has found its way into the garage and kitchen.  I have boxes of old tax returns in the garage and a drawer full of appliance warranties in the kitchen.

While I am doing more and more things like paying bills, shopping and banking online, I still have a lot of past information on paper.  This raises the question, “Should old paper be forgot and never brought to mind?”  While an easy way to achieve your resolution would be to simply throw the paper out, you must consider legal requirements, reliance on legacy information and of course the rising concerns over identity theft.

To help you with this New Year’s resolution, here are some guidelines on home records retention and tips for taking control of your paper legacy.

Home Records Retention Recommendations:

Tax Returns and Backup Documentation – The IRS has six years to challenge a return, so seven years is a good guideline to follow.  Each year you may want to throw out an old and bring in a new.

Housing – Keep all records regarding the purchase and closing as well as documents showing maintenance and improvement for as long as you own the home plus an additional six years.

Credit Card Receipts & Statements – Keep credit card receipts only until you receive the monthly statement and can verify the appropriate amount has been charged to your card.  The credit card companies keep copies of the statements so you may only want to keep those for an average of three months.

Contracts – Keep contracts such as lawn maintenance, pest control, etc. for the life of the contract plus three years.

Health Information – Keep family health information including medical history, treatments, prescriptions, etc. indefinitely.

Warranties & Guarantees – Keep product warranties, guarantees and user manuals for the life of the product.

Tips for Controlling your Paper Legacy:

  1. Shred any paper-based information beyond the recommended retention period
  2. Determine what of the remaining information you absolutely need to keep in a paper format and digitize the rest
  3. Use ScanSnap to easily convert the paper into a digital format
  4. Try some of ScanSnap’s partner products to help you manage, store and preserve your electronic information
  5. Once digitized, shred and recycle the paper documents
  6. On a periodic basis, backup your digitized files to an external hard drive

Wishing you a Happy and Paperless New Year!

Pamela Doyle
Director, Imaging Products Group
Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc.

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