Sorting through piles of yellowing documents can be a daunting task -- especially if you're not sure what to chuck and what to save. Give the new year a fresh, clean start by following these guidelines from Barbara Hemphill, author of the Taming the Paper Tiger series (Kiplinger Books).
Keep indefinitely: Birth and death certificates. Custody and adoption papers. Health records. Marriage certificates and divorce decrees. Military discharge records. Tax returns.
Keep for a specified time: Auto titles and registration (for as long as you own the vehicle). Check registers and bank statements (as needed for tax records). Loan papers (for seven years after the loan is paid off). Pay stubs (until W-2 is confirmed by year-end statement). Property deeds and mortgage papers (for seven years after you sell the property). Records to support tax returns: bills, receipts and canceled checks for your deductions (seven years).
Toss immediately: Utility-bill stubs that aren't tax-deductible. Credit-card statements (unless they contain deductible business expenses). Expired insurance policies (although some experts suggest retaining them, in case of late claims). Warranties, manuals and receipts for items that you no longer own.--Arricca Elin SanSone
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