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Tips for Getting Organized: Is This Paperwork Important?

By: Commonwealth Senior Living / 13 Jan 2023
Tips for Getting Organized: Is This Paperwork Important?

Most of us get a ton of junk in the mail, whether it's credit card applications, insurance packets, or leaflets to entice us to buy or save now. The start of a new year is a great time to tackle accumulated papers and records, sort what is needed, and work towards a more organized desk with less clutter. Thankfully, deciding what you need to keep and what you can safely shred or dispose of is outlined below, courtesy of Consumer Reports. Ask your lawyer or accountant if you have any questions about specific documents.

Keep for less than a year. Keep your ATM, bank deposit, and credit card receipts until you reconcile them with your monthly statements. Once reconciled, shred the paper documents or securely trash electronic files unless you need them to support your tax return. Keep insurance policies and investment statements until new ones arrive

Keep for a year or longer. Hold on to loan documents until the loan is paid off. That will often be for more than a year. If you own a car, hold on to the title until you sell it. If you have investments in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, keep the purchase confirmations until you sell so you can establish your cost basis and holding period.

Keep for seven years. If you fail to report all your gross income on your tax returns, the government has six years to collect the tax or start legal proceedings. To be on the safe side, keep all tax records for at least seven years.

Keep forever. Records such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, Social Security cards, and military discharge papers should be kept indefinitely. Also hold on to any defined-benefit plan documents, estate-planning documents, life insurance and long-term care policies, and an inventory of what's inside your bank safe deposit box.

Now that you have your records retention timeline, let's talk about how to maintain or help someone maintain the organization. "It can be daunting to sort through piles on our desk and determine what can be discarded vs what may be needed in the future," writes Jen Ryan Galantowicz, National Director at Mom's House. Galantowicz draws from her experience working in senior living and suggests enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member to sort, file, shred, or scan your documents. Having someone you trust knows the location of key documents in the event you're unable to locate them or unavailable in a time of need can also be beneficial. Another piece of advice is to review names of companies or people you expect to receive mail from that may be of importance.

Create a System for Sorting Mail. Stacks of mail that pile up daily may disrupt your organization efforts and cause confusion. Create a system for incoming mail like:

  • Needs to be sorted
  • Appears to need immediate attention
  • Possible "junk"
  • Outgoing mail 

Keep a Calendar in a Visible Location to keep your social calendar, appointments, and other important dates organized and top of mind. Use it to write down reminders for yourself. They can be anything from loved ones' birthdays to reminders to re-order prescription medications and mail or pay a bill with their due dates. 

To help those living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia stay organized, ask what level of involvement they are comfortable with and what method they feel may be most beneficial to them. Happy organizing! 

Read more about preparing for an organized move here or contact the community nearest you by clicking the button below.

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