Are you drowning under a sea of documents? Are you asking yourself do I really need to keep this? If so, use the following tool to develop a clutter-free lifestyle.


Even though you have saved it, does not necessarily mean that you will need it. Use the table below to establish which documents to keep and when to shred the ones you can toss.

How Long Document Type
Most Recent
(up to three months)
  • Credit card statements
  • Insurance bills
  • Paycheck stubs
  • Utility bills
After Checked
Against Statement
  • ATM and debit receipts
  • Deposit slips
  • Purchase receipts (unless they apply to a warranty or tax claim, then keep with warranties or taxes)
  • Utility bills
One Year
  • Canceled checks (unless they apply to a tax claim)
  • Check registers
Three Years
  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns and all related receipts
Long Term
  • Insurance policies (until they go out of effect)
  • Legal documents, such as adoption papers and contracts
  • Military papers
  • Mortgage paperwork (until three years after you move)
  • Patents and copyrights
  • Records relating to the cost of home or property improvements
  • Warranties (until you don't have the item anymore)
  • Automobile titles
  • Inventory of home and wallet
    Life documents (birth, marriage certificates)
  • Property deed
  • Stock and bond certificates
  • Trust papers (will, power of attorney, health care directive)

Toss Every Month

  • ATM And bank-deposit slips, after you've recorded the amounts in your check register and checked them against your monthly bank statement.

  • Credit-card receipts, after you've checked to make sure the item appears correctly on your monthly statement.

  • Sales receipts for minor purchases, after you've satisfactorily used the item and if it has no warranty.

Toss After One Year

  • Monthly bank and credit-card Statement (if you don't itemize deductions).

  • Monthly or quarterly brokerage and mutual-fund statements, after you've reconciled them with your year-end summary.

  • Monthly mortgage statements, as long as your year-end statement clearly shows the total amount you've paid in interest and property taxes over the course of the year.

  • Phone and utility bills (as long as you don't have a home office, use your phone for business calls, or anticipate any need to prove long-term residency).

  • Paycheck stubs, after you've reconciled them with your annual W-2 or 1099 forms.

Retain for Seven Years

  • W-2 AND 1099 forms.

  • Year-end statements from credit-card companies.

  • Phone and utility bills (only if you deduct any portion for business expenses, have more than one home, or have moved within the past few years).

  • Canceled checks and receipts/statements for: annual mortgage interest and property taxes, deductible business expenses, child-care bills, out-of-pocket medical costs, or any other tax-deductible expense.

Keep Indefinitely

  • Your annual tax returns. Your year-end summaries from financial-services companies.

  • Confirmation slips that list the purchase price of any investments you own.

  • Home-improvment records.

  • Receipts for major purchases. (any item whose replacement cost exceeds the deductible on your homeowners' or renters' insurance policy).

  • Benficiary designations.

This article is a product of Cybertary, Inc. Please review our policy for reprinting this article on your own site.

   Comstock's   Good Day Sacramento   Sac Bee   USA Today   Working Mother Magazine   PINK Magazine