How to spring clean your paperwork

In a digital age, it’s becoming easier to do away with the paperwork that accumulates through a lifetime.

Still, the piles seem to grow each time you look away.

We can’t tell you how to sort through the adorable artwork you’ve collected from children and grandchildren over the years, but we can help you navigate those ubiquitous stacks of financial forms.

We’ve developed a quick-look chart to help sort, preserve and/or discard various financial items.

If you don’t want to keep the paper receipts, you could scan them and store them in an external hard drive, or secure on-line file sharing service. Just make sure your passwords are also stored securely but can be accessed by your Power of Attorney should you become indisposed.

As an additional convenience and to reduce the paperwork further, we recommend choosing on-line access to your accounts when possible.

If you have any questions about how to dispose of your financial paperwork, please feel free to give us a call. We’ll help spring clean your paperwork, but you’re on your own when it comes to washing those windows.


Type of Document How Long to Keep It Where to Store It
Bank and brokerage statements; cancelled checks At least 1 year, longer if expenses are deductible Filing cabinet
Social security card; birth and marriage certificates; passport Indefinitely Fireproof box or safe-deposit box
Current insurance policies Indefinitely (toss outdated policies) Safe-deposit box or fireproof box
Stock and bond certificates Indefinitely Safe-deposit box (keep a list of these items in a fireproof box)
ATM receipts Until transaction is posted to statement Filing cabinet
Tax returns At least seven years Filing cabinet
Mortgage paperwork At least until paid off Fireproof box
Loan paperwork At least until paid off Filing cabinet
Property deeds Indefinitely Safe-deposit box
Car titles As long as you own the car Safe-deposit box
Credit card statements One year (longer if charges are deductible) Filing cabinet
Wills and other estate planning documents Indefinitely File with attorney or keep in safe-deposit box
Service agreements and warranties For the life of the contract Filing cabinet
Receipts for large purchases/home improvements Indefinitely Filing cabinet or with home inventory
Documentation for expensive art and collectibles Indefinitely Safe-deposit box (copy with home inventory)
General household and utility bills Two months (keep longer if they are deductible on tax returns) Filing cabinet
Pay stubs Through end of year until W-2 form or annual statement arrives Filing cabinet