Get Rid of Paper Clutter

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Lack of space is hindering my ability to add to my emergency supplies so I restarted my de-cluttering efforts.  I have two large boxes of files and miscellaneous items that have been sitting around for two years taking up space.  Why haven’t I gone through them before?  Procrastination, that’s why!  I dread going through these boxes because I don’t want to deal with what’s inside.

I finally made myself open them and deal with the contents.

Types of paper clutter


Old resumes and pay history from past employers  I keep a copy of old pay stubs from previous employers.   This information comes in handy when you apply for a job and you are asked for a work and pay history so long ago you don’t even remember it yourself.  I threw away duplicates and kept one set for my file.

Benefits statements.   I keep the current year’s copy of employee benefits and costs so I can compare them to the new benefits offered during open enrollment.  Once the new plan takes effect, I will discard the previous year’s information.


Old tax returns. 

W-2 and 1099 forms should be kept for a year; I tossed old ones from previous years.  I researched how long to hang on to tax returns and the advice varies from 7 years to indefinitely.  I will keep them until I am able to scan them a digital file.  

Old bank statements 

I check my accounts monthly to balance my checkbook, but I hold on to bank statements for one year.  One can argue I can just switch to digital statements and I do check online, but I like having paper backups just in case. 

I saved the current years’ credit card statements as well as any statements I may need for taxes.

Owners manuals for items I no longer own.   I sold or donated the actual items years ago without the manuals, and now the manuals turned up.   Believe it or not there is actually a market for old instruction manuals in Ebay.  If the item is not obsolete, someone will want the manual. I was able to sell the owners’ manuals for an HP calculator and an old digital camera. 

Old receipts.  Keep receipts for:

  • Appliances, computers and other major purchases I currently own. 
  • Items you are claiming on your tax return,
  • Backup for insurance purposes.  

Checkbook registers 

I have several years’ worth of checkbook registers.  I kept the ones from the last seven years, in case I need them as records for taxes filed.

Insurance policies

Keep them as long as the policy is in force.  Similarly, keep all beneficiary designations and records of changes you made to your policies.  I discarded previous years’ auto insurance policies, and only kept the current year since they renew annually.

“Paid in full” records

I keep records that prove I paid off a loan, indefinitely.  This includes loan discharge statements for cars, student loans etc.


Kids’ old report cards and artwork.  For sentimental reasons, these are hard for me to part with.  While I would like to keep them, many of them are over-sized pages and take up a lot of room.  When you are ready to let go, take a photo of each one and make a digital scrapbook.


I think the main reason I never got around to opening these boxes is de-cluttering can send you on an unintended trip down memory lane.  Opening these long forgotten files makes you face your memories, both good and bad, in essence parts of yourself.   Don’t get stalled!   I almost felt like closing them back up for another year, but I persevered.  I relentlessly weeded and shredded.  In the end, the reward…  more space for emergency supplies we need now, and the feeling of security that it brings.

© Apartment Prepper 2017



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    1. Millenniumfly, AptPrepper husband and I disagree about stuff like this as well. His philosophy– if you bring one item in, then one has to go, is too tough for me. I tend to hang on to stuff longer.

  1. We are in a small space like your family and withe prepping, we are always re-organizing to make room as our cache grows. We try to always keep organized and get rid of things each season that someone grew out of or no longer uses and try to make some money if we can for supplies and others we donate. We have a small car and even with our garage, it gets filled fast. Thanks goodness we are not pack rats or we really would be in trouble. 🙂

    1. Hey Clarissa, we are in the same boat! Making some extra money from junk is a plus and makes the trouble worth it.

  2. I very rarely throw things away, but every 9 months or so , we go through the different buildings and look for anything that absolutely will never be useful. Mostly it is old teaching paraphernalia my wife has stashed here or there. Then I haul a truck load to the dump.

    1. Hey AtH, it’s a good thing you declutter on a regular basis. You do have a lot more room, I probably would not be as fanatical about getting rid of stuff if I had more room to store stuff 🙂

  3. We got lucky with getting rid of a hobby that never was as you called it! My husband bought a kayak, but ended up not enjoying it and never using it, so we sold/traded it to make room in our apartment. We not only made cash, but the buyer also traded us a bar of silver that I was so excited about!

    1. I am sure the kayak is now benefiting someone else somewhere, but just did not work out for you. You came out ahead for sure. Nice trade, Marie!

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