When you think about spring-cleaning your apartment this season, don’t forget about paperwork and electronic files. You can’t see computer clutter as easily as hard-copies that may creep into your apartment. But, all those digital folders and files are still there, stealing your storage and disrupting your flow. It’s time to get it gone, and we’ve got a guide to help before you get too click happy.
Create a filing system and use it. When you’re ready to say goodbye to extra files, be sure you’ve got a digital filing system that makes sense to you. You’ll still need to keep some things, and you’ll want to know where to find them.
Know what to keep. Legal documents (like a rental contract), copies of vital records (like a birth certificate) and tax returns are examples of what to keep around no matter what.
Know your tax info. The IRS can ask to see tax returns forever, so you need to keep electronic copies handy. But, you only need to keep supporting tax documents (like bank records, invoices, insurance claims and receipts) for seven years.
Everyday paperwork has a place. Your monthly bills and financial statements can be mostly electronic, which cuts down your paper clutter. But, you still only need to keep those records for three years. After that, just let it go.
Let a year be your guide. If you’re cleaning out your closet, you’re supposed to purge things you haven’t worn in the last year. The same approach works for digital files. Plus, it’s easier to be honest about digital files, since you can see the last time you opened something. If it’s been a year (or more), chances are you don’t need it around. Purge it or back it up.
Email counts, too. If you’re holding onto emails that are years old, you can probably delete most of that stuff. You’d be surprised how good it feels to start with an empty inbox. Even if you’ve organized them into folders, you can take those out, too.
Use the cloud. Maybe you’re sentimental or unsure. It can be scary to delete files forever. If you want to clear out some digital clutter without losing it completely, you might want to invest in some secure cloud storage. That way, you can keep files you’re not quite ready to kiss goodbye. But, it’s all away from your day-to-day space. Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing it’s still safe and secure if somebody gets their hands on your hard drive.