Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reducing Clutter - Shed and Shred Approach

I am giving up the ways of the pack rat. In the next few months, I will be making the effort to reduce clutter my life. I am convinced less clutter will make my life better, because I will have less things to think about, maintain and keep in storage. In the first phase, I am taking a shed and shred approach.
  • Shed - I am giving away items which aren't not being used. My initial criteria is at least once per year, to account for seasonal usage. If it hasn't been used in that time frame, then it will likely be giving away. The main exceptions are books and board games.

    Using this criteria, we've identified numerous items for giving to charity. Items include old stereo systems, furniture from our childhood, various auto and yard tools, and, of course, clothes. In addition, we will probably start giving away some of the baby clothing since we have waited three years for a second adoption, and the chances are looking close to zero.

    A benefit is that we will be able to deduct the fair market value of items donated to charities. Since we plan to itemize for 2009 and take the standard deduction for 2010, we are targeting to have all the donations made in 2009. Thus, we are on a mission to get rid of unnecessary items by December 31 of this year.

  • Shred - After my father passed away, I went through his saved paperwork to determine what was useful and what could be discarded. I soon determined that over 95% of the papers he kept were not of any use, which made it hard to find the 5% of valuable paperwork (e.g. deeds, recent tax returns, property tax bills, etc.).

    It didn't take to long for me to realize that this acorn didn't fall too far from the tree. I routinely keep one to two years of paid utility and credit card bills, three years of brokerage financial statements, two years of health insurance statements, employer benefit statements, interesting articles and so on. While the papers are somewhat organized in file cabinets and binders, I had to question the value and effort of keeping and maintain these records. After all, I knew that over 95% would not be of use anytime in the future. Besides, based on recent experience, it seems I can call many of the institutions for the information, at no charge.

    Thus, we made the decision to shred all statements and bills that could be accessed electronically. From now on we only plan to keep those records related to doing taxes, and only for three years. In addition, we still plan to keep our tax return copies indefinitely. To expedite the process, we purchased a 12 sheet power shredder, which has made getting rid of sensitive documents in an efficient way.
  • After a spending the past week down cluttering, I feel like we have made great progress. We've eliminated several things that we don't use any more, created more space in our house, and freed up binders and file space. Best of all, we now have less stuff to maintain and repair in the next year :-)

    For more on New Beginnings, check back every Sunday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2009 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    1 comment:

    traineeinvestor said...

    Sounds good. I feel very liberated whenever I get rid of a lot of clutter.