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Some tips for getting organized

Even though it gives me anxiety, I err on the side of throwing paper -- old bills, receipts, etc. -- away. My husband likes to save receipts for every last 99-cent pack of gum, even though they usually end up crumpled on the night stand, inside car door handles and fallen to the floor.

Something tells me the perfect system awaits us somewhere in the middle.

For help, I've turned to the experts to find out exactly what we need to keep and what we can get rid of. Here's what the clutter-cutting website FlyLady.net and financial expert David Bach at Oprah.com had to say:

>Keep:

Birth certificates

Adoption papers

Custody agreements

Death certificates

Property deeds

Divorce papers

IRA contribution records

Receipts of loan payoffs

Marriage certificates

Passports

Photo or video records of belongings for insurance purposes

Documents proving employment by the government or armed forces.

>Hold onto:

Mortgage records (for three years after it's paid off).

Insurance papers (for four years after policies expire).

Contracts (for seven years after they expire).

Paycheck stubs (for one year).

Brokers' confirmation slips (for as long as you own the security).

Records of taxable expenses (for as long as you own them).

Records showing the cost basis of your home (for as long as you own it).

Retirement account documents (for as long as you own the accounts).

Owner's manuals (for as long as you own the appliance).

Receipts for major purchases (for as long as you own them).

Warranties and extended service agreements (until they expire).

>Hold onto the following for six years:

Bank statements.

Income tax returns (and supporting documents).

Canceled checks. Credit card statements.

Home improvement receipts (for six years after the home is sold).

>Ditch or shred: Receipts not related to a tax deduction or a major purchase (including credit card receipts).

Outdated wills or trusts (as long as you've created updated ones).

Outdated warranties and owners' and instruction manuals.

Canceled insurance policies.

Old annual reports from stocks and mutual funds.

Old investment letters.

One more piece of paper you may want to hang onto indefinitely? This column. Don't worry about trying to remember all of the guidelines above. Instead, clip this out and stick it to your filing cabinet with a magnet.

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