In light of the Great Purge of '09, here's a tip about cleaning out your filing cabinets. There are about a million and one different ways to do this and everyone does it differently. This is how I have found to work best for me.
First of all, our files are in alphabetical order. This makes them easy to find and takes the guess work out of returning a file to the filing cabinet.
Also, I have 2 files on my desk that help along the way. They are labeled "Needs A File" (for incoming items that don't currently have a file in the filing cabinet) and the other is labeled "Items To Be Filed" (a place to stash that pile of papers or mail when I don't have time to file each item individually). I try to empty these folders about once a month or so.
In each individual file, I have the papers in chronological order (oldest in the front, newest in the back). Also, I have each year clipped together (either with a binder clip or paper clip). on the top paper in each year, I've attached a Post-It Note that contains the following information: The year of that stacks contents and the year that it can be destroyed. For example, in our electric bill folder, I know that I like to keep bills from the past year (we don't need them for tax purposes). The Post-It Note says: "2008" and then "keep until January 2010".
I try to clean out the filing cabinet in January of each year. When I take out a file, I see automatically if items are ready to be destroyed (we usually shred out of date files). When I do a clean out, I also make sure that the current year's files have been clipped together and labeled appropriately.
I can never remember how long I should keep things, but found this handy chart in an organizing magazine (I recommend making a copy or typing the information and placing it in the front of the filing cabinet for easy access.).
*TAX RECORDS: Copies of returns-forever; Supporting tax documents-at least 4 years.
*CHECKING ACCOUNT STATEMENTS: 1 month or until checks clear; Keep statements that support tax deductions with your tax records for the year.
*UTILITY BILLS: 1 month (unless you deduct for home office expenses; file with tax records).
*PAYCHECK STUBS OR DIRECT-DEPOSIT STATEMENTS: 1 year.
*CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS: 1-2 months or until charges are reconciled;Keep statements that support tax deductions with your tax records for the year.
*MORTGAGE INFORMATION: For as long as you own the property, plus 4 years for tax purposes.
*RECORDS FOR HOME IMPROVEMENTS, SALE OR PURCHASE OF PROPERTY: 4 years after the sale of the home or property.
*MEDICAL RECORDS: 4 or more years.
*INSURANCE POLICIES AND BILLS: Keep current policies and bills; discard canceled policies.
*INVESTMENT RECORDS: Keep initial purchase and year-end reports indefinitely.
*RECEIPTS FOR PURCHASES: 1 month, except for big-ticket items requiring proof-of-purchase for insurance.
Just know that it can take a while to get a system like this set up, but I PROMISE that it pays off in the years to come! Good Luck!!