Home Office Paper Organization: What Papers do I need to keep?

Keep your home office tidy with this guide on paper organization.

Store Records Electronically

It is a smart idea to scan, copy, and convert paper documents into a digital format. You can save these documents on a hard drive or in a secure cloud company. This allows you to save important documents and access them remotely in case of a natural disaster or emergency.

Prevent Identity Theft

Dispose of old tax documents, statements, or any papers with personal information by shredding. Do not simply toss in the trash. Although identity theft mostly takes place online these days, it is best to be extra cautious.

How long do I keep my tax records?

4 years from the due date of the return, or the date the return is filed.

6 years if you want to be extra safe. If the IRS suspects an underreported income (25%+) or indications of fraud, an audit may go back six years.

If I own a business, how long do I keep receipts?

4 years unless the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration gives written authorization for earlier disposal. This includes all records involving sales or use tax liability.

Should I keep divorce papers?

It is in your best interest to retain any and all documents related to your divorce, forever.

Personal Documents to Keep

One year

  • Pay checks
  • Cancelled checks

Three years

  • Medical bills
  • Expired insurance policies

Six years

  • Supporting documents for tax returns
  • Accident claims and reports
  • Tax related medical bills/bills
  • Sales receipts
  • Property records/improvement receipts
  • Mortgages, deeds, lease documents


  • CPA reports
  • Legal documents
  • Income pay checks
  • Income tax returns
  • Investment trade records
  • Retirement records

Special Circumstances

  • Car records (as long as you own the car)
  • Stock and bond records (6 years beyond selling)
  • Warranties and manuals (only keep if you still have the product)
  • Depreciation schedules and capital asset records (3 years after the tax life of the asset)

Personal Documents to Digitize

If you haven’t already, please opt-in to paperless settings. Typically, these papers end up compiling in piles causing more stress than good. You should be able to access all of your statements online, where the data is aggregated together.

  • Bank statements
  • Credit Card statements
  • Retirement contribution statements
  • Utility bills

Business Documents to Keep

One year

  • Purchase orders
  • Deposit slips
  • Requisitions
  • Receiving sheets

Three years

  • Employee applications
  • Employee records (after termination)
  • Employee time cards
  • Internal reports
  • Inventory log
  • Expired insurance policies

Six years

  • Accident claims/reports
  • Employee tax records
  • Expired contracts/leases
  • Inventory logs
  • Payroll records
  • Purchase orders
  • Sales records
  • Vouchers
  • Travel/entertainment records


  • Audit reports
  • Cancelled checks (tax payments)
  • Contracts
  • Leases
  • Deeds
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Investment trade confirmations
  • IRS reports
  • Legal records/correspondence
  • Mortgages, bills of sale
  • Property records
  • Retirement records
  • Tax returns
  • Trademark/patent registration

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    The information here is sourced from the Franchise Tax Board, California Tax Service Center, and CPA Rod.

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    How can I start a more minimalist lifestyle?

    8 minimalist ideas to start your minimalist lifestyle today!

    How can I be more minimalist with clothing?

    Create a Capsule Wardrobe.

    What is a Capsule Wardrobe? It is when your clothes are composed of interchangeable items that maximizes the number of outfits you can wear. Learn more about how to create a minimalist wardrobe.

    How can I declutter books when I love reading?

    Keep books that spark joy® when you see them or that you will read now. Be honest with yourself. If you haven’t read a book that’s been sitting on the shelf for years, will you really read it?

    How can I become more minimalist with books?

    This sounds super old school but I recommend renting books from the library. I find that I actually read the books I get when I know I have to return them in 2-3 weeks. This also allows me to read all kinds of books (old and new) without them taking up space in my home.

    How can I downsize paper in my house?

    Stop the flow of paper coming in! It’s important to have a routine when it comes to mail:

    1. Immediately toss advertisements/spam/junk (less paper accumulation)
    2. Open envelopes and discard, only keep the important paper/letter (keep only what you need)
    3. Place important papers, bills, letters in a pending box
    4. Set a day to go through the mail once a week (no pile build ups)

    If you haven’t done so already, automate all of your bills online and sign up for the paperless setting.

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    Is it possible to have a minimalist kitchen?

    Yes. Although this category is probably one of the hardest for me personally. I maintain having less in the kitchen by:

    1. Mindful spending: Less kitchen gadgets and more questions like, “What purpose does this item serve?”
    2. Buy food you intend to eat now not later.

    How can I have less cleaning products?

    Honestly, the only cleaning product I use is vinegar. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic and a perfect solution if you have pets or kids in the house. I have 2-3 spray bottles each filled with vinegar that I keep in the kitchen to wipe tables/counters and in the bathrooms.

    I’ve used vinegar for years and love the simplicity of having one product to clean everything.

    How can I feel more minimalist with laundry when I hate folding?

    It’s normal for laundry to be left in a basket for a few days. It is not normal when that is literally the place it lives and if it does – it better be in a designated spot in a closet. If you absolutely despise laundry and folding then I recommend –

    1. Hang most/all clothes
    2. Designate separate drawers for small items: socks, underwear, bras
    3. Designate a spot for your hamper to live that does not create visual clutter

    The key is to have a home for your clean clothes even if you don’t fold them. Simply toss items into drawers or on hangers. If you’re really lazy just leave them in the hamper but have a designated spot for that hamper to live. Create a system that works for you, is easy to maintain, and doesn’t disrupt the look and feel of your minimalist home.

    Do I really have to declutter my sentimental items?

    Absolutely not. It’s important to keep and display sentimental items throughout your home! If an item really means a lot to you then why not appreciate and look at it daily? Minimalism is about creating an environment that energizes and supports your lifestyle.

    sentimental vase displayed for joy in minimalist home
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