21:01 – Sorting time!

day-01It’s day one of our 21 day challenge, and the first thing we have to do is gather every scrap of paper that is using real estate in the house. I hunted high and low, and my pile can be found in yesterdays post.

You’re not ready with your pile yet? Right! Everyone, you’ve got 15 minutes to gather it all into a huge pile.

Now! Run…


Ready? No.. not yet? You need a little more time? No problem…. (minutes are passing)

OK guys. Everyone have their piles? Yep? Great.

Seems like we are all ready to get down to business ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s time to start SORTING the stack!

One, two, three.. ready… NO,no… ย hang on a minute! I just thought about something. There is something we need to talk about first!

You might be really tempted to chuck it all right smack in the middle of sorting through your papers (I know I would love that), but you should not do this.

You see! There are some personal files we need to keep, and some we should keep, in addition to the ones youย want to keep.

Let’s talk about the these real quick.
My lists below are a compilation ofย what I have found on the web. Not everything will be applicable for everyone, I might also have missed some documents. Anyways, the lists should work as a general guideline for what we need and should keep. Now, you might not want to hang on to all, I’ll leave that up to your discretionย ๐Ÿ˜‰ย 

Disclaimer! If you own a business, there are specific rules for what you need to keep. My lists are for personal documents only.

NEED TO KEEP ย (physical copies and data files if possible)ย 

  • Will, Power of attorney and living will
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Marriage license, prenups and divorce papers
  • Social security information (US) or other equivalent type of documents (rest of the world)
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Adoption papers
  • Alimony arrangements
  • Child custody agreements
  • Military records
  • IRA information/contributions
  • Retirement/Pension plan documents
  • ID cards and passports
  • Insurance policies (might be OK to have as physical paper in addition to any digital copy’s)
  • Vehicle titles and loan documents
  • House deeds and mortgage documents
  • Any other loan/mortgage documents, this also includes personal loans
  • Business license

In short, you’ll want to keep physical copies of things related to state/federal matters, including certifications, licenses, or deeds. Why?
1. You, might want to have easy access to these, just in case you need them.
2. If you need a physical copy and don’t have one, it’s a pain to have them replaced, since you have to make a direct request to a government agency, and we all know how “fast” they work ๐Ÿ˜‰

SHOULD KEEP (data files and/or as physical copies)

These are documents you should hold on too, for a while. You don’t need to keep them as physical documents, unless you really want to. Scanned files are fine.

  • Tax records and receipts, including the yearly statements you need for the tax return (Norway – IRS can go back 10 years = keep 10 years, US = 7 years – check out Forbes info on this, UK – 22 months )
  • Pay stubs (keep for a year, until you can check it against your yearly statement)
  • Bank statements
  • Social security statements
  • Annual insurance policy statements
  • Retirement plan statements (401(k), 529, IRA, etc)
  • Home purchase, sale, or improvement documents (keep as long as you own the house + at least six/seven years after you sell (for tax purposes))
  • Medical records (should keep as long as they are relevant for your situation)
  • Medical bills (keep at least a year after payment in case of disputes)
  • Warranty documents and receipts (keep as long as you own them)
  • Pictures of expensive items you own, in case you need them for an insurance claim

There are also some documents you probably should keep the most recent version of, for your own piece of mind:

  • Canceled checks and bank deposit slips (until you receive your monthly bank statement)
  • Bills (until you have proof that the payment was received)

I’m sure there are more I have missed, but in general A GOOD RULE OF THUMB can beย to think (when deciding what to keep)

How hard is this document to replace? Will I need to hang around a government office, hospital, bank or on a phone for hours to get hold of a copy?” Is the answer a resounding YES, then it’s probably best to hold onto it ๐Ÿ™‚ Anything else, can probably be scanned or found as online documents.


Then we get to the documents/scraps of paper we want to keep. maybe they are ideas, a great article, drawing or sentimental items like old letters. You are the only one who can decide on these items. But to keep that particular pile under control, make sure the paper/document is important to you, inspires you or gives you tremendous joy (like drawing from a kid, letter from a dear one and so on).


As I mentioned before, I shred all documents before they leave the house. You should too! If not, you might risk people rummaging through your trash finding personal information about you, that they can use to empty your bank accounts, buy things on credit cards or even completely steal your identity. If you don’t own a shredder, make sure you at least tear the important stuff.


This turned out to be a long list of things to keep in mind when sorting through your papers.

To make it easier for you, I will add a printable picture/file on this tomorrow, in case you would like the overview on hand as you sort through your papers – I know I could need this ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย Why not add it right away.. well, I haven’t made it yet.. and as it’s 11PM here, I can’t get to bed soon enough ๐Ÿ˜‰

Until tomorrow everyone, until tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

Nighty nite…

20 thoughts on “21:01 – Sorting time!

    1. I was super good at creating paper airplanes when I was a kid (and they went far too), but I wish I was one that was good with origami, it’s a cool skill to have. Maybe one day when I’m all done with the stuff in the house I will start practicing as I now want that origami swan ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Good idea to make those lists to warn people – It’s a pain when you need original documents and they have disappeared. I keep all mine in a safe that is bolted to the wall now. Good luck today when you continue with the paper cull!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I figured a list was the best place to begin the culling process, then it’s clear what I need to keep my eye out for. I don’t have a safe for my papers, so far I have managed without and hopefully if I get them all scanned, I’ll have access to my files wherever and won’t need a safe. I do have a small arms safe, and for really important stuff, there is room in that one should I need it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have some medical bills that keep coming back to haunt me. I think I’ve paid some of them a couple times. My fault for not being organized. This time around, I have much better records and won’t be stuck paying them again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have missed a bill or two over the years, but happily it has not been a big problem ๐Ÿ˜‰ When I’m done with this paper challenge, I’m hoping missing bill will never be an issue again, as I’m planning on setting up a foolproof (ok, an Anne Lene proof) system ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Will you be joining us this time? The more the merrier you know ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Anne,
    I did this too! Although I didn’t know about your challenge at the time I must have picked up the vibe from the universe cos now both mine and my husband’s papers are in order and decluttered but I don’t have a shredder…… so the papers to be thrown out are in a bag in the laundry as I havent figured out what to do with them yet!!
    It feels great to know where everything in my file is and have our new house documents and bills all in their place and paid. It really helps to feel organised when that stuff is sorted. Now I can plan on paying extra off my bills and saving harder for our holidays!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Like minded people ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll write up a small piece soon, on what you can do if you don’t have a shredder (you got me thinking when I saw you comment). I can’t wait for the day when I’m down to one or two ring-binders an everything else on a memory stick or something ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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