Documentiaphobia is the fear of document destruction.
We all face those times when we find it necessary to get our documents in order. We have utility bills, receipts, mortgage statements, old tax records and insurance policies and we just don’t know what to hold on to or for how long.
We ask ourselves, “What if I need it?”, “What if I'm audited?" or “What if I need to prove what I own and how much it’s worth?" We are ruled by fear of the unknown, the what-ifs take over logic and we feel that we need to keep everything, just in case. But there is too much paper and that can’t be good!
So if documents make you break out in a sweat and the thought of destroying those 8 1/2” x 11” pieces of used-to-be wood, loaded with necessary information of diverse importance, is scaring you to death, then you are definitely suffering from a case of Documentiaphobia.
Now, the only known cure to alleviate this disorder is to have someone give you permission to relax and let go. So that is what I am going to attempt to do here and free you from stockpiling documents you don’t need. Actually,
it’s pretty simple and here are a few questions that will help identify the necessity of hanging on.
Do I pay my bills and handle my banking or other financial transactions online?
If you do, then you automatically have a history that is secure and accessible should you need the information at a later date.
If not, then you should know it isn’t necessary to hold on to bills and bank statements unless you are conducting a comparison of usage or using them to account for value when filing taxes.
Which type of documents do I refer to occasionally?
Which documents will I need in order to file my taxes?
These documents need to be stored along with your taxes for the specific tax year. According to the IRS, three years is all the time you need to keep these records...unless. There are many exceptions to this rule, but the IRS website or your accountant can provide the best recommendations for document retention based on your unique situation.
Am I disputing a claim?
You will want to keep these documents until your claim has been satisfied and then you are free to let it go.
Do I intend to return a purchase I made?
If you have made a purchase and think you may have to return it, then you should keep the document until you are sure the purchase is either out of warranty (typically one year) or you are satisfied that you are going to keep your purchase. Exceptions here are for items that are valuables like jewelry, furs, cars, real estate, etc. These documents should be retained until the items are sold, donated or have exhausted their write-off status.
What documents do I need if I change doctors? At some point in time, you may consider making a change for medical reasons. You should keep copies of your medical history including any medications you have taken. This information is priceless when seeing a new doctor or clinic to help them make the right decisions when it comes to treatment.
Next will come the sorting and storing, but that’s for another day.
So there it is. I give you permission to let go. There are exceptions, so if you are still in doubt, contact the IRS, your accountant or us to get detailed information for your particular document management program.
It's as simple as that.