For bills and things: Once you get next month’s phone bill and you see they’ve credited your last payment, there is ZERO reason to keep the old one. Doesnt’ matter which it is; credit cards, utilities, rent, car payments, etc.
Things like checking account statements & any savings / investment account statements must be kept for a the whole year since they are often needed for tax preparation.
Then when you do you taxes, pack up all of that year’s stuff *that you actually copied a number from onto your tax return * along with your copy of the return & file that away. I have a pretty complex tax life & the whole annual shebang fits in a thick manila envelope. Even 20 years of those are tiny to store.
And any other financial records you’d saved which you didn’t end up entering on the return? Trash or shred depending on your paranoia level.
Be ruthless with catalogs, junk mail, & magazines. Recycle unwanted stuff the day it comes in. You are under no obligation to read what Lillian Vernon or Bass Pro send you. Go to https://www.dmachoice.org to turn off about 90% of your junk mail. It only takes a few minutes & the difference is staggering. It takes a month or two to really kick in, but your mailman will thank you.
If you have a magazine from a 2 months ago you’re saving to get around to reading, well guess what: You won’t be any less busy next month than you were in the last two. It isn’t going to get read, and niehter will the one coming next week.
So pitch 100% of magazines & newspapers older than yesterday. If you get one later & haven’t read the previous edition yet, pitch the old one right then.
If you find you keep pitching magazines or newspapers, that’s a clue to get a refund by calling their 800# and cancelling. Free money and less crap in the house; what’s not to like? They weren’t giving you any entertainment or educational value sitting around unread.
Switching to hard goods …
Lots of people have a hard time getting rid of stuff because they’re worried about giving it a proper home: what can I recycle vs sell vs give away vs donate vs trash? Worrying about that is a nice idea in the abstract; it shows you aren’t wasteful. But that same attitude is a lot of why you have so much crap now. You need to break that cycle.
My answer: If you would buy it at a garage sale, put it in one pile and plan to eventually take the pile to Goodwill or the local equivalent. Eveyrthing else goes in the trash. Period, no exceptions. You’re managing a crisis here, not performing brain surgery. Once you have the entrire house howed out, and all the trash & donate stuff gone, then you can *consider *being more discriminating when getting rid of routine stuff. But not now.
If you get done with the entire house & 2 weeks later the donate pile is still in the garage or wherever: trash time. Pitch the lot. It’s far more important to empty your house & your burden than it is to provide another 500 lbs of stuff for Goodwill or whoever. They have plenty, trust me.
The last thing to do is stop buying crap. If it isn’t groceries, dont’ buy it, period.
If you have to buy something, say new shoes becasue the old ones have unfixable holes, the rule is the bag it came home in must be filled just as full and put in the trash that very day. Doesn’t really matter what yuo pitch, but it’s gotta be as bulky as whatever you bought.
Force this down the kids throats too. One new toy coming home is one old one going to the trash. Let up for Christmas & birthdays, but the overall message si the same for them as for yuo: yuo already have *enough *stuff. Maybe not the *exact right *stuff, but that’s what the buy and pitch enables you to do: move towards having what you really want / need, without drowning in what you don’t want/need.
This also has a really neat impact on your finances. As my brother likes to say: “The best investment is not spending. Pays 100% right now with no risk.”