When it comes to things people hang onto because they’re afraid they might need them someday, receipts near the top of the list. Kim Cossette Andre, founder of The Organized Approach in Atlanta, suggests, “Start by separating your receipts into two piles: those that support a tax deduction and those that don’t.” Put receipts related to taxes in boxes labeled by year, and keep each box for seven years before getting rid of it (double check with your accountant to see if he or she recommends a different time frame for you). Another kind of receipt to keep is anything related to large purchases such as major appliances (hang onto those for the life of the item) or any major work done to your home (keep until you sell the house). When it comes time to dispose of those sensitive scraps of paper, says Andre, take them to an office or mail store, which often offer shredding services, or find a shredding service that will come to your home. As for receipts for shoes, toys, and other small purchases: “If there’s no detailed account information, it’s fine to just toss it,” Andre says.
Many of us have boxes of mystery electronics—cords, old chargers—that we can’t figure out what to do with. “If you don’t know what that tangle of stuff is for, but all the precious electronics that get you through your day are up and running, those mystery items might be unnecessary,” says Andre. Still, she sees clients fearful of letting them go in case they wind up needing them later. “So I suggest boxing it all up and putting a date on it you’re comfortable with—one month, six months, a year—then waiting. If you haven’t gone digging in the box looking for something by the time that magic date arrives, you can comfortably let it all go.” As for how to dispose of electronics: Check your municipality to find out what recycling options are available, turn to big box stores like Best Buy, which often have recycling drop off’s, or look up online listings like Earth911. Speaking of electronics, discover 14 genius uses for that old cell phone.