Cypress / Garden Grove Realtor, Frank Abbadessa, Shares Paper Clutter Tips
Prior to listing a property, as a Cypress / Garden Grove Realtor (and for surrounding areas), I walk through the home and thoroughly examine its condition. Given that 63% of buyers will pay more for a house that is move-in ready, I offer any recommendations identified to help you sell your home for more and in less time. The objective is to make it easier for your target buyers to imagine themselves living in the property. As such, decluttering, repairing, and staging are quite beneficial. In my many years of doing this, I’ve noticed that one of the quickest ways to boost a home’s marketability is to declutter it and set it up just right before taking professional photos and publishing it for all to see.
With 95% of home buyers using the Internet to search for homes, we want to make sure your home appeals to your audience, captures their attention, and draws them in to personally visit the place. If a property is cluttered, your audience can become distracted and/or assume the place is smaller than is. Since home buyers generally want large spacious areas, decluttering can be a quick, easy, and no cost way to achieve the impression you would want to make. And here, as a Cypress / Garden Grove Realtor, one of the biggest clutter problems I come across is paper.
Paper clutter stacks up for a variety of reasons. From junk mail and magazines to your kid’s homework, art projects, and your important documents, paper can pile up. In fact, once piled up it become overwhelming sorting, finding, and throwing the unnecessary away. I mean, I get it…it probably isn’t the easiest task to throw away your child’s macaroni art. There is hope and a strategy, however.
Cypress / Garden Grove Realtor Shares FIRST
To tackle the paper clutter, first you have to look at it as a leaky faucet. Unless you repair the problem at its source, the paper will continue to drip into your home, flooding it with clutter and bringing with it anxiety. Identify where your paper comes from. Is it the mail? If so, ask to be removed from your retailers and/or organizations mailing lists – as the majority of the time the same information can be accessed online. You can even ask to be removed from some direct marketers unsolicited mailing list with these tips from the Federal Trade Commission.
Second, once you address the leak, attack the piles in a clockwise direction. In other words, when you consider all the piles of paper existing in various areas of your home, you can easily become overwhelming. To overcome this, start in a single room at a 12PM position and work your way around in a clockwise direction. At each area, grab all the papers in the drawers and on top of desks/counters/shelves, etc… Next, sort them into four categories: (1) File It, (2) Recycle, (3) Shred, and (4) Take care of it, also known as FIRST.
(1) File It – I think one of the best ways to file paper is to scan and save them on your computer, the cloud, or an external drive. You can set up general folders for different types of documents (e.g., household, taxes, car, titles, insurance, birth certificates, medical, school, etc.) You don’t have to be too precise as electronic filing systems can be searchable. Then, scan each document and store it in a folder according to its contents.
This works incredibly well for photographs too, as you can display your pics via a digital photo frame as opposed to having them collect dust in photo boxes. All you need is an inexpensive scanner (which you can also usually access for free at a local library) or download a free scanner app which would use your smart phone/table camera as the scanner. You can also scan your child’s art work (as opposed to keeping the original) and display them also via a digital photo frame or have them published into a coffee table book using such services as Shutterfly.
Note, some documents should kept as a hard copy. These include (in no particular order), the most important documents you may need in the future, including: diplomas, transcripts, work portfolio, birth certificates, adoption papers, death certificates, employment records, marriage certificates, passports, title, retirement and pension records, social security cards, driver’s license, and wills.
(2) Recycle – Documents that do not contain sensitive material should be recycled. I read somewhere that one ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons of water. Although you may not have a ton of paper on your desk (or perhaps you do), every bit recycled helps the planet.
(3) Shred – A common questions homeowners have when decluttering their papers is, “how long should I hold onto this?” There’s no single answer, but the recommended guidelines found on TheSpruce.com are as follows:
- Bank statements: 1 month.
- Bills: 1 year if tax or warranty related, otherwise shredded as soon as it’s paid.
- Home improvement receipts: Keep until the home is sold.
- Investment records: 7 years after you’ve closed the account or sold the security.
- Leases: Keep until you’ve moved out and have received your deposit back from the landlord.
- Paychecks and pay stubs: 1 year or until you’ve received your W-2 statement for that tax year.
- Sales receipts: Keep for the life of the warranty for major purchases like appliances and electronics. For things like groceries and clothing, keep until you know it won’t be needed to return the merchandise.
- Tax documents: 7 years, including your filing and all accompanying documents like W-2s and receipts.
- Vehicle records: Keep until the boat, car, or motorcycle is sold.
All else (if you don’t need it), shred it. For example:
- ATM receipts
- Financial statements
- Canceled and voided checks
- Credit reports
- Expired driver’s licenses/ATM cards/credit cards/passports/Visas
- Employment documents
- Legal documents
- Items with a signature and/or social security number (i.e. leases, contracts, letters, etc.)
- Medical/dental records
- Luggage tags
- Passwords or PIN numbers
- Pre-approved credit card applications
- Receipts with checking account numbers, credit card numbers, or any other identifying information
- Tax forms
- Transcripts with identifying information
- Utility bills
(4) Take care of it – After categorizing your papers into filing, recycling, and shredding, I want you to have a separate one form items you still need to take care of. For instance, do you need to pay a bill, file a form, mail something in, apply for something, etc? Create a to-do list and an accessible file with the associated documents. Then, keep these handy and easily accessible so you can start tackling each task and checking them off your to-do list.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Also, we hold periodic free shredding events. To find out when the next event is, please contact me as well.