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      Money Talks : Spring Cleaning Your Finances

      Cleaning house

      Cleaning house is a Spring ritual for many families. But what about those overstuffed drawers and file cabinets? Before you add this year's tax stuff to those already bulging folders, why not see what you can throw away.

      You should keep copies of your tax returns forever as proof you filed. The paper that supports your deductions you should keep for at least three years from the filing date, because that's how long the IRS typically goes back on audits.

      Houses and investing also generate lots of paper. When it comes to stuff like stocks, your house, or improvements to your house, you want to keep those records for at least 3 years after you've sold the investment, because they're tax-related.

      But that doesn't mean you have to keep everything on paper. You should do what I did. Buy yourself a cheap scanner. Take your important documents, scan them. Make digital files. They're much easier to find, much more organized. And you can take all that old paper and you can throw it in the trash.

      And while you're at the computer, download some free software that will help you get organized. The insurance information institute, for example, offers free software that you can use to create a home inventory, and keep track of everything from insurance policies to investment accounts.

      And practically everyone has paper they either don't need now or never did. Old utility statements, reconciled bank statements. Old receipts and cancelled checks, instruction manuals for stuff you don't have anymore. Just get rid of it.

      Bottom line? When you're doing that Spring cleaning, don't stop at your house. Go to your desk too. Pull out that paper and see what you can get rid of. By the way when you are getting rid of paper, make sure and shred anything that might be compromising. Want more information on how to Spring clean your finances? It's waiting for you right here at and search for "Spring Cleaning Finances." For Money Talks News, I'm Stacy Johnson.

      If you'd like more information on getting organized and staying that way, visit Stacy on the web.