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44 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER 2021 According to the Internal Revenue's online resources, you should keep your tax returns and associated financial documents for three years. is goes up to seven years if you've filed a claim for worthless securities or bad debt, but for most of us, three years is the max. Now, in case you are wondering why I've started out with such a dry and boring fact, it's because it uncomfortably applies more to me than prob- ably any other person in the world. Yes, I admit it, I'm a tax return hoarder. I've tried to tell myself over the years that keeping those documents was an act of pre- serving history, and from time to time they actually have provided some entertaining moments. For instance, looking back on our incomes from 20 or 30 years ago, or find- ing out how little we used to pay for health insurance, has made for some interesting jaunts down memory lane. e truth, however, is keeping those old documents was just plain laziness on my par t. It was a lot easier to collect t h o s e d o c u m e n t s every year, bag 'em up, and toss them in the back of the upstairs closet where I didn't have to think about them anymore. Unfortu- nately, my tax hoarding habits have produced some real problems: • e closet was running out of room • Critters tend to love piles of paper like this • My family was getting increasingly annoyed with the mess • All of that paper had become a potentially dangerous fire threat that kept growing each year To summarize, I had convinced myself that the massive amount of data that I had collected over the years was essential for one reason or another. In reality, my collection was nothing more than an unmanage- able mess that served no useful purpose. For- tunately for me, this particular problem was resolved by a trip to the recycling center and $30 worth of paper shredding services. But there are a lot of differ- ent types of "collec- tions" in life that need managing , and like my pro- liferating pile of paper publications, they all need their own Say 'No' to File Hoarding: Data Management Tips Tim's Takeaways Feature Column by Tim Haag, FIRST PAGE SAGE

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