Even with much of the world going paperless for records, you can still find yourself in possession of piles of user manuals, quick start up guides, warranties, and receipts. You may be wondering what to do with this collection of paperwork if you have purchased new appliances, recently purchased a new home and inherited appliance user manuals, or made a resolution to declutter and organize your home and life.

Now’s a great time to shrink and organize your user manuals and other consumer paperwork.

Reasons why

Here are several good reasons to start organizing your consumer paperwork now:

  1. It will save you time and aggravation to have all paperwork neatly sorted for future finding.
  2. It will be easier to fix or submit a warranty claim for a faulty item.
  3. You can effortlessly discover if your item qualifies for replacement because of a recall.
  4. You can answer questions about how something works—like a feature, setting, or attachment—so you can use an item to its full potential.
  5. If you want to sell or trade an item, you could get a higher asking price with all paperwork.

How to organize

Decide what to keep — Recycle paperwork for items you no longer own. Toss expired coupons, product advertisements, manuals in another language, and any unnecessary bits of paper that come with a purchase. You can also recycle user manuals that are offered online as a PDF (many are these days). Consider weeding out paperwork for small items with only an on/off switch or that are under your budget threshold of something you could afford to replace if it breaks.

Combine — For the paperwork you decide to keep, staple or clip together the user manual and receipt or proof of purchase, and put any assembly keys or replacement parts (Allen wrench, Hex key, extra screws, etc.) in a baggie. For quick reference, it’s a good idea to write the purchase date, and model and serial number on the front of the manual. If you received a digital receipt, be sure to keep that in an email folder and then write on the manual where to find the receipt.

Systematize — Everyone’s brain works differently, so find a system that works for you. Options include putting everything alphabetical by brand or by category. Consider groups like:

  • Electronics
  • Large appliances
  • Small appliances
  • Furnishings
  • Outdoor and Garden
  • Tools
  • Kids/Toys
  • Sports
  • Miscellaneous

Where to keep it all

The type of container you choose should have a functioning clasp that keeps everything inside safe from moisture. This could be a filing cabinet or a three-ring binder inside a plastic tub. Avoid piling loose papers on top of each other in a container—this will make it difficult and messy to locate anything!

Now put that container in an easy-to-reach place—not the back of a closet with items stacked in front, or in an attic space that requires a ladder. If it’s in a hard-to-reach space, you’re not likely to keep up your new system of organization or use those manuals to troubleshoot problems.

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