Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson

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When Less Is More Money
There's nothing wrong with being a little sentimental, but we shouldn't hold on to more than we need—from clothes to outdated gadgets to paperwork and receipts.

Want to streamline your life but aren't sure where to start? Here's a guide to what you can toss, what you should keep, and clever ways to turn your castoffs into cash.

Pitch Paperwork

Still have your 2008 tax returns? (Honestly, I only got the courage to shred mine right before I wrote this column.) Discarding old tax forms or receipts can be nerve-racking, but try not to let emotions get in the way, says Cass McCrory, author and creator of the Subtraction Project.

1. Tax returns and supporting documents
The IRS says most of us can discard tax paperwork three years after the date we filed. Uncle Sam's time frame for an audit generally expires after that. (Keep digital scans if you want to be extra careful.)

2. Merchandise receipts
Depending on where you shopped, you might not need a receipt for a return. Target, Nordstrom, Macy's, and other stores allow returns of many items without a receipt if they can track your purchase using your credit or debit car d, or by an email order confirmation for online purchases. Check the store policy before ditching your paperwork.

3. Warranty Receipts
For big-ticket items (like electronics or appliances) with a warranty, McCrory recommends keeping receipts and related paperwork for at least the term of the warranty, which is usually one to two years. After that, they can go in the trash.

4. Bills, pay stubs, bank statements
Unless you're applying for a loan, like a mortgage (which requires an assortment of recent documents), you can confidently shred any statements that can be retrieved online and printed if need be.