Last month we talked a little bit about the piles of business paperwork we can accrue, and which documents you needed to keep and which you could throw away. To follow on that theme, we realised that paperwork doesn’t just pile up in a business. We all get piles of junk mail come through our letter box at home every day, from credit card applications, insurance documents or a financial report from that company you worked for 10 plus years ago. The trouble is that for a lot of people this all just piles up and results in a paperwork disaster. So this month we focus on the domestic side of what you should keep and what you should shred. Depending on what type of document you are dealing with they can be split into 3 categories, you need to store some of them for certain periods of time, others you can digitise, some you can throw away and others you need to keep forever.
Keep Your Physical Copies Forever
- Birth and death certificates
- National insurance numbers
- ID cards and passports
- Marriage licenses
- Divorce certificates
- Business licenses (if applicable)
- Insurance documents
- Wills, living wills and powers of attorney
- Vehicle titles and finance documents
- House deeds and mortgage documents
As a general rule you want to keep anything that relates to a legal matter, including certifications, licenses or deeds. There are 2 reasons for this. The first is that you want to have easy access to them in case you need them for any reason, but they are also a nightmare to try and replace, often taking up a lot of time and money. If you’re not quite sure of what to do with these documents once you have gathered them together, we recommend putting together an ‘in case of emergency’ kit and keeping it in a safe, so that you always know where they are and that they are secure.
Storage Or Digitise
- Tax records (keep for 7 years)
- Pay slips & bank statements (keep for 1 year)
- Property purchase, sale or improvement documentation (should be kept for at least 6 years after sale or purchase)
- Medical records
- Warranty documents (keep as long as you own the item)
- Insurance policy statements
- Pension plan statements and documents
This second set of documents need to be kept around for a while but not indefinitely. You can either store them in a segmented filing cabinet or scan and digitise them for you if that is what you prefer. Things like bank statements are usually available online, so as long as you have them recorded you can shred the paper versions or request that the bank stop sending them. A good rule of thumb is to think about how hard that document is to replace. If you need to stand in line at a government office or spend hours on the phone applying for a replacement, you should probably keep it. If you can easily pop online to see or download a copy, you probably don’t need a physical copy.
There is no need for a bullet point list here, because pretty much everything else can be safely shredded or thrown away. When deciding whether a piece of paper belongs in the bin or the shredder, check what is on it. If it contains personal information like your name, address, bank details or any other personal identifiers, it should be shredded for security reasons. This might include things you don’t even think about, like the receipts you find in pockets or when you’re emptying out your wallet, old airline tickets or paid bills. You should also shred expired personal documents like passports, driver’s licences or NI number cards as soon as you get replacements for them. Make sure you use a decent cross cut shredder for these, or bag them up and drop them into a collection centre to be shredded professionally.
Hopefully this post has helped you sort through the pile of paperwork at home and create some easy to find piles for your essential documents. If you aren’t sure whether a document should be shredded or if you aren’t able to shred a document yourself, get in touch with one of our advisors for your free consultation and shredding advice.