Organizing Office Docs (Keep or Shred)

If you are like most people, you likely have a large – and growing – pile of documents that vary in levels of importance that you simply can’t figure out how to manage. Certainly there has to be some stuff that can be safely shredded or otherwise put out of your life but how can one tell what should be kept and what should be tossed?

It is important to realize that looks can be deceiving. A document may look innocuous and yet be important enough to keep. Before you get paranoid and just start hoarding everything, we have some advice for you on how to sort through and weed out the documents that need no longer be a part of your life. The good news is that deciding what to keep is relatively simple and you can confidently shred nearly everything else.

What to Keep Forever

Some documents need to be retained for certain periods of time. Others can be scanned and stored digitally. Among those that you would want to keep forever are:

  • Birth Certificates (and death certificates)
  • Documents related to a pension
  • Social Security/Social Insurance cards
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce papers
  • Licenses of Incorporation (aka business licenses)
  • Insurance policies
  • Wills and documents granting power of attorney
  • Loan documents and motor vehicle titles
  • Mortgage documents
  • Property deeds

You should always have physical copies of the above documents and know where they are. Keep them stored in a fire-safe box and maintain digital backups when possible. Government documents like your Social Security card are of particular importance since replacing them can be anywhere from a minor irritation to a huge hassle. Either option is likely to be far more time-consuming than coming up with a plan to preserve the originals and implementing it.

What to Keep For a While

“A while” is a bit of a nebulous term so let’s have a look at a few specifics. Tax forms need to be held for a period of 5 years but 7 is the accepted norm, especially after a bankruptcy. All financial documents should be kept at least until the bankruptcy is discharged. Other documents should be retained for whatever period of time is mandated by the government, lender or other involved entity. If paranoia sets in and you are afraid to purge certain things (or ANYTHING), you can always scan your documents before disposing of them and retain digital copies forever.

What to Shred

The answer to this question is simple: you can shred everything else. Again, keep digital copies of anything that will keep you up at night if you pitch it, but do un-clutter your life by shredding old bank statements, receipts not used for tax purposes, credit card applications (or any document that can be used in identity theft scenarios), payment coupons on closed lines of credit or loans (like your car payments), and anything else that you have documentation to back up that a bill has been paid or an account settled.

Keeping these tips in mind will help keep clutter at bay and allow for a more organized way of tracking and organizing the documents that really matter.  Also, if you are looking for a company to shred your documents here in SWFL try out our friends Secured Document Shredding.

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