Knowing What Documents To Keep, Scan Or Shred

Posted on: 9 February 2015

The new year always begins with a determination to get your home organized and clean. So one thing you may start to do is go through your documents and decide what to keep and what to shred. Depending on the type of documents you have, you will need to store some of them for a certain period of time. Some documents you can scan and store on a hard drive, and others you can shred and recycle. This article will give you a general idea of what items to keep, scan and shred.

Safe Keeping and Protecting Your Identity 

Depending what type of documents you're dealing with, you need to store some of them for certain periods of time, or you can scan and toss. Here's some of the documents that you should never throw away: 

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Pension and retirement plan documents
  • Social security cards
  • Passports and other ID cards
  • Marriage license
  • Business license
  • All insurance policies (although it's a good idea to have a digital copy as well)
  • Vehicle loan documents
  • Titles to vehicles
  • Wills, power of attorney, and health care proxy 
  • Property deeds and mortgage documents

You'll also want to keep copies of documents that relate to federal or state matters, which includes deeds, licenses and certificates. You want to have easy access to these documents because they can be very difficult to replace, and replacing them can also be costly and take some time.

Going Paperless

These documents are those that you can hold onto a physical copy, or you can just scan them and store them on a hard drive or a flash drive. No matter where you store them, make sure that you keep a backup. Or two. These documents include: 

  • Tax returns and all accompanying receipts
  • Pay check stubs and your bank statements
  • Documents regarding your home purchase, sale, or other home improvements 
  • Medical records, insurance statements and bills 
  • Appliance and other warranty documents and accompanying receipts 

You may want to talk to your financial adviser to determine how long you need to keep items like your tax returns, but usually you can throw them away after seven years. However, you'll want to have them shredded before you toss, because these documents will have a lot of personal information on them. You can hire a shredding service like Vital Records Control, or turn to your local municipality to see if they are holding any free shredding days in your area.