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No matter where we live or what we do, we all get a ton of junk mail. Whether it’s credit card applications, insurance promotions, retirement reports from a job you had 10 years ago or a mailer trying to convince you to switch bank accounts.  Hundreds of the things drop through our post box every single year, mixed in with all of our normal post. But how do you separate out what you need and what you don’t, and what documents you really need to keep a paper copy of and what can be digitised. Once you work out what you need to keep a physical copy of, the list becomes very small, and everything else can be shredded to protect your identity. If you have a pile of paperwork mounting up that you just can’t face, we have a few tips to help you work through what you need to keep, for how long, and what you should be shredding.

Important Documents You Need To Keep


Depending on what type of documents you’re dealing with, you will need to store them all for different periods of time. Some of these documents can be digitised, while some can only be kept in paper form. For individuals, the list of documents you need physical copies of is actually the longest:

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Pension plan documents
  • ID cards and passports
  • Marriage or divorce licenses
  • Insurance documents (while you can digitise these, it’s always a good idea to keep a physical copy as well)
  • Wills, living wills and powers of attorney
  • Vehicle titles and loan or finance documents
  • House deeds or mortgage documents

For many people these documents can fit into a single filing box, which can then become your ‘important document’ file. In todays’ modern world you don’t even need to keep physical copies of utility bills, as these are all available to view and download online when you need them. So once you’ve gone through and checked that everything is above board, they can go into a bag to be shredded and recycled.

Short Term

After you have filed away all of your ‘keep forever’ documents, you can then start to sort out any documents that only need to be kept for a short or pre-defined period of time. Many of these documents can be scanned in and kept digitally, as the authorities that need them accept both digital and paper files now. These include:

– Tax records and relevant recipes (which need to be kept for 7 years)

– Pay slips and bank statements (these should be kept for 1 year, but can be digital)

– Home purchase, sale of improvement documents (should be kept for at least 6 years after the event, either in paper or digital form)

– Warrant documents and receipts (to be kept as long as valid)

Any documents that don’t fall into these 2 categories usually only need to be kept until the next is issued, or not at all – like the bank statements we talked about earlier. Once you have thinned down your pile to documents you need to keep, you can arrange them I a filing cabinet or box and forget about them. A good rule of thumb when doing this is to think about how easy the document is to replace – the harder to replace the more likely you need to keep a physical copy. By now you will likely have a bin bag or two full of paperwork that you don’t want to keep. Paperwork that is covered in your personal information. To dispose of it safely and securely, ask an expert shredding company like us to come and take the bag away, shred what’s in it and send it to be recycled, providing you with a certificate of destruction to prove its been done. For more information or to book your collection, get in touch with us today.