Papers and Documents: How Long Do You Keep Them, How Do You Store Them?

Papers and Documents: How Long Do You Keep Them, How Do You Store Them?

When it comes to organizing their homes and lives, across the board, people are often most overwhelmed by their paper documents. You’ve got a pile on the counter, a stack (OK, a mountain) on your desk, and a few molehills on end tables throughout the house. What do you do with it all? It can feel like such a big task that it’s tough to know where to start. Here are our best tips for organizing the items you need to keep and getting a handle on your documents once and for all.

How to Determine What to Keep

First, you’re going to have to touch everything. Yep. You’ve gotta do it. Go through each item and decide if it really is something worth keeping. If you have duplicate copies, shred one. You need to start your mission with only documents you are certain you need to hang on to.

As you’re sorting through, ask yourself these questions to help you determine what you need to save:

  • Is it related to a state or federal matter?
  • Is it proof of my identity?
  • Is it an ongoing financial matter?
  • Has this event already passed and will it ever come up again?
  • Could I need this document if there is a future dispute or audit of any kind?

These are just a few questions to ask. As you sift through, really think about each document’s purpose and function and rack your brain for any situations you might need it for in the future.

Organizing Important Documents

Hopefully now your stack is significantly smaller than when you began, but if it’s not, don’t worry. This system will work for all amounts of paperwork. The next step is to sort the remaining documents into four piles. Everything you have left in your “keep” stack will fall into one of four categories:

  • Keep for less than a year
  • Keep for one year or more
  • Keep for seven years
  • Keep forever

Let’s look at some examples of documents that fit into each category.

Those that you keep for less than a year may include:

  • Receipts for purchases not needed for warranty verification
  • Bank deposit and ATM withdrawal receipts
  • Bank, policy and credit card statements (keep most current)

Those you should keep for one year or more include:

  • Loan documents
  • Vehicle titles (keep until you sell)
  • Investment purchase confirmations
  • Health insurance statement of benefits

Documents you should keep for 7 years or more include:

Keep these documents forever:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Military discharge paperwork
  • Life insurance policies
  • Estate planning information

Now that you have your four piles, get appropriate files or containers for storage. You may have an accordion file for current and up-to-one-year documents. Your 7-year documents could be scanned and stored electronically or placed in a fire-proof safe. Your forever documents belong in a fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box, whichever makes you feel more secure.

And there you have it! You have tackled your stack!

If you need further help or are simply overwhelmed by the task, call Errand Works. Our reliable and trustworthy employees can tackle this task for you and create a system to get you organized in a snap. Errand Works, LLC, is licensed, bonded and insured.  Every errand runner must pass a Virginia State Criminal Background Check prior to being hired, so you can rest easy knowing your information is in safe hands. Contact us today to get started on your path to organization.