What Documents Should I Shred and What Should I Keep?


We are all inundated with documents, both used and ongoing. These documents may be a blessing or a curse. It is important to know how to handle these documents to be able to preserve your own safety and security on the one hand and the benefits they potentially bring along on the other hand.

That is a mystery you can only solve if you know what documents to shred and which ones to preserve. These form the basis of our discussions hereunder. We shall also examine some of the questions that are naturally asked at such times.



I do contain a giant pile of important documents right in my possession. I honestly don’t know how to handle them. Quite a number of them appear pointless but may, in fact, be significant. Which ones ought I to preserve and which ones ought I to dispose of?


What’s this Garbage?

‘Blast from the Past’ is a weekly feature from us. In this feature, we seek to revive the old but still relevant posts that you may read and quench your hacking pleasure. We now want to examine the documents you may have to shred or not.

Dear WG,

We all accumulate tons of junks in the mails. These include credit card applications, 60-page retirement fund reports, insurance packets, and job documents. Determining what to keep is a relatively simple undertaking.

The Important Documents to Preserve

The exact decision to take depends on several things. For one, you might as well decide to digitize some, retain some temporarily for some time, and even discard some altogether. Let’s kick off the exercise with the documents whose physical copies you might have to keep forever:

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Business license
  • House deeds
  • ID cards and passports
  • Insurance policies
  • Loan and mortgage documents
  • Marriage license
  • Pension plan documents
  • Social security cards
  • Vehicle titles
  • Wills, living wills, and the powers of attorney

Generally speaking, you should maintain physical copies of all documents that pertain to the state or federal issues. These include deeds, licenses, or certificates.

This is necessary for two reasons. For one, you want to access these documents faster and easier when the need to do so comes. Secondly, they are also painful to replace given that you often have to lodge a direct request to the relevant government agency, a feat that takes quite some time.

In case you are uncertain of what to do with these important documents, we opine that you maintain an “in case of emergency kit” that you may run to just in case. Some web apps like ‘Get Your Sh*t Together’ can also aid you in getting what you want for a longer duration of time.

How to Generate an ‘In-case-of-an-Emergency Everything Document’ to maintain your loved ones informed if the worst comes to the worst.

Follow these steps to actualize this very role:

  • Gather all the vital records to stash in the master information kit
  • Export all your vital accounts information
  • Share the master information kit and the attendant vital documents
  • Update the ‘everything document’ on a regular basis

The second kind of documents we have is those which you may have to keep for some time. To handle these, you may have to follow our guidelines on going paperless. Scan them if you so wish and then store them in safer places. They include:

  • Home purchase, sale, or improvement documents (preserve for no less than six years after-sales)
  • Medical records and bills (preserve for no less than a year after payment to cate for disputes)
  • Pay stubs and bank statements (preserve for a year)
  • Tax records and receipts (preserve for 7 years)
  • Warranty documents and receipts (preserve for as long as you own them)

Lastly, we have a category of documents that you want to preserve the latest versions of:

  • Annual insurance policy statements
  • Retirement plan statements (401(k), 529, IRA, etc.)
  • Social security statements

Knowing about the various cadres of documents is the first and by far the most significant step towards handling the same. Beyond that, you now need to organize them in a filing cabinet accordingly.

Generally speaking, you have to figure out the ease, or lack of it, with which the document you want to preserve is replaceable. In case replacing such a document may be a daunting undertaking, you are advised to hold onto it for a longer duration. If on the other hand, you can easily find a replacement typically via the online platform, you really don’t have to maintain a physical copy of the same.

Shred every other Document

It is better to shred out any other document that does not fall within the criteria we have set above. These include such documents that contain your personal pieces of information like phone numbers, addresses, official names, bank account details, and the social security number.

These may include the credit card receipts, ATM receipts, used airline tickets, bills, personal identification documents, passports, visas, and expired credit cards. For best results, be advised to use a good shredder for the job.


Knowing about what to do in and of itself is definitely not sufficient. You no doubt have to implement the insights you have obtained in real life. We now pass the back to you to consider doing just that. Find a good machine to do the job to prevent any portions from being left to exposure.

We have many other insights that touch on the various other aspects of life. You will find these and indeed many more others in our dedicated sites. To get started on this, we recommend that you pay a visit to us via this uniform resource locators: how to keep important document safe at home

Lastly, we are also constantly updating our content and researching the various ways and means of improving the lives of our readers. Be sure to refer to our site in the future to keep abreast of our developments.