When you’re going through your documents, it can be tough to decide what to keep and what to throw away. Some paperwork is too sentimental or important to throw away, but if you hold on to everything then you’ll just end up with mountains of clutter. So where do you draw the line between paperwork that needs to be disposed of and paperwork that you should keep? Here are our five tips on how to separate important documents and paperwork from the junk:
Does the document require a signature?
A document that requires a signature or notarization is something you should definitely keep. This could be anything from contracts to tax records. If a document doesn’t require either of these, then it’s safe to say that the document isn’t important and can be thrown away. An unsigned document usually means it isn’t an original copy, so if necessary, you can find another version online or through another party.
Do you have electronic copies of the document?
If the answer is yes, then you should consider securely disposing of the paper document. We live in a time where every document has more than one physical copy, between PDF documents and email. Most of our business dealings and transactions can be traced back through a digital paper trail, even if one piece of the physical paperwork is misplaced. If you have an electronic version of a contract, invoice, or other document taking up space on your drive, you can rest easy, securely shredding the paper version.
Will you need the document in the future?
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself when deciding to keep or shred a document. When you habitually save documents under the impression that they will eventually be useful, your home or office can quickly become filled with more paperwork than you have time to organize. In fact, document hoarding becomes counterproductive at a certain point, as it becomes almost impossible to locate a specific sheet of paper when you need it. In general, most documents (no matter how significant they might seem) become outdated within twelve months. So if you’ve been holding onto a document for longer than a year without referencing it or needing it, then chances are you can get rid of it.
Are you having trouble locating important documents?
If your credit card company calls inquiring about a statement from last year, will you be able to find the information they’re asking for? When you open your filing cabinet to a sea of documents and can’t remember which one your credit card company is asking about, then it’s time for a declutter. When you have too much paperwork, you lose sight of what matters and why you even kept the document in the first place.
Can your documents be easily organized?
If a particular document doesn’t appear to have any relevance to the other documents you’re storing, then it’s probably not worth taking up space in your filing cabinet. A document that isn’t similar to others or at least falls into a general category with other papers is likely unimportant. Even if it’s a sentimental piece, if it can’t be easily placed into an existing system, then chances are you won’t ever look at it again.
The best way to keep your paperwork and documents organized is to have a system in place for what goes where. That way, when it comes time to declutter, you can go through your papers with a clear purpose.
To sum it up, if a document is important, you’ll know it. But if you’re not sure whether or not to keep a particular document, ask yourself the above questions. If you don’t want your personal or financial information getting into the wrong person’s hands, it is crucial that you shred any documents with this type of data via local document destruction before disposing of them.