Storing Important Documents
According to a poll conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, only 40% of people think that when they need an important document they’d be able to find it in just a moment’s notice. This means if a situation arose like a medical emergency or a theft, these people would be left scrambling to find insurance documents or healthcare power-of-attorneys, etc.
Keeping good records can help save you time and money! For example, keeping the warranty for a big ticket item like an appliance keeps you covered if anything should go wrong in a specified amount of time. But if you’re overwhelmed by paperwork and have little storage space in your home, what items should you keep and what can get tossed or shredded?
Document Storage 101
First of all, if you’re a small business owner and have too much paperwork to store in a home office, keep in mind that renting a self storage unit from National Storage is the perfect option. We offer secure self storage in a variety of unit sizes, so you’ll be able to store and access your documents as you need them, with the peace of mind that they’ll be kept in a safe place.
If you’re a homeowner trying to get organized, however, here are a few guidelines to help get your document storage under control:
Know what to keep and for how long. The first step is knowing what documents are important to hold on to, and for the length of time you should keep them. You can of course use whatever system works best for you, but in general, here are the basic rules of what documents to keep and for how long:
- Tax returns: Tax documents should be kept the longest out of all your paperwork. Keep tax returns for the past 7 years, along with any important documentation you may need.
- Owner’s manuals and warranties: Most owner’s manuals can be found on the manufacturers’ websites these days, so if manuals are clogging up your file drawer, you can feel free to purge these. However, warranties should be kept for the length of time the item is covered. An important tip is to staple the receipt for the item to the warranty; many times, you’ll be asked for the receipt as proof of purchase.
- Bank and credit card statements: These types of documents are also available online, so after you reconcile your accounts and make sure everything is matching up for the month, you don’t really need to keep these for longer than one month. Unless, of course, you do not have access to your accounts online. Then you should plan on keeping these statements for up to a year.
- Pay stubs: Plan on filing away a year’s worth of paystubs in case you need to show proof of income. Reconcile them with your W-2 form at tax time, then you can get rid of them.
- Medical receipts and claims: Again, these types of documents should be stored for a calendar year in case you need to confirm payments, check deductibles, etc. If you include any medical expenses on your taxes, keep these documents filed with your tax information.
Once you know what to keep, the organization process can begin! Pick up some filing supplies like folders or storage boxes and designate an area just for document storage in your home. Go through that pile of paperwork, setting it into the categories above. This will make it easier to file away- and for you to find what you’re looking for when you need it! Shred the documents you won’t be keeping to safeguard yourself from identity theft. And finally, maintain your files on an annual basis at the very least.
Questions about document storage? Contact the National Storage location near you today!