As much as you’d like to junk the personal or company filing cabinet, there are some sensitive documents that are worth keeping around. It may no longer be the era of paper, but if you end up in court over your land deed, a scanned copy isn’t going to cut it with the judge.
Long Term Storage
Some documents you need to keep indefinitely, or for seven to ten years, include:
- Land or property deeds
- Home or building ownership documents for any building you currently own
- Retirement documents, such as 401k statements
- Birth certificates
Sensitive Documents in Business
Businesses may also want to keep hard copies of W2 forms, signed contracts, and any item that requires a notary or raised seal. Receipts, backup for tax statements, and other corporate financial information should be kept on hand for at least ten years. All that can add up to a lot of paper in your home or office. Here are a few ideas for storing your sensitive documents.
- Have everything scanned for easy electronic access before you put documents in storage. A scanned copy works for your own review purposes, and a printed copy works in many business and audit situations.
- Store frequently accessed hardcopies in a locked, fireproof or fire-resistant filing cabinet. Frequent access is defined as more than a few times a month.
- Store infrequently accessed items in archive boxes in a locked room. If you have a room with firewalls, this would be the best choice. Label archive boxes with the type of documents enclosed as well as the date range of documents so you can find things when necessary.
- Protect delicate or important documents by placing them between two pieces of cardboard prior to filing.
- To reduce expenses, purchase a small fireproof safe for irreplaceable or hard-to-replace documents and file everything else in a standard cabinet from an office supply store.
The key to good document storage is understanding what you need to keep. If you’ll never need a hardcopy of the document, scan it and shred it. Otherwise, keep organized files and purge them on an annual basis so you don’t waste valuable space storing out-of-date items.