I want to go paperless. What can I not discard?
March 26, 2015 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to go as paperless as possible using a scanner and (probably) Evernote, but I want to make sure I don't get rid of anything important. What kind of documents should I not shred even after I make copies?

Assuming that my digital documents are stored and backed-up in more than one location, what kind of documents do I absolutely need to keep original copies of? What documents are not legally binding if not in original form? Rules of thumb, a comprehensive online resource, anything would be great. I'd rather err on the side of caution.

Any other tips on going paperless are welcome. Thanks!
posted by alligatorman to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Anything with a seal (like a title, deed or original birth/marriage/death certificate)--obviously--you should not shred, although you can pretty much always get a new certified copy from the issuing government agency. Insurance documents are also in the category of things I keep the hardcopy of, but that's more for convenience, honestly (since most of my insurance documents I never see in hardcopy ever anymore. I rarely get anything official in hard copy anymore, to be honest).

I shred everything else, personally, although I've gotten into the habit of always signing in blue ink and scanning in color.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:37 PM on March 26, 2015

According to this Kiplinger article, the things to keep are Social Security cards, certificates of birth, death and marriage, estate documents, medical records, insurance policies, proof of mortgage and other loan payoffs, and titles and deeds for cars and homes.

I don't really agree with some of the things on this list. Medical records, insurance policies, and mortgage documents seem to be fine to keep only electronically, in my experience. The only things I have originals of are my birth certificate, social security card, and the deeds/titles to cars and houses. Everything else has been fine to have scans only.

One thing that I do know is that the IRS is fine with scans of receipts, so that's a good one -- I still do have all my tax stuff in hard copy, but mostly just because it's a pain to scan receipts that aren't full 8.5x11.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2015

The only things I keep are government documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc) and legal documents (Leases, business contracts, etc.)

Frankly, I don't even bother scanning any of the rest before I dispose of it, and I have almost never regretted it.
posted by 256 at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2015

Here's a little guide I'm keeping in my bookmarks for this occasion: This Infographic Shows You What Documents to Shred, Scan, or Store (the original page on Women & Co. website probably doesn't exist anymore)
posted by ringu0 at 2:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anything with a signature on it (yours or anyone else's) except cancelled checks.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:58 PM on March 26, 2015

I'd put a lot of emphasis on answers from people who've been audited recently (or work in the tax prep industry). Everyone else is just hoping their doing it right.
posted by artdrectr at 11:40 PM on March 26, 2015

I'd put a lot of emphasis on answers from people who've been audited recently (or work in the tax prep industry). Everyone else is just hoping their doing it right.

This is why so much of what you find in articles is so handwavey when you get to the bottom. And whatever else you might need for tax purposes. Gosh, thanks. It's the and other duties as assigned of the paperless world.

The conclusion I came to was that the problem wasn't that I had these papers but that they were staying underfoot because I might ever need them and I was expending brain power thinking about them. Now I have some banker boxes from Ikea that sit on a high shelf. At an accessible level I have manilla folders. Things I think I might need to ever look at get scanned. Everything goes in the folder.

When it fills up it gets the date written on it, sealed, shoved in the banker box. Anything I find in the box older than 7 years goes in the burn bag. (Which actually goes to the community shredder on their monthly day but I like typing burn bag) If I ever find myself audited and don't have a scan I could in theory open the envelopes and look for it. I pray I never need to, and I never open those envelopes.

If you have space issues maybe this doesn't work for you but the tl;dr is if you don't have to expend worry about if you should have kept something then just find a solution that still avoids the clutter while removing the risk.

Obviously auto and home titles, birth certificates, SSN cards (why do we still need these stupid things???) and anything else with original notary stamps is not part of this process.
posted by phearlez at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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