Paper. It has to be the biggest cause of clutter in my living space. My desk is often cluttered with papers and sticky notes. Sadly, digital doesn’t always work for me and I still find paper planners, notepads and to-do lists lurking about on my desk.
In an effort declutter my finances (and locate the manuals for items I want to sell), I decided to go through the filing cabinet to get rid of old documents and organize what I have to keep. Even in our technological age and era of E-statements, there are still many documents that financial institutions send us. I went through everything, my RRSP statements, credit card statements, car maintenance records, old paystubs; it was mind boggling all the extra documents I had that I no longer needed. I ended up with an entire garbage bag full of shredded paper (that my cat Maggie decided to have fun playing in). I even had a little bit of nostalgia – I found old passbooks for my bank accounts from 1995. Leafing through them, I noticed how dramatically bank fees have changed: 30 cents for a withdrawal from a bank machine. It is at least $1.50 now.
What Documents Should You Shred and What Do You Keep?
The answer is simple: SHRED everything! (well, almost everything). Any document that has your Social Insurance Number and/or account numbers are a SHRED ME must. Be sure to get a shredder that will handle 10 pages or more, staples/paper clips and will allow you to shred Credit Cards. I use a Fellowes 79ci to shred everything. It’s great because it’s a cross cut and the strips are fairly small, so it’s less likely someone will be able to piece anything back together.
- Bank withdrawal and deposit slips. Check your bank statement to make sure the amounts match up and then shred.
- Purchase Receipts. Enter them into your monthly budget and then shred, unless you paid with a credit card. In that case, wait until your monthly statement arrives and double check that the amounts are correct. Keep your receipt if you purchased something with a warranty (keep it until your warranty expires or you no longer own the item).
- Internet, Telephone & Utility Bills.
- Monthly Bank Statements. Keep these for 1 year.
- Monthly Brokerage/Mutual Fund Statements. Reconcile with your annual statement and then shred.
- Monthly Credit Card Statements.
- Monthly Mortgage Statements. Reconcile with your annual statement and then shred.
- Pay Stubs. Reconcile with your T4 and then shred. These are a super important document to shred as it contains all the require info for identity theft: Social Insurance Number, Name, and Address
- Tax Returns. Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.
- All T4 Forms. Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.
- Annual Mortgage Statements.
- Receipts & Statements for Tax Returns, including: donations, RRSP contributions, child care receipts, mortgage interest, medical expenses, property tax payments, alimony/child support paid or received, etc. (Starting from the end of the tax year relating to the records.)
- Adoption Records.
- Auto/Home/Life Insurance Policy Information. Keep as long as the policy is still active and then shred.
- Auto Records. Keep as long as you own the vehicle.
- Birth Certificate.
- Death Certificate(s).
- Divorce Agreement/Child Custody Orders.
- Investment Records.
- Marriage Certificate.
- Medical Records.
- Military Records.
- Pension Plan Records.
- Receipts for major home improvements. Keep until you no longer own the home.
- Will and/or Power of Attorney.
Some of the forever items you may want to keep locked in a safety deposit box.
After going through this list, I quickly realized that there were many more things to shred. I’ve kept my paystubs since my first job after college; I only managed to shred 5 years’ worth on the weekend. Only another 10 to go!