Declutter By Shredding

Declutter By Shredding

Do you ever feel like your home is being taken over by paper? I know I can’t be the only one. Between bills, papers from school, instructions, loan documents, deeds, papers from church, calendars, warranty documents, and everything else, our homes are overwhelmed by paper.  Paper keeps flooding in and then staying because when we don’t know how long to keep things, we end up saving everything.  We fall behind with filing things and we end up with stacks of paper all around the house.




Today we are going to talk break down the different documents and paper we have and how long we actually need to be holding on to them.  Some things need to be kept forever, while others can be thrown away immediately.  Still others are somewhere in the middle. Lack of knowledge on what needs to be saved for how long is often what causes us to hold onto everything indefinitely.  Let’s start off with the things we really need to hold onto forever.

Hold Onto These Documents Forever

  • Academic Records – Diplomas, transcripts and any portfolio work which could be used when applying for a job.
  • Adoption Papers
  • Baptismal Certificates
  • Birth Certificates
  • Death Certificates – These can sometimes be needed for tax purposes.
  • Driver’s Licenses
  • Employment Records – Any clauses, agreements, disciplinary files and performance reviews.
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Medical Records
  • Military Records
  • Passports
  • Retirement and Pension Records
  • Social Security Cards
  • Wills

paper clutter

Save For a Moderate Period of Time

  • Bills – 1 year for anything tax or warranty related
  • Home Improvement Receipts – Keep until home is sold.
  • Investment Records – 7 years after you’ve closed the account or sold the security.
  • Leases – Keep these until you’ve moved out and have received your deposit back from the landlord.
  • Paychecks / Pay Stubs – 1 year until you’ve received your W-2
  • Sales Receipts for Major Purchases – Keep for the life of the warranty. This applies only to major purchases like appliances and electronics.
  • Tax Documents – 7 years including your filing and all accompanying documents like W-2s and receipts.
  • Vehicle Records – Keep until boat, car or motorcycle is sold.

Keep For A Short Time

  • Credit Card Bills – Shred immediately when paid.
  • Other Bills – Should be shredded as soon as they have been paid.
  • Bank Statements – 1 month
  • Sales Receipts for Minor Purchases – Keep receipts for things like groceries and clothing only as long as you know you are not going to need the receipt for a return.

When you do get rid of these documents, the best method is to shred anything with account numbers, birth dates, maiden names, passwords and pins, signatures, and social security numbers.  This can include bank receipts and statements, copies of birth certificates, credit card bills, cancelled checks, old passports, legal documents and more.  Most other papers can just be recycled.  When in doubt, it does not hurt to shred it.

This should help you go through your paper and start recycling and shredding the documents you don’t need. If  you would really like to get a handle on all of your paper clutter from mail, to recipes, to work projects to instruction manuals, let me know in the comments.  I would love to do a series on paper organization to help us all get a real handle on the paper clutter in our homes.




Author : Emily Bendler

Emily Bendler is a mom, wife, full-time insurance adjuster, professional dancer, dance teacher, graduate student, and founder of I Hope You Dance, Inc., a non-profit supporting youth dance. Read how Emily used her dance ambitions to become a time management maven using the about me link in the main menu. Feel free to send Emily a message using the contact page which can be found in the main menu under About Me.

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13 Comments on "Declutter By Shredding"

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Stefani Harris

I swear, I JUST said yesterday that I needed to order a shredder! Thank you for the reminder and the tips!

Five for the Road

I have so much to shred. I know I will feel better once I do it! Great list to know what to keep and what to toss.

Kim Studdard

I bought a shredder two months ago, and can’t believe it took me so long to actually get one! Lol. Thanks for sharing this!


Paper does have a way of taking over. The only thing I would disagree with is keeping bank statements. Hubby is a bank examiner and suggest you keep them for a year. I know you can get copies form the bank but it will cost you.

Kim Amy

Thanks for this reminder, I like to go through my files once year prior to taxes. This is a good starting point.

Laina Turner

I’m in the process of decluttering now and the idea of all paper going away is an amazing thought.

Katie Kinsley

I don’t have a shredded, but I normally burn the papers that I don’t feel okay about putting in the trash.

heart, home and hope

I love this list for reference! I hate having extra clutter but I often don’t know what paper documents to keep and what to not. Thanks!

The Momproviser

This is such a useful guide! We have so much to shred. The other day we finally got around to shredding the receipts from our wedding gifts from 2013… yikes!

Jasmine - LoveLifeLaughMotherhood

My paper clutter tends to be invoices and business cards that I refuse to throw away, looonnnggg after they are useful…you know, just in case!