There are likely billions of pieces of paper across England (from personal notes to business files to archived documents). Not only is most of it unnecessary, it also leads to confusion and even fire hazards. People often get confused on how long to keep various documents (like tax) and others end up paying millions collectively through forgotten direct debits to insurance companies and gym memberships. Getting your paperwork in order (then recycling the rest) can free up head space! Once everything’s sorted out, you can store what’s left in beautiful boxes from Karenza & Co (Hampshire). In lovely designs, these are made from cotton off-cuts from the fashion industry and include pretty hedgerow prints (or less feminine striking prints, if preferred).
It’s a good idea to have a full passport, driving licence or ID card to hand, as it’s needed for nearly everything these days as a way to verify your identity (from opening a bank account to starting a businss). Other documents that you’ll likely need to keep include:
- A Will, living will & pet trust
- Insurance & car documents
- Certificates (birth, marriage, divorce, death)
- Business accounts, licenses, insurance, tax
- Bank account (& other financial papers)
- House documents (deeds, mortgage)
- National insurance numbers.
- Medical records
- Pension details
- Warranty documents
Usually you have to keep tax records for 7 years and payslips/bank statements for one year, but check first before recycling. Keep all home documents for 6 years.
To shred unwanted papers without a cumbersome electric shredder, you can buy shredder scissors with 5 sets of blades to render confidential documents into unreadable confetti (bin photos/credit cards as they won’t recycle – same with photos that emit toxic fumes if burned).
how to prevent ID theft & fraud
If you live a simple life and choose local indie shops over big online stores, you’ll have less of an issue with people trying to steal your details. Another way to protect yourself is to refuse credit cards and loans (see tips to get out of debt without more loans).
- Keep financial details in a safe place, and ‘cup your hand’ if entering pin numbers in shops or with cash machines. Never give your bank details (or passwords) to people who ask by phone (genuine callers will ask you to provide proof of security, and you’ll have to tell them).
- Learn how to stop (nearly all junk mail. The best way to stop it is to not fill in surveys or international lorry forms. Report anything suspicious to Action Fraud. And don’t be embarrassed (clever people get scammed too).
- Last Pass is an online (free) password manager to help protect against hackers (use to store digital records, insurance, memberships etc).