Save or Shred? Organizing Your Documents

Receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, tax documents — personal paperwork stacks up fast and takes up a lot of space. We’ve got a guide to help you decide what to save and what to shred. It’s time to get organized!

Protecting your identity and decluttering your home are two good reasons to go out and buy a shredder, if you haven’t already. Once you’ve got one, it’s time to sit down with your junk mail, taxes and other papers around the house and get to work.

Why Shred Anyway?

Shredding documents, whether it’s junk mail or an expired credit card, can help keep your identity safe from thieves or unscrupulous businesses that sell information. Anything with your name and address on it can be used to sign up for mailing lists, and this information can be enough for someone to find out more about you, like your bank account or social security number.

Keeping that information out of the wrong hands can be as simple as shredding your documents with a cross or micro cut shredder. While the classic strip shredder may be more easily available, both the cross cut and micro cut types turn your unwanted documents into tiny little paper bits that can’t be feasibly put back together.

Home office-sized shredders can be as inexpensive as $35 and go up into the hundreds for features like larger baskets, credit card shredding and the ability to shred a thick stack of papers all at once.

What Should You Keep?

While it may be tempting to purge your home of papers completely, there are a few important things you’ll need to save. Documents like your birth certificate, social security card, marriage license and the past seven years of tax information should be filed in a secure location rather than shredded. Here are a few more things you should keep safely stored in your home:

  • Copies of your passport
  • Adoption papers
  • Death certificates of any relatives
  • Will, living will and power of attorney paperwork
  • Military service records
  • Estate planning documents
  • Loan and mortgage paperwork
  • Home and vehicle titles and deeds
  • Legally binding contracts
  • Proof of insurance papers

Don’t forget about the paperwork you have stored electronically, like receipts for online orders or medical records. If they’re still relevant, there’s no need to delete, but if they’re out-of-date, like a warranty for a car you no longer own, you’re safe to dump those documents. If it’s something truly important, like a living pet’s medical records, you may be better served by printing it out and adding it to your safe with the other paperwork.

What Should You Shred?

In your efforts to declutter, you may find yourself saving a lot more than shredding out of caution. We’re here to tell you that you can safely shred quite a few things, including your fast food receipts and junk mail credit card offers. When committing to the Big Shred, here are some things you can safely dump:

  • ATM receipts
  • Paid utility bills
  • Expired warranties
  • Canceled checks
  • Cashed or deposited checks
  • Junk mail
  • Paid credit card statements

Insurance for Identity Theft Protection

Your shredded papers can be recycled or even reused in a family papier-mâché project — the sky’s the limit. But rest assured that properly shredded documents are an important part of keeping your identity safe and sound. If you’re interested in learning more about how your insurance can help you protect your identity, connect with your American Family Insurance agent to discuss adding identity theft protection to your home insurance. This coverage can help you recover faster from the effects of identity theft should the unexpected happen.

We’ve also partnered with CyberScout to bring you a credit monitoring service that can help you keep an eye on your credit score and any fraudulent purchases made using your identity. You can also speak with a credit monitoring specialist to help you navigate what to do should someone steal your identity. Annual plans start at $40 and include email alerts on any changes related to your credit.


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Related Topics: Identity Theft , Safety Tips