As you pack all your belongings for your upcoming move, you might stumble upon a bunch of old documents you’ve been holding on to, not sure what to do with them or even if you need to keep them in the first place. If you’re not using these documents, you might not want to bring them to your next home — they take up unnecessary closet space. However, simply throwing them in the trash might not be safe.
There are certain documents you’re better off shredding when you need to get rid of them. If these documents are kept intact and wind up in the wrong hands, they can be used to steal your identity and financial information. To keep your money and property safe, follow these guidelines as you organize your documents before a move.
Documents you should never discard
First things first: There are certain documents that you should simply never discard, even if you’ve made scans or digital copies. These include the following:
- Academic documents, such as diplomas or transcripts
- Adoption papers
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Driver’s licenses (if not expired; if expired, discard and shred)
- Employment records, including but not limited to performance reviews, financial agreements, and disciplinary files
- Marriage certificates, even those deemed void by annulment or divorce
- Medical records
- Military records
- Passports (if not expired; if expired, discard and shred)
- Retirement and pensions records
- Social security cards. A social security number is the easiest way someone can steal your identity.
- Last wills and testaments
Documents you should keep, but later discard and shred
After you’ve found a way to safely secure and store the above documents before, during, and after your move, gather the following documents to discard and shred. In many cases, you can have the below documents delivered to you paperlessly by email or simply by logging into your online financial accounts.
- Bank statements. Keep for one month before shredding.
- Bills. Shred upon paying, unless related to taxes or warranties. Then, keep them for, respectively, one year or until the warranty expires.
- Home improvement receipts. These are important for proving the added value you’ve invested in your apartment. If you’re moving out of an apartment that you’ve sold, you can shred these once the deal has closed.
- Leases. If you’re moving from a home you’ve rented, keep the lease until you receive your security deposit from your old landlord.
- Paychecks and paystubs. Keep these until you receive your W-2 form for the appropriate tax year. If you’re freelance or self-employed, keep any paper checks you’ve received until you confirm payment of your taxes or receipt of your refund for the appropriate tax year.
- Tax documents. The IRS advises to keep W-2s, W-9s, and tax returns for seven years. Shred these documents after seven years.
- Vehicle records. Keep these until you sell the vehicle.
Documents you can shred and discard now
If you find these when preparing for your move and have no immediate need for them, you can shred and discard them right away.
- ATM receipts
- Copies, but never originals, of birth certificates
- Canceled, cashed, and voided checks
- Credit reports
- Expired driver’s licenses and passports
- Employment documents that contain identifying information
- Investment records such as stock and property transactions
- Any forms that you’ve personally or digitally signed
- Luggage tags with identifying information
- Any forms containing your social security number, bank PINs, or other passwords and passcodes
- Pre-approved credit card applications
- Flight confirmations, tickets, and other travel itineraries
Documents you don’t need to shred
Any paperwork that doesn’t fall into the categories above doesn’t require shredding. You can discard these documents as you would any other garbage.
Now get to shredding!
Once you’ve gathered all the documents you need to shred, search online for a secure local shredding facility. You can also buy an inexpensive shredder which you can place over a garbage can and put away when not in use.