To Shred or Not to Shred: A Guide to Maintaining Documents

In the Gillespie household, we love to shred things. It’s a trait we inherited from my grandfather, who used to wait until you were at the critical turning point of a good movie to wander over to the shredder with 50 pieces of paper he “needed to destroy immediately!” Nothing ruins the climax of a story like the “EGGHHHHHHGGGHHH” sound of a shredder.

While shredding is super fun and an effective way to ruin family movie night for everyone, there are some documents you need to keep on file for longer than it takes to build up a good “To Be Destroyed” pile. Here’s a guide to which documents you should maintain and how long you need to keep them on file.



Documents that you should never shred or throw out:

– Birth Certificates

– Marriage Licenses

– Divorce Decrees

-Adoption Records

– Passports

– Educational Records (diplomas, etc.)

– Military Service Records

– Life Insurance Documents

– Social Security Cards


Not to get all T. Swift on you, but you only need to keep the following documents temporarily. After the specified period of time you can shred them.

– Tax Records = 7 years from filing date

– Will = Until updated

– Real Estate Deeds = As long as you own the property

– Home Purchase Documents = As long as you own the property

– Home Improvement Records = As long as you own the property

– Investment Certificates = Until you cash or sell the investment

– Investment Statements = Shred monthly statements when you get the most recent one, keep annual statements until you sell the investment

– Loan Documents = Until loan is paid off in full

– Vehicle Titles = Until you sell or dispose of the vehicle

– Medical Records = 5 years, or longer if medical condition is chronic/ on-going

– Medical Bills = 1 year

– Receipts for Large Purchases = Until you sell or discard the item

– Service Contracts or Warranties = Until you sell or discard the item

– Insurance Records = Until you renew your policy

– Social Security Statements = Shred old statement when you receive the most recent one

– Bank Statements = 1 year, unless needed to support tax filings

– Pay Stubs = 1 year, make sure final stub matches W2 then shred them

– Credit Card Records = Until Paid

– Contracts = Until Updated


These are documents that you can shred right away, because you’re so over them.

– ATM/ Bank Receipts = Once you confirm that this record matches your online banking history, chuck it

– Receipts for Small Purchases = Same as above


Remember, anything with sensitive information (name, address, social security number, account number, card number, PIN, etc.) should be shredded, not just thrown out. Or if you just love to shred go ahead and put everything in there . . . I wouldn’t judge you. 🙂



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