In a world where there’s a push to go paperless, it’s easy to want to get rid of your paper-based system entirely. Going digital keeps things safe and well-preserved, and hopefully makes them easier to archive and access (providing you have a good digital filing system in place!)
As attractive as gaining the extra space might be, there are still some documents that you should keep on hand that I consider part of “The Holy List” a.k.a. “The List of Things Ye Shall Not Purge”. For someone like me who relies on a hybrid paper/digital system, there are certain documents that forever will remain in paper format. But if you’re really desperate to go digital here are some of the things that you should at least consider keeping on hand.
- Any important documents associated with life events such as birth, death, and marriage certificates
- Household/auto/medical/travel insurance policies, certificates, assessments, etc.
- Deeds, leases, rental agreements, etc. for all of the properties that you rent, own or lease
- Degrees, certifications, diplomas, awards, report cards, school transcripts, or important test scores such as the SATs or LSATs
- Original contract agreements for household and workplace employees, vendors, service providers and major clients
- Tax documents and assessments (you are required by law to hold onto these documents for a certain number of years; check with your local government as the rules change depending on where you live)
- End-of-life documents such as wills, Power of Attorney forms, funeral arrangements,etc. (It may be helpful for your loved ones to have a list of bank accounts, pension numbers, etc. to help ease the process and obtain some peace of mind.)
Notice that I didn’t include keepsakes on my list- I leave these up to your individual judgment. What makes a memory meaningful is subjective from one person to the next, and the way a person chooses to keep, store and access their memories is entirely up to them. I don’t believe in holding onto absolutely everything because I have found that I enjoy re-visiting my memories more when I can access them more easily, which for me means confining them to a couple of boxes on my bookshelf. For some people, it might mean scanning everything into a computer. As long as things are organized in a way that feels right to you, and it isn’t jeopardizing the health, safety or well-being of yourself or any others in your environment, go for it! Please just remember to let go of anything unnecessary, meaningless or painful to you now. Your memories deserve better than that!
It can be easy to get caught up in the power of The Purge (I totally identify with it here), and with The Holy List you can’t really go wrong. Trust your instincts. If you won’t use it again, shred it. If it’s something that’s going to come back to bite you in the butt, keep it, or at least make sure you have an additional digital version handy just in case.
Sticking to a strict list of documents that I should keep has definitely made a difference in my life, and subsequently increased the amount of room I had on my bookshelf, so you know what that means. I can’t say for sure whether or not this was my plan all along but my story is that the added space was a surprise, and I’m sticking to it.
Haven’t started a Purge of your own yet? Don’t delay and start your journey here. Looking for other ways to organize your space and make more room on your bookshelf? I yak on about my favorite solutions here. If there’s something that should be on my list that I forgot, call me on it below! I’d love to hear your suggestions.