4 tips for safely purging your paper documents

Despite the rapid digitisation of today’s society, paperwork remains a standard practice of everyday life. From receipts to bank statements to bills, it’s all too easy for those documents to pile up and begin cluttering your home or office space. 

While filing cabinets were a go-to solution back in the day, the times have changed and new modes of storage are being heartily embraced. Specifically, digital services specialising in archive storage solutions are a key way to take the headache out of managing paperwork.

To get the most out of your document storage, the following tips can help make the process less overwhelming, more streamlined, and as beneficial as possible for your personal or business needs.

  1. Create a keep, destroy and scan system

Before digitising your documents, you need to organise which ones actually require preservation, and what format is best for doing so. Take the time to shuffle through your paperwork and sort it into three different piles: keep, destroy and scan. 

In doing so, you’ll have a clear way forward in terms of what files will need to be kept as paper documents, which ones can be securely destructed, and which ones will be digitally archived. 

Admittedly, this is probably the most time-consuming part of the overall process, however it can benefit you greatly in the long run. Just be careful to strike a healthy balance between being too ruthless with your discard pile and too generous with your keep pile. A handy mindset towards approaching this task is to continually account for minimum retention periods according to record type.

  1. Do your research before enlisting an archive storage service

Before placing all your trust in the first digital archive provider that comes up on Google, it’s important to be sure that your documents are being handled safely. Check that the service provider offers highly secure online cataloguing and hosting storage. The last thing you want is for private and important documents to end up in the wrong hands. 

  1. Set a document lifespan

Following on from the above point, it is crucial to understand how long you’ll need to keep your documents in order to help avoid data protection breaches (while also reducing archive inflation). Know the retention dates for different files, and check that the service provider managing your archive storage includes a destruction process at the end of each file’s lifespan. 

  1. Go paperless where possible moving forward

Now that you’ve sorted out your paperwork and digitised as much as possible, it’s a good idea to keep the momentum going in the future. Look at ways to turn any ongoing paperwork into online formats.

This can be as simple as requesting your bank or utilities company to switch their correspondence from postal copies to emails. As a business, you may want to consider methods for digitising paperwork from the outset; for instance, a medical practice might introduce digital patient forms that can be completed via an iPad as opposed to old-school paper forms. 

Doing so can cut out extra steps of eventually scanning your documents, thus saving time in the long run.