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Do I need to keep this?  How long to keep bank statements and other important documents

Do you feel overwhelmed by the mountain of paperwork accumulating in your home? Bills, bank statements, receipts – it can all become a confusing jumble, especially when you're not sure how long you need to keep documents.


In this post, I'll provide a helpful guide to determine which documents are crucial to keep, how long you should retain them, and why they're important. By following these guidelines, you can confidently simplify your filing cabinet, declutter your home and manage the never-ending flow of paperwork coming into your home!


Household paperwork filed in suspension files

In this blog:



Important documents to file forever

Vital records – major life event documents to permanently keep


Important life event documents:

Important documents like birth, adoption, marriage and death certificates should be kept permanently in a safe place.  Since you don’t need to access them frequently, storing them away from your everyday paperwork ensures they won’t get mixed up with less important papers and mislaid by accident.


How long do you need to keep Divorce Papers? 

Resist the temptation to get rid of divorce papers, even if they bring back bad memories.  You need the decree absolute as evidence of your marital status if you remarry.



How long to keep Wills and Powers of Attorney

Legal documents such as Wills and Powers of Attorney are valid from the dates signed and do not expire.  You can keep your will at home or let your solicitor retain it for safekeeping. In either case, make sure your family knows where it is kept for easy access when needed.  It’s important to regularly review and update them to ensure they reflect your current situation.  

Power of Attorney document

 

Personal Paperwork to Keep Forever

National Insurance Number:  Your NI number is your proof of right to work in the UK, so keep a record of it with your other important documents.

UK passport

Passport:  Your passport is evidence of your identity and needs to be kept in a safe but easily accessible place.  Keep it with their other long-term identification documents, or store it with your travel-related paperwork (travel insurance, GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) and airline/hotel memberships). 


Don’t throw away old passports, they should be returned securely to your local passport office to protect you from identity theft.


Qualifications and professional development paperwork: Should be kept permanently as you may need to provide them when you apply for jobs. 



Personal Documents to Keep for a Limited Time

All the remaining paperwork in your home has a limited shelf life:


Employment Contracts: Employment Paperwork: any work-related paperwork, such as contracts, performance reviews, training and staff handbooks can be discarded 12 months after leaving the employer.


Household Related Paperwork

Mortgage Documents: Keep mortgage paperwork for the duration of the mortgage and retain annual mortgage statements for 7 years.  For tax reasons you need keep old mortgage statements for 3 years after selling the property.

It’s also a good idea to keep a record of the lender and account numbers of old mortgages as these may be useful when you apply for a new mortgage.

Man opening envelope with household bills

House renovations and repairs:  Keep the original paperwork for any major renovations (planning permission, building regulations completion certificate), home improvements (replacement windows and electrical work) or repairs as these will be needed when you sell your property.


Rental agreements:  Retain your rental agreement and inventory for the duration of your tenancy.  It’s also worth keeping a previous rental agreement or a reference confirming that you’ve been a good tenant.

 


How long to keep Utility Bills

When it comes to keeping utility bills, it's a personal decision how long you keep them for.  

Utility Bills received through the post:  Keep a year’s worth for comparison if you are considering switching utility suppliers.  Six months of bills is enough for proof of your address.

A pile of utility bills with a lightbulb and calculator

Online Utility Bills: Avoid printing utility bills if you have online accounts with the suppliers, they will be available when you need them.  It’s a good idea to set up email folders for your utility and household correspondence – create a household folder with subfolders for the different utility suppliers.

TV Licence:  Keep a record of your licence number, you’ll need this if you change your address.

 


How long to keep Personal Financial Documents

It is important to keep hold of all financial documents (including payslips and P60’s) that may be needed for tax returns.  The latest government advice for employed and self-employed workers is linked below.  


SELF-EMPLOYED / SOLE TRADER - HMRC advice https://www.gov.uk/self-employed-records#5

EMPLOYEES: latest government guidance https://www.gov.uk/keeping-your-pay-tax-records#

 

How long to keep pension statements:  Keep a permanent record of the original paperwork for any workplace, personal and state pensions along with the most recent statement.  File each pension separately for easy access and updates.



How long to keep Bank account, savings and credit card statements

Bank and credit card bills

Financial Statements: You can usually access the last 5 years of bank statements online.  If you print them off to check purchases and refunds, limit it to keeping a year’s worth and rotate on a one–in–one–out basis.

Paper Statements: If you only have access to paper statements then HMRC guidance is to keep the last two full tax years.


Old/Closed Financial Statements:  Keep at least one statement from closed and dormant bank accounts, savings and credit cards (I keep all mine together in one plastic folder).  This is evidence in case of future complaints or claims.

 

Loan Agreements and paperwork: Paperwork for personal loans should be kept for 12 months after the loan has been repaid.  I recommend keeping a permanent record of the lender and account number of old loans in case there is a need for a claim at a later date (eg PPI claims).

 


Insurance Documents and policies

Insurance policies and certificates:  are valid for the duration of the policy so there’s no need to keep the document after renewal unless you have an ongoing claim.


Insurance Claims Information: Keep details of any insurance within the last 5 years as you need to disclose them when you get quotes at renewal.   


Large Home Insurance Claims: Keep documents for such as subsidence as you’ll need this information when you sell the property.


Life Insurance:  Any life insurance or critical illness cover should be filed with the policy documents so you have easy access to cover details.

 


Vehicle Related Paperwork


Vehicle purchase, finance and service records:  Keep all your vehicle paperwork together for the lifetime that you own the vehicle. 

Vehicle documentation and paperwork

MOT Reminders:  Sign up for annual MOT reminders at https://www.gov.uk/mot-reminder


Car Insurance: Keep a printed copy of your current vehicle insurance certificate for proof of your no-claims discount.  You should keep records of any claims made within the last 5 years as they need to be declared when renewing your insurance policy.


V5 (Vehicle Logbook): Retain to prove vehicle ownership.  After selling, keep paperwork about the transfer of ownership to prove you are not the registered owner.

 


Medical and Health related paperwork – keep what matters to you


Health insurance documents

Health Insurance & Medical Exemption Certificates: Keep copies for the duration of their cover.


NHS Number: Note your NHS number for future reference (often found on doctor's letters).


Medical Paperwork: Decide what's important to you. Consider keeping essential documents for each family member in one file, or separate files for specific medical issues.

 



Round up those Receipts

General Receipts: Keep for returns or warranty purposes. Remove outdated ones when no longer needed.

Someone looking at receipts with a calculator

Expensive Items: Keep receipts for the lifetime of the item in a separate file for easy access.


A hand holding appliance manuals and warranties

Common paperwork piles that you can reduce now!

 

Appliance warranties and manuals:  This is your permission to let go of the warranties, manuals and boxes for appliances that you have owned for more than a year* (* check for extended warranties).


Those guarantees and warranties are only valid for the amount of time stated on them – there is no point in holding on to them once the time has passed.




Dispose of your personal data and paperwork securely

By following these guidelines, you can confidently reduce the amount of paperwork in your home and create a streamlined, organized filing system that works for you. For a step-by-step guide to decluttering the paperwork in your home take a look at How to Organise Your Paperwork In 5 Simple Steps.


Remember to shred any documents that contain personal information before discarding them, and consider using a digital filing system to keep important documents secure and easily accessible.


Confidential paper going in to shredder


If you liked this blog please let me know in the comments below & share it with someone who'll find it useful!


 

Sue Spencer Professional Organiser A Life More Organised

Hi! I’m Sue, a professional home organiser and KonMari Consultant based in Hampshire, UK. I had the privilege of training with Marie Kondo and by using her methods, I help growing families and empty nesters Rightsize their Homes.

We declutter and organise to clear space and time so they can get on with the important job of enjoying life.

 



Are you ready to start living A Life More Organised?

For a no-obligation chat about how I can help, please get in touch.

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Sue Spencer KonMari Consultant
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Hi, I'm Sue!

I love all things decluttering and home organisation and trained with Marie Kondo to be a KonMari Consultant after experiencing the benefits of tidying my own home using the KonMari Method.

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