The previous article in this series discussed what records are, and gave examples of records you may wish to keep. This article will continue toward our ultimate goal of record retention and management by discussing types of records. The type of record will determine how it is collected, maintained, stored and, where applicable, destroyed.
Created Documents – These are documents that will need to be created and maintained by you, often from other documents you may have. Most often these will be collections of information compiled for the convenience of yourself or anyone who will need to find information about your affairs.
Singular Documents – Or “Highlander” documents, as I call them, as there can be only one. These are usually critical documents such as birth certificates or Social Security numbers. You can get replacements if needed, but as a general rule you will only ever have one of these throughout your life.
Annual or Renewed Documents – Similar to singular documents, these instead are documents for which you only need one, but the document itself may change from time to time, creating a new document that supersedes the old one. This would include documents such as drivers licenses, passports, insurance policies, etc.
Compilations – These are collections of documents about something, creating a growing historical record over time. The individual documents may never change, and may seldom be referenced, but are nonetheless important to keep. This may include education records, investment records, health records, etc.
Periodicals – These are documents that come at a regular, predictable rate, be it monthly statements, yearly subscription renewals, and regular documents you create for other parties, such as tax filings, expense reports, etc. You know they are coming and how often to expect them.
Continuous – This is all the other ad hoc, sporadic, or infrequent documents that come about just going through your normal life, such as store receipts, canceled checks, and so on. There are the items that will be the hardest to categorize when the time comes because they are the least predictable.
Every document discussed in the previous article can fit into one of these types, though some may change types depending on how you use them and your particular circumstances. Though different methods of storing each of these types will be discussed in later articles, you will undoubtedly already be getting ideas on how to store your own documents based on these classifications.
In the next article we will begin looking at capturing these different document types and beginning to tame your paper pile.
Thom Stratton was a documentation strategies analyst for a Fortune 40 company. Today he is a Business and IT Consultant, and co-owner of two online business, Kitchen Riches and BT Game Vault. Documentation and record-keeping remain a passion.