Records Management in the Home

There’s a Records Manager in all of us.

So this afternoon has seen me taking care of some home paperwork,  now given I’m a Records Manager (albeit  I’m in my element here or so you would think but as they say a builders house is the worst house and so I’m just as bad as everyone else about letting those personal records get on top of me.  I regularly find myself looking through bags of records trying to find my recent doctors letter or that letter from the taxman, and I wrote about this back in 2015 and so I’ve taken that post and given it a good update.  Moreover, I’m really glad that I had my recent rental contract to hand as I had a debt collector at my address looking for a person that didn’t live in my house and I had to prove it by showing him the contract before he would go away.

Home records

SO, here goes some top tips for managing your records at home. At home (the home environment not working from home), we are not bound to any legislation that requires us to keep records but they are super useful when looking for stuff especially when it comes to financial-related records.

Remember that at all times you should be able to get paperwork from the organisation that sent it to you, however, they are notorious for charging you for second copies – something to do with administration costs blah blah blaaaaah…

Also, you will probably want to consider items that are really useful like your Will or your children’s precious drawing. Instruction manuals too.

Easy does it

  • Manage your home records at all times…when you receive it to do something with it….. don’t just pile it up as the task becomes unbearable.
  • Consider how long you really need to keep records and regularly clear them out.
  • Store your home records in a year related folder,  not a company/type based folder.   Much easier to just pick one folder up and shred the contents than it is to go through several folders.   You can always file it in A-Z after you’ve stored it in the year, just to make it easier to find.
  • Get rid of appointment diaries after a year. Unless you’re doing something dodgy and need to keep evidence of where you’ve been in case the police come calling.
  • Don’t forget that some stuff might be important to your family in the future.

Preserving the past for the future

  • Have children’s pictures that you want to preserve? Don’t use sticky tape.  Sticky tape will go brown over the years.  If you want to stick it up, laminate it first.
  • Magnets are the best choice over sellotape if you don’t have a laminator.
  • Try not to use pins, sellotape or blue tack. They leave a nasty residue.
  • Have some relatives passed away?  They probably left you with pictures and other items. Keep them safe, secure, dry and in a regulated temperature.
  • Whatever you have,  check that it’s not on old storage.  If you want to be able to still play your treasured  VHS, you need to convert them to a useable file and store them somewhere that is regularly updated such as being in cloud storage.  If you have anything now on a floppy disk, it’s unlikely you can still read it. Don’t forget your favourite tunes on CD do you still have a device to play them?  Don’t keep anything that you can’t access, no matter how painful it feels.

Best home storage

  • Buy a Safe that is fireproof,  Store all documents that are expensive to recreate, these include Passport, Will, Birth certificate,  House Insurance, Car Insurance, Other insurance, Mortgage statement etc. Things you cannot replace without going to some effort or perhaps are irreplaceable (I have some family history stuff in mine too).   The fireproof safe will not necessarily protect your records entirely,  but it will give you an extra couple of hours of time that you wouldn’t get without a safe.  The cheaper the safe is the less security it will give you. Also in the event of a fire, mine is a portable safe that I can grab everything I need.
  • Keep your records in your home where possible so that it’s linked to the same temperature
  • Don’t your home records in plastic boxes.  The plastic boxes will sweat if it gets too warm and that creates mould.
  • The best kind of box is an archive quality box which is acid-free. It will keep your records happy for a lot longer.
  • The garage or attic is fine for keeping records but you need to remember to check for any infestations.  Remember an attic will be warmer than a garage due to hot air rising so not using plastic in the loft is more important than ever.
  • Wherever you leave your records, leave them out of direct sunlight because that will increase the chances of the records fading.
  • The quality of your paper and the quality of the ink used will deteriorate your records over time.

Home records security

  • A password book is okay, but what if it gets stolen in a break-in? What if someone in your house uses it?  What happens if you lose them?  It’s better to choose a password manager e.g. Dashlash, 1Password etc 
  • If you don’t need it anymore, shred anything that has your personal details on it, don’t leave yourself open to ID theft.  I recently bought a decent shredder from Tesco, £25.   It’s crosscut (important!), and it didn’t burn out after 20 pages!   it’s not the basic shredder, but the cheap price should scream out at you. I’ve tried them, they don’t last.
  • Your shredder needs to be a minimum of DIN level 3.  Level 3 is okay for Confidential. Level 4 is usually used in Top Secret. Anything less than DIN3 is not for confidential waste as the pieces of paper get bigger and easier to put back together.
  • Sign up to www.haveibeenpwned.com [po-ned] – You’ll get emails if your email address or any passwords have been compromised through a data breach. It’s free. The site is littered with adverts for 1password but you don’t need it to sign up to the free service. If you get an email notification saying you have been in a breach, change your passwords immediately.
  • If you have any CCTV at home, it will be recording and saved somewhere. These are records too. If you sign up to something such as Google Nest, you can opt on how long you keep your recordings. Be realistic on how long you need to keep records for.

To Scan or Not to Scan?

  • If you want to scan your records, do so but get rid of the paper if you do. No point in having both.
  • There’s very little you cannot scan because let’s face it; you should be able to get another hard copy if needed or you can just print it out again if you really need to.
  • Scan your passport picture page and your driving licence so that you have a copy in case they go missing – but don’t shred the originals, obviously!
  • If you need to scan anything, make sure you buy a scanner with a feeder on the top so that you don’t have to flatbed scan single pages at once.
  • When you scan any documents, scan it as a PDF. That way it’s less likely that you’ll need to worry about keeping a Microsoft licence. It also means the file cannot be easily amended.

Go Green

  • If it hasn’t got your personal details on it,  recycle it.  Do your bit for the environment.
  • Where there is a paperless option, go with it…  use the systems the organisations offer you but be aware of your online footprint and change passwords regularly, keeping your anti-virus up to date.
  • don’t print it unless you need to, leave it electronic,  at least you’ll know where it is and you won’t need an expensive filing cabinet to store printed goods.
  • If you have a smartphone consider moving over to the diary it offers you.
  • Lastly, try and seperate any of the plastics that you may have stored files in, in the past.  Plastics contaminate recycling and less likely to be reusable.

If you have any other concerns around your home record-keeping, please do get in touch, I’d be happy to advise,  doing something about the pile of paperwork is better than doing nothing.

p.s. It’s true I was doing it:

A picture of papers on a carpet next to a home cross cut shredder and a blue bucket with cross shredded pieces within.

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Home Records Management

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