How Long to Keep Documents on Your Workplace Hard Drive

November 28, 2022


An enormous pile of files and documents clutters up an office.
If you don't know how long to keep documents, your office could soon look like this.

A major part of the administrative role is keeping documents organized, easily accessible, and well-maintained throughout the year. It’s no secret that organization is an essential skill in an administrative role. 

And while you may be organized as it is, you may be wondering how long to keep documents around. As we approach a new year, refreshing and releasing documentation is a great way to set yourself up for success. 

It’s time for a hard drive declutter. Here’s what you can get rid of in 2023.

Say Goodbye to Old Documents

It’s important to note that each company and business will have different record retention guidelines. This essentially means that it’s up to the company to determine how long they’d like to keep old documents. 

Before giving your hard drive a much-needed refresh, check in with your boss for accurate retention guidelines.

Items to Keep Permanently 

Some businesses recommend keeping a record of certain documents permanently. This may not be a requirement, so check in with upper management beforehand. This may include:

  • Tax information
  • Current employee payroll information
  • Contracts with clients, partners, or employees
  • Balance sheets or other financial reports
  • Audit reports
  • Legal correspondence or transactions
  • Insurance policies
  • An up-to-date company policy or guidelines
  • Other pertinent information that the company may need for future audits or inspections

Make sure to consult your document retention guidelines before proceeding.

Items to Dispose Of

Like most companies, documents can start to pile up fast. Keeping too many unnecessary documents is an impingement on both the budget and hard drive space. To save space and money, administrative assistants can release any excess documentation, such as:

  • Previous employees' payroll information
  • Irrelevant media 
  • Inactive client or partner information
  • Confidential or high-priority information that’s no longer relevant to the company
  • Dormant or closed contracts

Items to Delete After 7 Years

Depending on company policy, there are some documents that administrators can dispose of after 7 years:

  • Accident records
  • Old or irrelevant bank statements
  • Checks
  • Record of terminated employees
  • Inventories
  • Invoices
  • Tax returns
  • Retirement plan reports
  • Travel records

Items to Delete After 3 Years

After 3 years, it’s recommended to dispose of the following items:

  • Budgets
  • General correspondence
  • Declined or unsuccessful employee applicants
  • Expired insurance policies 
  • Petty cash vouchers
  • Savings bond records

Items to Delete After 1 Year

Some documents can be disposed of after 1 year:

  • Bank statements
  • Routine correspondence
  • Duplicate deposit slips
  • Purchases
  • Receiving sheets and reports

These general guidelines may be of use for end-of-year reviews or reports.

How to Maintain Organized Documentation

Maintaining organized documentation doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, there are a ton of systems in place that make document management easy. 

Systems like SharePoint make document management simple. As more companies transition to a digital model, administrators rely on SharePoint to maintain organized documentation. Systems like this one make documents easy to access. 

You can also collaborate with other members of your team when organizing or disposing of old documents. This way, there is little uncertainty when deleting old documents. 

Some tips administrators can follow when decluttering their hard drive this year:

  • If you’re unsure if a document is relevant, you can always check in with another team member or upper management.
  • If it’s older than 7 years, delete it.
  • Some documents take up too much hard drive space. While it’s important to keep certain documents permanently, not everything has to stay.
  • Each company is unique, and it’s up to the administrator to come up with an organized document management system. Find what works best for you and your company.

Brush Up on Document Management 

Brush up on document management as we approach the new year. Get rid of what’s unnecessary, declutter, and start the new year off right. Want more training resources like this one? Check out more tools and tips for administrators provided to you by ASAP!

Join the Conversation

Welcome to the ASAP Circle, a community platform for peer-to-peer conversation on trending topics, professional challenges, and shared experiences. We even have designated spaces for weekly Tuesday Coffee Breaks.

Start Connecting Today!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APC  EA Ignite