When the news came down that our office would be moving, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to do a little housecleaning. That turned out to be a great idea because, as I started to pack, it became clear that many of my files contained a plethora of out-of-date documents that were serving no purpose other than to take up a lot of room in my overburdened file cabinets. As I cleared and cleaned, I found myself mentally singing the opening line to an old Eagles song: "...I'm running down the road tryin' to loosen my load..."
Whether you are moving or just in the mood to update records in your existing office, it can be very refreshing to purge old, useless files. But be aware that not all old documents are useless. Before you throw anything away, make sure to understand that there are some documents and records you must keep--sometimes permanently.
You should seek advice about record retention from your attorney and your accountant, but the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants suggests the following categories of documents that may have suggested or required retention periods:
- Accounting systems
- Corporate records
- Fixed assets
- Human resources
Also be aware that retention requirements are not limited to paper files; you also may need to retain electronic records like emails, PDFs and other types of documents that store information about your company.
A final piece of advice, from me: working anthems seem to have their own type of "record" retention. "Take It Easy" was good advice and a great motivator while I was clearing out my files, but that project is done and we moved today. I've run down the road and loosened my load, but I can't seem to get the song out of my head.