What to Keep? What to Toss?

Not every record is kept forever. This section provides details into what sort of materials usually should be kept, and what can usually be safely discarded. (Questions should be referred to the retention schedule.)

Some of the records in your office have a lasting significance; others may be useful for reference for a number of years; still others may have only temporary value or importance. The time to make decisions about what can be discarded after a year or two is when you first read or file the records. Mark such records at this time with a "D" in the upper right hand corner so that when you are ready to transfer them to the Records Center you can quickly pull these records and discard them, avoiding the necessity of studying the records again. Doing this will also make it easier for your successor, if you should leave or be transferred. If you are new to an office and inherit files that you are not familiar with and that your predecessor has not marked, do as much preliminary work on the files as you can, then transfer the files as is to the Records Center with an explanatory note on the Transfer Record.

If you are filing your records electronically mark your temporary or "D" records with the extension .tmp or put them in a temporary file or directory. Later your temporary files will be easy to tag and delete. Do not cull electronic records that have not been marked as temporary or been put into a directory designated as temporary, any savings is not worth the cost and time.

The following are some guidelines to help you in making decisions on what files should be considered temporary. These guidelines do not apply to administrative offices in Presidential, Secretariat, and Treasury or to department and service directors, whose total files have lasting historical and administrative value.


  1. Correspondence dealing with development or interpretation of policies; doctrinal or administrative problems; evaluations of personnel, projects, or methods; and development of programs.
  2. Correspondence giving factual information, data, summaries, statistics, and experiences.
  3. Correspondence with leading administrators, except categories noted later.
  4. Correspondence relating to travel, if it gives information about plans for a major meeting or field program, and the final itinerary schedule for all trips.
  5. A set of all form letters sent by your office.
  6. A sampling of certain types of general correspondence, to illustrate concerns of your office. Contact Records Center for more information.
  7. All minutes produced or received by your office.
  8. All reference or case files created for specific purposes and used regularly during the development or solving of a problem or case.
  9. Topical files containing collected materials closely related to the work of your office.
  10. A set of all published or duplicated materials produced or promoted by your office.
  11. Other SDA published or duplicated materials of documentary or informational nature.
  12. All audiovisual items produced or promoted by your office.
  13. Certain financial reports that provide year-end or summary type of information.


  1. Routine requests and acknowledgment for catalogs, brochures, or other stocked items.
  2. Routine requests for your office's services, acknowledgments, and letters of appreciation, except when letter also deals with more significant matters.
  3. Routine or circular memos from other GC offices.
  4. Routine correspondence dealing with travel plans.
  5. Non-SDA published or duplicated materials, unless they have major impact on your work.
  6. Many financial records, such as purchase orders, receipts, check requests, canceled checks, monthly financial statements, etc. Refer to your retention schedule.