We’ve been focusing on ways to be #PaperFree for the past week, but most of us will still want to hang on to paper copies of certain documents that would be difficult to replace or that we want easy access to in an emergency. Some examples include:
- Legal documents (birth certificates, marriage license, passports, etc.)
- Real estate deeds, mortgages and bills of sale
- Year-end statements for investments
- Retirement and pension records
- Original receipts for major purchases (for returns and insurance documentation)
- Wills, living wills, power of attorney designation, executor instructions, medical and burial instructions
- Automobile titles
- Insurance policies
- Medical records
- Education transcripts
Paper Organizing Tips
Here are some ways you can set up files and keep papers neat and tidy. Invest a little time in organizing now, and you’ll save tons of time and frustration later by being able to find exactly what you need.
1. Create a space in your home, such as a dedicated file cabinet, where you will keep important documents all in one place. If you have papers stored in numerous places now, consolidate so that it’s always easy to find and access what you need.
2. Keep vital documents in a top-quality, fireproof, locking safe with a handle so you can grab it in case of emergency. Vital papers might include: a copy of your driver’s license or ID and other cards currently in your wallet, your social security card, birth certificates, insurance policies, wills, property deeds, car titles, and your passport.
3. For other papers, create a filing system that is easy to access, and with extra room to store new documents over time. You might set up a file cabinet, use clear plastic filing boxes or create colored binders with labeled spines for storage in a bookcase.
4. If you have many files, you may wish to create categories. For example, I have files arranged in these nine categories: Home, Health, Auto, Financial, Business, Taxes, Pets, School and Personal.
5. To find what you need fast, color code the files in each category, such as all financial papers in green folders.
6. Deal with your papers every day for 5 minutes. You might like to do this right when you get the daily mail. Toss, recycle, take action and file anything that needs to be put away.
7. Go through your files a couple times a year and weed out papers you no longer need. You might do this in the spring when you’re working on taxes, for instance, and again in the fall.
How About You?
Do you have tips to add to my list, or thoughts to share about how you organize your files? Leave a comment on this post or join the conversation over at the Money Diet Community Facebook Group. Have you been decluttering papers for 20 minutes a day? Use the tag #PaperFree if you’re posting, so that we can give you digital high-fives. I always love hearing about your progress.
You’ll hear from me again tomorrow with some final tips about safely destroying the papers we no longer need.