Papers all over the places...? Don't worry you only need time to create your system and follow these simple rules and you will be fine for the rest of your life;-)
10+1 easy tips for organizing household and personal papers at home
Organizing our papers is necessary if we don’t want to lose too much time when we need some information. Organizing your important papers if they're in a mess is a real challenge, but with some consideration and with these tips you can easily get it done in an afternoon.
1. Collect everything together
The first step before you can organize all your important documents, is to gather them all together. This is sometimes easier said than done.
2. Decide what have to be in a safe place
Most of your important documents can be stored in a regular filing cabinet or portable hanging file box. There are some, however, that really should be stored in a fireproof safe or offsite storage option such as a safety deposit box. To tell the difference, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the documents that would be very difficult to replace?
- What documents contain sensitive personal information that might be compromised in the event of a break-in or robbery?
- What documents would I need access to in the event my home was destroyed by fire or flood?
For most people, these are the following documents: social security information, birth certificates, insurance policies (with agent's contact details), wills, property deeds, car documents, passports and any contracts or agreements that required your original signature. Consider placing these in your fireproof safe or in an offsite storage option.
3. Choose the place where you file them
Designate one area of your home, even if it's only one drawer, for filing business papers, bills, letters and clippings.
Examples for labelling:
- Home and property records
- Auto records
- Health records
- Financial records
- Electronic records
- Personal records (If you have pets, you can also include their important documents such as veterinary and vaccine information in this category.)
- ATM Receipts – 1 month
- Bank Statements – 1 year (or, depending on which country you are in, at least 5 years)
- Credit Card Statements – 1 year
- Loan and Mortage Statements – 5 years
- Medical Bills – (if you have any) 1 year after they are paid off
- Tax Documents – 7 years
- Home Improvement Bills – Until you sell the house
- Investment Statements - For investments, keep all transaction receipts and paperwork and annual statements forever.
- Documents you should keep forever:
- Family: Birth and death certificates; baptism and confirmation certificates; marriage certificates; divorce decrees; adoption papers; military service records and discharge papers.
- Legal: Wills and medical directives; Social Security cards, citizenship or naturalization records; licenses to practice your profession; trust or power of attorney paperwork. (Make sure a copy of your will is with a trusted family member or that he or she has access to your safe-deposit box.) At home, keep passports (it’s not a bad idea to put photocopies of each one in the safe-deposit box); legal case paperwork and contracts (divorces, work contracts); jury duty recognition of service.
- Auto and property: Car title and bill of sale; home deed and title insurance policy (if you have a mortgage, the mortgage company has your note); burial plot deeds.
- Insurance and investment: Stock certificates; life insurance policy paperwork. At home, keep pension and retirement benefits agreements.
- Pay statements: No need to save the weekly or monthly stubs, but do save the annual statements in case you need to show proof of employment.
- Use a "Miscellaneous" file for items that don't easily fit into a category, but be sure to go through this file when it fills up. You'll find that new categories will stand out, and unneeded items will be easily recognizable. Create inside this category, a place for paper memories. Youth artwork, birthday cards, and other memories need their own storage. Consider giving each family member a container to store memories. Once the container is full they may have to make choices about what to keep and what to throw out.
The best way to label something is what it is most obvious to you. Put things where you think they should go and it will be easier for you to find them later.
Keep your mail in one location in the house, and open up and file everything at least once a week. If you can't file papers on a regular basis, use a folder labelled "To File" to temporarily store items.
Hang a basket near the front door and keep your keys in it, so you'll always know where they are. Also use this basket for bills and letters that need to be mailed. When you grab your keys, you'll remember the mail.
For households with children, keep a special clipboard in a prominent place for all those permission slips and other school documents that are easily mislaid.
Instead of using an address book, try using index cards stored in a file box. Along with names, addresses, and phone numbers, you'll have room to keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, and even presents you've given in recent years. If someone moves, substitute an updated card.
9. Toss out
Review your filing system periodically and toss out items you no longer need; not all household papers need to be filed away. It's helpful to know what do we need to keep and for how long.
At least twice a year, review the documents in your filing system to see if any can be purged. A good schedule to follow is at the beginning of the year and at the end of each school year.
10. Very important box
I have one small box where I keep all the passports and when we travel somewhere I put the flight tickets or holiday vouchers there. This is my "red" box.
When you have too many documents around.
This also works with an office desk. Take a box and put all papers you need to organise into it. Collect them from all around the house until you're sure no more papers or mail are lying around the house. You do not need to organise it immediatel: if you need something you will find it in the box. When there is a great movie on the TV, take the box out and sort it out at the same time as watching the movie.