How to Organize Your Important Documents

Recently, I cleaned out our catchall basket and realized I had a lot of things that needed to go in our fire-safe security box. So, I got into the security box and realized the whole thing was in distress. I needed to organize it. Badly.

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Chances are, your security box needs organized, too. Actually, it needs updated about once a year. Think back, when was the last time you updated your security box?

If it’s been a while, you should probably take a look to make sure things are updated and all of the following is included.

What You’ll Need

  • Fire-safe lock box
  • Hanging file folders with labels
  • Regular file folders (if desired)
  • Printer/scanner and ink
  • A whole lot of patience!

How to Organize Your Security Box

You’re going to want to start by breaking down your documents into categories. To do this, I grab a stack of Post-It’s and label each what the category is, then I place the Post-It’s on a large, open area of the carpet and start sorting. Here are the categories I have:

  • Legal Documents
  • Housing
  • Bank
  • Cars
  • Insurance/Property
  • Education
  • Employment/Retirement
  • Medical

You may opt for additional categories, or even a Misc. to include things that don’t fall into any specific category. But, for now, this is how I organize.

Legal Documents

This category houses our social security cards, birth certificates, passports, and marriage certificate. I also have photocopies of our driver’s licenses and any other identification cards.

We currently don’t have a will, but when we do, a copy will go here.

Housing

Since we are currently renters, I have a copy of our lease in this category, with our landlords contact information. Once we are homeowners, we’ll have a copy of our mortgage and all the other important papers that go along with that.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of past addresses in here, too. You never know when you’re going to need to know those.

Also, include your account numbers, usernames and passwords for your utility companies, along with their 800 numbers in case you need to reach them. A copy of a utility bill wouldn’t be a bad idea either, for proof of residency, if you ever need it. Or even the receipt from where you paid your utility deposits, just in case.

Money

For this category, I make photocopies of the front and back of all of our bank cards. That way, if they’re ever stolen, you still have access to the card numbers as well as phone numbers to call and report the problem.

You can keep track of log-in information and contact information for your various bank accounts, too.

I also store the previous three years of filed taxes in this category. Each year I update and shred the oldest copies.

Get your ducks in a row before you find yourself in search of important documents. A little time to organize now will save you loads of time later!

Cars

In this category we keep our car titles, a copy of our car insurance cards, and photocopies of our vehicle registrations.

You’ll even find the original receipts from when we purchased our cars and the letter from the bank that announced I had paid mine off! (Man, that felt good!)

If you’re still paying on your car, it’s a good idea to include the contact information for your lender, as well as your account number, username and password.

Insurance/Property

You could include your renters or homeowners insurance policies and information under housing, or you could put it here. The same goes for your car insurance.

I include copies of our medical insurance cards here, as well, but those could easily fall into the medical category. It’s up to you on how you organize that.

Also included in this category are any receipts for large purchases: wedding rings, mattresses, computers, furniture, etc. Along with warranty information and any additional coverage for all of the above.

Recently, we’ve gone so far as to photo document some of our belongings, so those photos will eventually find their way from our computer onto a flash drive, and into the security box.

Education

This category houses our diplomas and copies of our transcripts, as well as credential certificates.

Tip: A lot of people like to hang their diploma on the wall, and that’s all well and good. But, how protected is it if it’s hanging in your office at work? For that instance, I like to make a high-quality copy of it and frame the copy, reserving the original for safe keeping in the security box. Sure, you can always purchase another copy if something happens to your original, but who wants to jump through those hoops?

Employment/Retirement

In this category, you’ll want copies of any employment contracts and guaranteed benefits. You’ll also want information to access your retirement account like your username and password, because if you forget, let me tell you it takes forever to regain access!

Medical

Again, your medical insurance cards could go here, or you could keep them in the insurance category.

I use this category for organizing each of our medical records. So, within the hanging file folder, I have regular file folders labeled: ‘Mom,’ ‘Hubs,’ and ‘#1.’ I place the medical records in reverse chronological order and always keep #1’s immunization record at the front.

Checklist

There’s a lot that will go into your security box and I don’t expect you to remember all of it. So, I’ve made you a handy checklist to help keep tabs on things. Plus, it’s got forms to fill in with contact and log-in information as well as account numbers, etc.

Print yours by clicking the gray download button.

Alternatives

Go Binder

You might also consider making photocopies of all your important documents and storing them in a binder within your security box. That way, if you ever have to ‘Get the Hell out of Dodge,’ you can just grab the binder and go. You won’t have the originals, they’ll still be safe. But you’ll have the next best thing.

You can organize your binder similarly to the file system, too, with dividers.

The Cloud

Maybe you don’t want a bulky security box underfoot. Perhaps you’re more of a ‘cloud person.’ That’s fine. You’ll just be saddled with your scanner for awhile to get everything scanned in.

You can still organize the files on your computer in a similar manner to that of the security box. The only problem is, if something happens to the originals, you’ll still have to get them replaced.

If you do opt to store your documents on the cloud, make sure your significant other can access them as well. You don’t want all the important stuff online and stuck behind a password that can’t be remembered.

Bonus

Photos

I mentioned earlier how we’re keeping photo documentation of some of our belongings, but what about those priceless photos of birth and first steps?

If your family is like ours, you have thousands upon thousands of photos, and that’s just from a few years. Cloud storage space for those adds up quickly, so consider purchasing flash drives to organize your photos on them, by year.

Once the photos are uploaded, label the drive and store it in your security box. It covers you if there’s ever a problem with your computer, too.

Get your ducks in a row before you find yourself in search of important documents. A little time to organize now will save you loads of time later!

Storage

So, you’ve got a box with all your important information in it and it’s safe from fires and other natural disasters, but what about theft?

Now, you need to hide that sucker, or possibly consider bolting it to the floor like a safe. And, make sure to put the key somewhere other than the key hole.

Get your ducks in a row before you find yourself in search of important documents. A little time to organize now will save you loads of time later!

What Else?

What am I forgetting? Tell me what else your family safeguards in the comments.

©2019 Mom of the Moment

5 thoughts on “How to Organize Your Important Documents

  1. As i was reading this I’m like are you and my husband related … lol our files are organized almost exactly like this. we started organizing this about 13 yrs ago. it make it so easy to grab something you need instead of scrambling for it. I am guilty i need to put some things that are not in the files back after pulling them but it make life so easy!!

  2. Dad took care of all my important documents till I was in my late teens. Then adulthood hit and I realized it was tougher than he made it look. This information you’ve shared is invaluable. Thanks. 🙂

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