Organizing tips mean work, so why should you care? You can hide the papers but not the information or tasks they represent. If you're procrastinating, you already know it's not going to be easy getting things under control. Ignoring paperwork can be a disaster — when we moved in March one year, all the tax papers got lost and it took more than 2 years to get caught up with the taxes.
Organizing your paperwork is critical as someday you may have to leave your home with little or no time to prepare.
By finding organizing tips that work for you, you'll be more prepared to face the situation Michael Winerip found himself in when “… It was about 9 on the night of the hurricane, our electricity was out, there was no heat and no phone, when, sitting in the dark, I realized that the ocean had surged down our street and was pouring into our first floor.” Reading Michael's article, What I Saved From the Flood” should help you realize it's time to read these organizing tips and get started!
Still not convinced it's time to get organized? Take 5 minutes and write down the things you'd take if you needed to evacuate your home in 30 minutes. List each item and where you'd find it. Get specific about each item, i.e. which file drawer has passports, tax paperwork or photo albums, because there won't be time to search for things.
This simple exercise ought to make it clear you need these organizing tips. My list included 2 laptops, 2 external hard drives (1 portable, 1 network attached) and I realized I don't know where in my husband's office, the network device is. My camera gear is stored in “ready to go” bags and a few of my favorite quilts were also on my list but I forgot photos of my children growing up so we'll be getting these organized and online soon. Any surprises for you? Ready for some organizing tips?
Organizing Tips: Types of Paperwork Kept at Home
Papers don't take much space so we tend to accumulate lots of paperwork. When file cabinet gets full, we move papers into boxes because there's no easy checklist to tell us what we need to keep, and what we can toss. Over the years we accumulate lots of boxes until one day we can't find a critical piece of paper, and realize we need organizing tips to get things under control.
Our of the first organizing tips is understanding the 5 types of critical paperwork we keep at home, what we need to take when leaving for an extended (often unknown) period of time. With some documents it's fine to make copies, while others like signed wills, need to be originals. The Life in Case box and folders can help you gather the correct documents. If you need more help sorting through boxes and drawers of paperwork, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) for a professional organizer near you who's worked with lots of homeowners and will have just the right organizing tips to help you complete this task.
- Personal information – that documents your education, military documents, family documents, etc.
- Financial information – includes documents used day-to-day life — bank statements, credit cards, investments, tax records plus employment records and pension information.
- Property records – cover tangible assets from your home to cars and other vehicles like boats, snow mobiles, etc.
- Medical records – that are critical when you enter a hospital as the “medical system” doesn't integrate your life's history. You need your health history, prescriptions and medicaid/medicare/veterans benefit information.
- Estate documents – include your wills, trusts and information on your wishes for distributing personal property, funeral, etc.
Organizing Tips for Going Digital & Online
If you're comfortable with a computer and uploading photos, then the next step is to move copies of your paperwork online. You'll still need to keep copies of papers that require original signatures but the digitization of your documents will help you get actual paperwork organized too. What I really like is that paperwork stored digitally can have tags associated with it, and those tags (taxes, 2010) make it easier to find what you need very quickly. This requires new organizing tips, so …
Hurricane Sandy made me realize it's time to take my personal paperwork online, so step 1 is creating a table of contents for my family files covering our immediate family of 4 plus extended family (my sister, nephew and my husband's father) and multiple houses through the years. It should also include family photos from those years before digital cameras. It's hard to imagine back when you thought about the cost of developing your photos and what would Facebook be without photos?