This tips to organize important papers post was sponsored by Fellowes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Spring is here! And that means it is the perfect time to “Spring Clean”.
Actually, I hate spring cleaning. And I’m not very good at actually doing it. I try to do a little each month, instead of getting overwhelmed by it all in the spring.
But the one job I always reserve for the Spring is to declutter and organize important papers! I always do this right about Tax Time.
Well, I’m already knee deep in all our important papers prepping for tax filing. So I find it is the optimal time to sort, sift, shred and organize while I’m already in the mess. You know, killing two birds with one stone.
It’s a great way to clean up the paper clutter. But there is always the question,
“Well, what do I keep? And what can I throw away?”
Not to mention the biggest burden of all
“How do I organize important papers?”
Don’t worry! I’m here to help you out!
Mind you, I’m not the expert organize freak. But I do have a system that is pretty simple and makes a big difference when it comes to keeping our important papers organized. It might just help you stay on top of your mounting paper clutter.
How to Organize Important Papers
There are just four things I use to make it easy to organize important papers. Just four! And each item has it’s own purpose. This way I always know where to look when I need a document.
Bug out binder– This will hold all of your most important, vital documents. And it is the very first thing you should do when you organize important papers.
All you need is a durable 3 ring binder with sheet protectors and dividers. In this binder, you will organize and store all of your most important papers. You know, what you need to have IN HAND, if you had to flee your home in an emergency. Thus, as the prepping community calls it, a Bug Out Binder.
Keep it in an easy to access but still secure location. If possible get an easy to carry fire/water proof lockbox and place the bug out binder inside. Just in case you aren’t home to grab the binder when the tragedy hits.
This way, you always know where your most important documents are. You don’t have to hunt for them. And if you have to evacuate, you just grab the binder (or lockbox) and go.
Your Bug out binder should include:
- Marriage certificates
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Death Certificates
- Immunization records (if applicable)
- Medical records
- Current Insurance coverage (Home insurance, car insurance, medical/dental/eye insurance)
- School registration information for kids
- current family photo and individual photos of kids (in case of separation and proof of family)
- bank information
- Extra cash in small bills
- household inventory
File cabinet – This is for long term storage of important papers and documents. If you don’t have a file cabinet, you can usually find them pretty cheap at thrift stores. Our thrift store always has about 8-15 of them for only about $5-20 each depending on the size and quality.
If you don’t want a file cabinet, you can also use file boxes. Though they aren’t as easy to sift through when you are looking for an important document. But they can be stored easier in the attic or storage room.
Using the file folders, you can create storage locations for papers that you should be keeping long term. This includes
- Major loan documents
- Current Insurance
- Tax records, receipts, w2s, tax returns, etc for 7 years
- Business documents & receipts if applicable
- Contracts – any type of home improvement contracts, to car repair, etc.
- Receipts for big-ticket items – like that expensive fridge or couch, or TV that might break.
- Warranty information – again for that expensive Fridge, couch or TV that will most likely break at some point.
- School documents such as report cards for kids, registration information, diplomas, etc.
- IEP documents for special needs children – Keep all of them, but organize by year. It can help to show history, improvement, offers precedence if you run into problems down the road.
- Medical records
- Service contracts until complete
- Current bank statements (Monthly statements for 1 year, yearly summaries for 7 years)
- Kid’s “art”
Let’s talk about the kid’s Art for a second. You know you will face this dilemma!
How much of it do you keep? It’s not like I’m going to be keeping every single sheet of paper my child scribbles on. I’d need an entirely new house just to hold all those papers for all my children.
So this is the method I use. In the same filing cabinet, each child gets 2 folders. The first folder is long term storage the second is for the current year. When your child brings home an art project or a paper they are proud of, it goes into the current year folder (after it’s had it’s week or month on the fridge that is).
At the end of the year, you sort the folder with your child and narrow it down to just a few of your favorites that get transferred to the long-term folder. The rest can be thrown out.
At the end of their schooling, the long term storage folder will be pretty stuffed, but you will only have the most cherished items instead of 5 bookcases full. It’s all about finding the balance of cherishing your child, but keeping your sanity against clutter.
Magazine Box – this is for short term, easy access needs. This short term method to organize papers is really quite simple. I have 2 Magazine boxes. One is for household papers and the other is for work papers.
Through the year, I collect important papers in these magazine boxes. Papers that I might need to access again the next month or 2 months later. So I keep them easily accessible. But in one place so they aren’t scattered all over.
At the end of the year, I go through and sort according to what needs to be moved into long term and what can be eliminated.
Things that are stored in the Home Magazine box include
- credit card statements
- City bills
- Power bill
- Gas bill
- water bill
- medical bills
- receipts for paying said bills
- receipts for small ticket times that you need to keep for the standard “return” option.
- bank statements
My Business Magazine box includes
- work contracts
- Tax documents
- Purchase Receipts
- Bills for running the business
Basically anything you might need to have easy access to through the year. Or if you need to dispute a claim of an unpaid bill. Or to verify month to month on power/internet usage terms to ensure they aren’t over charging you.
At the end of the year, go through these boxes. Get rid of all monthly documents, keep Yearly summaries. Move important items to long term storage. Get rid of the rest.
Shred. The last method to organize important papers is to Shred everything else!
You don’t want to just toss out papers. Sure, they typically end up in the landfill or recycling plant, but sometimes the wind might pick up in transit and some of your bills fly away. Or that junk mail credit card application falls into someone else’s hands. Now you have to deal with identity theft!
So always shred any paper that has any kind of sensitive information on it. Including your grocery bill receipts once you no longer need them for “returns”.
Shred all documents containing sensitive information with a cross-cut shredder like the Fellowes’ 12Cs Shredder. It can shred up to 12 sheets of paper at once and has SafeSense® technology that makes it a great choice for at-home use around children and pets.
Now, when we first got married, we had the cutest little shredder. It was small, fit perfectly on my desk and seriously was so cute!
And it was crap!!! The darn thing couldn’t even shred 2 papers at the same time. Do you have any idea how insanely annoying and useless that is?
And let me tell you, trying to shred a credit card application was completely out of the question! We learned our lesson! Cute is NOT what you want when it comes to a shredder.
No, you want to make sure you have a quality shredder on hand to help keep your home clutter free and protect you from identity theft. You need one that can handle the household load, and offers cross-cut shredding to ensure your papers can’t easily be taped back together.
That’s why I love our Fellowes’ 12Cs Shredder! It is sleek in design, easy to use, and can handle a typical household load of shredding!
When we get junk mail, it goes right into the shredder.
At Tax Time, we clean out our short term Magazine boxes and shred what we no longer need. It makes the process so simple and easy to keep our home free of paper clutter.
What you should shred:
- Credit card applications
- Expired credit cards
- Old bills
- Outdated insurance information
- Anything with sensitive information on it
- Old credit card statements
- Old bank statements
- Completed service contracts no longer applicable
- Expired warranties
- Junk mail with your information on it
Then once it is full, we simply dump all the paper into our recycling bin! Simple as that. Our information is protected, our house is free of paper clutter and we can still recycle all that paper.
The Fellowes’ 12Cs Shredder makes it easy to organize important papers during your Spring Cleaning.
You can easily find the Fellowes’ 12Cs Shredder at your local Walmart or on Amazon.
Follow Fellowes on Facebook and Twitter for more great decluttering tips. Visit Fellowes Online to find the perfect shredder for your needs. And for more Spring Cleaning tips check out the infographic below!
Monday 16th of November 2020
what do you suggest to declutter the magazines and catalogs that constantly arrive? i enjoy looking thru them see things or a recipe that i might try and before long i have a stack of clutter that i still want to go back to read or order or try.
Tuesday 3rd of September 2019
When you mentioned that with a folder, you can organize all your important and vital papers and documents, I thought about when I was in college and how disorganized I was. I wish I had owned a folder that fit all my notes and syllabi in it so I could have been more on top of things. In my opinion, anyone dealing with vital information in the form of paper should make sure they have a system to organize it.
Monday 8th of April 2019
THANK YOU! I LOOK AT IT ALL AND USUALLY TURN RIGHT AROUND AND WALK AWAY! NOW THAT YOU'VE REMINDED ME HOW TO FOCUS ON WHAT'S IMPORTANT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO FINALLY GETTING A HANDLE ON IT! PAPERS EVERYWHERE, NO MORE!! (ONCE I TACKE IT THAT IS.) THANK YOU!!!!#
Sunday 1st of July 2018
Was informative and interesting to read. Do you have suggestions for downsizing? We're moving and have all our parents things as we. We're going to be camping full time! This has put a real strain on us. What can stay in a storage facility. And what we should keep with us..... I'd appreciate any ideas you can give me. Thanks, Jan
Thursday 21st of June 2018
This post is A-MAZ-ING!! Great details and right on time for me. With 2 cross-country moves in 2 years our stuff is all over the place! Thanks for helping this mama begin to get a handle on things again!❤️
Tuesday 3rd of July 2018
I'm so glad it was helpful to you!