Have you ever had one of those moments when you couldn’t find an important paper you knew you had carefully put away? This can be so frustrating! But beyond the frustration, misplacing important documents may cause us to miss opportunities, lose finances—it can even be life-threatening.
To avoid unnecessary hardships, every household is encouraged to work out a system for managing important documents. Developing a good system can be tricky, but here are some guidelines that will help you create a new and more efficient system for managing your household records.
First, gather all of your important papers together into one place. Be sure to include documents such as:
- Appliance manuals, warranties and service contracts
- Bank statements
- Bills and bill payment receipts
- Checkbook and Credit card information
- Education records, diploma, transcripts, etc.
- Employment records
- Estate Planning records
- Family health records, including vaccination histories, medications, known allergies, etc.
- Health benefit information
- Household inventory
- Income tax working papers
- Insurance policies
- Loan statements and payment books
- Password list
- Pre-planned Funeral / Burial documents
- Receipts for items under warranty
- Safe deposit box inventory (and key)
- Tax receipts, such as those received for charitable donations and deductions
- Will and/or Living Will
Next, separate your document into three piles—an Active pile, Dead pile (archive), and Discard pile. Active items are current and referenced within the course of one to three fiscal years. All active files over 3 years old are dead files (these should be archived for 2-4 years). Finally, discard items such as cancelled checks, outdated appliance manuals and warranties, pay stubs from years you’ve already received a W-2, and other documents that have been replaced by newer versions. Once you’ve completed this, find a single and safe location to store them–preferably a locked place such as a locking file cabinet or safe.
Managing household records can be tedious, but in the event of an emergency, illness, or loss, you’ll be glad you took the time to get things organized, and avoid any further frustration.