how to organize paperwork

Ah, the dreaded paper chase. Paperwork. Yes, the record keeping race is on at home, too. But you can win the marathon with these tips for organizing paperwork at home.

There are your four options for storing paperwork at home: hang it, put it in a drawer, floor-store it, or shelve it.

No matter what you choose, or if you choose to use a combination of all of these ways to organize files, make sure important papers are stored together in a way that you can find what you're looking for when you simply must have it, like at tax time.

How to Organie Paperwork: You'll Need to Create Separate Filing Systems for Your Home Papers, Family  Papers, and Financial Papers

Create a separate file system or area for each paperwork type.

For most families, there are three home file organization categories to be culled: financial papers, home papers, and family papers.

You'll need to create a separate file system or area for each. It can be as simple as assigning each paperwork type its own unique color.

You could use green for financial, for example, and red for household.

Here's how to organize your papers at home.

How to Organize Paperwork of the Financial Variety

Here's how to organize financial paperwork file system:

Financial paperwork cheat sheet. This financial paperwork cheat sheet should list financial advisers, documents, location of safe deposit box key, and other information.

It should include copies of what's in the safe deposit box, and what to do - and who to contact first - in case of emergency. If anything happens to you, this document can help surviving family members through the first few days.

Safe deposit box or fireproof strongbox. What goes here? An important papers to keep checklist includes: titles; birth, death, and marriage certificates; copies of wills and deeds; inventory video  of household goods for insurance purposes; and passports.

Bank and credit card statement folders. Easy, right?

Organize your bills. Organize you bills so that you can get what you need, fast.

I name files in a way that makes sense to me and (hopefully) to anyone else on the prowl for them. For example, although the gas bill payment goes to "Southern California Gas Company", I file the gas bills under "G" in a file tagged "Gas Company" instead of "S" for Southern.

Credit card list. Compile a full list of the names and numbers of each credit card in the family. Include the toll-free numbers for reporting loss or theft of said cards. Reserve a folder, envelope, drawer or other dumping ground for organizing receipts and online order confirmations.

Estate planning folder. Even if you're just planning to plan your estate, you've got a place to file the information.

Investment folders. In these folders, store information financial paperwork on stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Your records should show the purchase price, sales price, and commissions. They may also show any reinvested dividends, stock splits and dividends, load charges, and original issue discount.

Life insurance policies folder. Store life insurance papers here, or you can put these important papers in your safe deposit box or strongbox.

Loan, lease, or mortgage folder. Files these papers by bank or simply under "Home Mortgage" or "Rent". 

Major expenditure receipt folder. You'll want to put the purchase information for your new fridge and other expensive belongings here.

Pay stub folder or envelope. Each pay period, stash your stub.

How to Organize Paperwork Related to Your Home

Here's how to organize paperwork related to your home:

Household papers cheat sheet. This sheet can be on a computer or in a file. It's a guide to the household paperwork.

Car maintenance records. Use this to hold permits, 20,000 mile service receipts, etc.

Home maintenance records. With these records, you'll know the last time your serviced the air conditioner or had the heating vents vacuumed.

Owner's manuals. This file includes directions and receipts.

How to Organize Your Family Papers

Your family files should contain all of these categories. Organize your must-haves in a way that makes them easy for you to grab when trying to, say, reconcile your daughter's orthodontic bills with the insurance coverage statements. 

Here's a look at what to store and how to keep all the essential papers at your fingertips:

Babysitter file. Here's the place to keep notes and numbers on your favorite sitters, who's in high school, who's in college, their driver's license numbers if they're driving your kids anywhere, and other pertinent information.

House sitter/petsitter file. Store recent bills, brochures, recommendations by friends, etc., here. 

Medical and dental records. File these by family member. 

Pet records. Files these by pet, naturally.

School records. File these by family member. 

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