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

No matter which you choose, or if you choose to use a combination of all of these ways to organize your paperwork, 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.

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 file folder color.

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

How to Organize Paperwork of the Financial Variety

Here's how to organize financial paperwork:

Create a financial paperwork cheat sheet. This financial paperwork cheat sheet should list financial advisers, documents, location of safe deposit box key, and other essential financial 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. Store important, difficult to replace paperwork in a safe deposit box or fireproof strongbox.

What goes in your safe deposit box or strongbox? 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? Label by financial institution or by family member.

Organize your bills. Organize you bills so that you can get what you need, fast and get these items paid on time. 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 important 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 expenditures 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 here.

How to Organize Paperwork Related to Your Home

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

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

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 you serviced the air conditioner or had the heating vents vacuumed.

Owner's manuals. This file includes directions and receipts for everything in your home, from the coffeemaker to the washing machine.

How to Organize Your Family Papers

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

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. 

Once you know how to organize paperwork so that you can find things when you need them, daily life gets much easier.

› How to Organize Paperwork