Organize Your Important Papers

The last time we traded in a car, we spent more than an hour searching for the title, and I had to order a copy of my birth certificate from Indiana when I needed to renew my driver’s license. Both of these important documents were located where they should have been, in the file cabinet with all of our important papers, just filed in the wrong folders. Of course, part of the problem was the number of not so important papers stuffed in the file cabinet.

One of the best things about participating in the 40 day decluttering challenge and organizing to prepare for our move was the elimination of extra paper. Receipts, bank statements, warranties for items we no longer owned, tax returns from the 80s…over 50 pounds of paper taken to be shredded.

But while it’s necessary to eliminate the unnecessary paper, it’s essential to organize the stuff that really is important. After several unsuccessful attempts to tame the paperwork, I’ve finally settled on an organization plan. Keeping items in one of four places:

Safe-deposit box

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Wills and other estate-planning documents
  • Marriage license
  • Social security card
  • Vehicle titles
  • Life insurance policies

At Home File

  • Safe-deposit box inventory
  • Tax returns and all supporting documentation for seven years
  • Insurance policies
  • Household warranties and receipts
  • Everything relating to your house: records that show the purchase price as well as all receipts for home improvements. Keep for three years after selling.

Evernote (Digital File System)

  • All financial documents related to IRAs, 401(k)s or other investments
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Pay stubs and W-2 forms
  • Loan documents until the loan’s paid off
  • Vehicle records including the purchase receipts, maintenance and repair records for as long as you own vehicle
  • Receipts
  • Social Security statements

3×5 Card File

  • Record of accounts with mailing addresses, phone #s, account #s
  • Phone numbers of family members
  • Contact information for medical professionals

This card file is the most important of all. I can always find what I need even if there’s a power outage, or the Internet is down or should I lose my phone.

It’s not a fun task, but it sure feels good when it’s done. Organize your important papers.



Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your suggestions.



4 thoughts on “Organize Your Important Papers

  1. I couldn’t find my title when I traded in my car. Turns out it was in the safe deposit box. So it’s also important to tell yourself where you’ve stored your important documents.

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