Lisa Dooley of Your Organized Life provided the group with some great organizing ideas.

Working Files and Forever Documents

Ever tried to find your healthcare forms or insurance policy in a crisis?  Can you put your hands on your bank statements or mortgage documents in an instant?  If you can, congratulations – you have an effective set of working files.  “Working files” are those items you need to be able to “touch” on a consistent basis – think weekly or monthly.  Find a list of WORKING Documents here.  These items include current insurance policies for auto, home, healthcare, etc. Bank and mortgage statements should be well organized for easy referral.  Healthcare and insurance documents need to be easy to locate.   So, how should you organize your files?

Ideally, keep your working documents in a traditional filing system.  Pendaflex filing folders with clear, accurate tabs make finding your information quick and easy.  In an office setting, use a traditional filing cabinet with multiple drawers.   If you lack “office space” and filing cabinets, use clear, plastic filing boxes.   Being able to find your working documents quickly and easily is critical and makes your life much less stressful.  Every couple of months, update your filing system to be sure that all your files are up to date and current.

The average American spends 40 minutes a day trying to find something and paperwork is at the top of the list.  Put your Working Documents in a well organized filing system that you use on a regular basis.

Do you know you have documents you should always hold on to? Everyone does.  Examples are birth certificates, social security cards, military discharge and citizenship papers.  You can find a list of Forever Documents here.  Are you married?  If so, your original marriage certificate is a forever document.  Keep this securely along with your will and estate documents.  Are you a parent or guardian?  Guardianship documents and adoption papers are forever documents. Did you purchase a home and take out a Homestead Act?  Store this paperwork securely along with deeds to your property and mortgage discharge notices.  Do you have a passport?  Store your passport with your Forever Documents.  Do not “tuck” this in a drawer or desk somewhere!  Your passport is a critical legal document and is very difficult and expensive to replace when lost or misplaced.  Essentially, forever documents are records that provide proof of citizenship, critical personal information and legal standing.

Forever documents should be stored separately from your Working files  I recommend storing Forever Documents in a fire safe box.  You need to access Forever Documents rarely, think once or twice a year.  So unlike Working Documents which you access on a weekly or monthly basis, you “touch” Forever Documents very infrequently.  While some clients like the safety and security of a bank safe deposit box, this is not always ideal.  The downside of using a bank safe deposit box is limited access to the box due to bank hours, weekends, holidays, etc. I recommend clients invest in a quality, fire safe box which price at around $100.  Store your box in an accessible but not visible spot.

However you decide to store your Forever Documents, gather them together and store them securely today.  No one wants to be searching for a social security card or birth certificate in a rush.  Keep your Forever Documents stored securely and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and aggravation.

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