6 Ways To Organize Important Paperwork
We live in a world of instant, online communication; however, paperwork is still very much a part of how we do business. Signatures, important communiqués, letter headed correspondence, wills, and contracts all still have to be conducted via paper, as well as a whole host of other seminars and lectures in which attendees are often best served by the old pen and paper note-taking approach. But how to store it? Here are some helpful tips.
In order to begin to store paperwork correctly, you’ll need a file cabinet or a number of file boxes, a range of file folders, recycling bin, desktop file holder, hanging file folders (to populate the file cabinet), a label maker, pen, and of course, a shredder. Once you have all these ingredients in place, you are ready to start arranging your paperwork effectively, so as to be able to dispose of it once it has fulfilled its function.
It is a good idea to gather every single piece of paperwork you own into one space. You can then go through each piece and determine where it belongs; some will have to be shredded, some filed in one place, some filed in another. Don’t forget to look through bags, kitchen worktops and cork notice boards, your living room, and random drawers. You want to get all the documents in your house together, before deciding what to do with them. In the first instance, cardboard boxes might be useful in order to do an initial job of separating your paperwork. You can subsequently divide them up into smaller sub-categories.
You would do well to designate a drawer per category and then divide up all of your papers accordingly. You could have one drawer for things which need to be actioned, another for things which need to be archived, one purely for highly sensitive information eg. academic records, medical records, warranties, contracts, leases, deeds, tax returns, etc. and another for household things such as user manuals, recipes, coupons, receipts, etc. Another could be for recycling, and a final one could be miscellaneous, ie. that which doesn’t easily fall into any one category. The beauty of having hanging file folders is that you can further subdivide these categories into even smaller categories, at a later point in time.
The archive file
The kind of things which should go in your archive file are things which are almost irreplaceable, or at least very hard to replace. Documents like passports, contracts, leases, deeds, social security cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and baptismal certificates should all go in here. You could perhaps put tax returns and college diplomas in, too; really, anything that would be an absolute nightmare to try and replace. They should be organized alphabetically and most carefully locked (each file cabinet drawer may well have its own key).
A household file
It is worth having a drawer or file which doesn’t contain highly important things, but rather items which are of a daily, monthly, housekeeping significance. Things like receipts that may or may not come in useful down the line, insurance policies that need to be reviewed and renewed annually, gift cards, rebates, vouchers, loyalty cards, etc. can all go in this file. For older receipts and policies that no longer need to be kept, pass them straight through the shredder. It is important to keep on top of this, otherwise, things can get out of control.
An action file
Your action file will contain items that require an immediate or imminent response or action. Things such as invitations to events, bills that need to be paid, permission slips which need to be signed, parking fines, utility bills, etc. will all belong in here. It might be a better idea to arrange this file in chronological rather than alphabetical order, so as to tackle the most urgent things quickly. It would be wise to shred anything that has already been dealt with so that the number of things in this file is kept to a minimum. It is also worth reviewing this file on a weekly basis.
Overall, your paperwork needs to be stored in a way that is accessible, intuitive, easy to follow, and ready to be responded to quickly. You can have different sections for different members of your household, color coding, important, confidential things under lock and key, while daily, pressing concerns can be kept in an easier to reach area which can be regularly reviewed. For certain paperwork, you might even want to invest in a fireproof safe. The deeds to a house, for example, can be notoriously difficult to replace, while any birth certificate replacements will not be the original ones. Shredding should occur on a quarterly basis, otherwise can become overwhelming. You ought never to recycle sensitive documents in a plastic bin; anything with your name, address, and vital details upon it. Identity theft is a growing threat, so only recycle documents that are generic and not particularly personal or specific.