Managing and organizing documents can be time-consuming and frustrating, but with the right tips and tools it can be made mush easier
Do you want better document organization?
There's nothing more frustrating than needing a specific document you can't find. But document filing is time-consuming and frustrating in of itself. You might be facing a pile that's literally over your head, and don't know where to start.
Don't worry, we're here to help! Read on for 7 tricks to keep your important documents organized, and ready when you need them.
1. Start with Your Filing Space
Here you can get creative. Filing cabinets and drawers offer storage space you can customize to suit your needs. It's important that you set aside space to use only for file storage. Try not to spread it over several different areas.
Don't get into a habit of storing your documents on your desk. A messy desk makes for a messy mind and will reduce productivity. You're also more likely to spill something on them or misplace them.
If you must have documents on your desk, create or buy a ready-made file shelf. This way you can maintain order and organization while still have easy access. Only use this for documents you need every day, like forms to fill in or work that needs doing that day.
2. Know When It's Time to Let Go
You don't need to keep every little bit of information forever. In fact, most of the documents you're clinging onto can actually go straight in the shredder. Here are some guidelines to help work out what to keep and for how long.
You should keep a record of your bank statements dating back 3 years. Each year, shred and replace your oldest banking statements so it doesn't build up.
This will depend on what activity the documents are showing. As a general rule of thumb though, you should keep these documents for 7 years.
Credit Card Statements
You don't need to keep these. Once you've checked to make sure they're accurate, shred them. Make sure you do shred it, as it will have identifying information about you that can lead to identity theft.
The only reason to keep your credit card statement is if you've made a large charge. Or you have bought something but it hasn't arrived yet. Having a copy on hand will be handy if you need to dispute anything, and it will be proof of payment.
When it comes to file organization, think minimalist. Less is more, and it's far easier to navigate too. Take out any old files you don't need and remove anything that isn't file related from your storage space. The goal should be to whittle down what you're working with as quick as you can.
Shred any documents that you're destroying. This includes items that have your name and address on them and any identifying info. Remember, your recycling pile is likely going to be the biggest one if you declutter right.
Once you've weeded out the junk, you can see what you're left with. This will help you decide on what categories you need, and how best to set up a sustainable filing system.
4. Double Up Your Wallet
There is a lot of critical information in our wallets. Each day we're carrying it around, and if we lost it, we would be in a panic without it.
Make duplicate copies of all your wallet information. This includes:
- Driver's license
- Health insurance card
- Organ donation card
- Gym membership
- Grocery store loyalty cards
- Credit and debit cards
Once made, keep these copies organized with your other, high priority information. If you lose something and need to cancel it, you'll need this information on hand.
5. Separate Vital Documents
For most important documents, a filing cabinet or drawer system will do. For some though, you should take extra precautions like storing them in a fireproof box. Or keep them in a safe/deposit box, or in off-site storage.
You should consider vital documents the ones that will be hard/impossible to replace. They may contain very sensitive information that would compromise you to identity thieves. Or if your home suffered flood/fire damage, you'd want these documents to survive.
Here is a list of common documents that would class as 'vital':
- Social Security information
- Birth certificate
- Insurance policies and contact information
- House/property deeds
- Car titles
- Any original documents that needed a signature
- Investment and financial trust information
Put together a master list of all your vital documents, then place them away in a safe place as suggested above.
6. Use An Easy to Track System
For the rest of your documents, put in place a simple filing system. Avoid being too specific. If you make categories for every little thing, you're going to end up overrun with folders you barely use.
Separate Documents Into Five Categories
Put a decision on every bit of paper you come across, don't leave any for later. Every document should go in 1 of these 5 categories:
- Action: These documents need action and then can go in the shredder.
- Archive: Documents you need to keep, but won't reference more than 1-2 times a year.
- Household: Documents needed for the daily running of the household.
- Recycle: Documents not falling into the above categories, that contain no personal data.
- Shred: Documents you don't need to keep, but have personal data that needs destroying.
Some documents have a date or timestamp. Once separated into the above categories, sort into subcategories. Then you can put them in chronological order to keep track. For example, you've archived your bank statements. Keep them in date order, oldest to newest, so you can reference them with ease.
For all your documents, consider alphabetizing them. This will provide a quick point of reference when you're looking for a document. You'll go straight to the letter you need, rather than sifting through the whole category.
7. Keep Up the Maintenance
Once you know how to organize your filing system, keep it that way. Each month when a new bill or statement comes through, file it in the right section. At the same time, remove any documents that are now outdated and shouldn't be there anymore.
On a bi-annual or annual basis, go through your office files to make sure your documents are up to date. It'll help you pick up on anything that's slipped through the cracks and isn't needed anymore. Or if you've missed something that needs attention.
Organizing Documents Made Easy
So there you have it! Organizing documents doesn't have to be a chore. Once you put in place an easy to navigate system, it'll be a breeze. All you have to do is keep on top of maintenance.
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