Wednesday, November 9, 2011

{diy: important document binders}

As much as I love organizing, there is one area of my life that somehow missed my scrutiny, and that is the organization of important documents. It's shameful to admit it, but a few months ago if you had asked me where my medical records were, or my rental agreement, or my tax forms, I would probably be digging through a cluttered box of paperwork trying to sort through the mess. For someone as OCD as me, I can't believe this particular problem area escaped my notice for so long!

Then I discovered this {amazing post} through {i heart organizing} and it clicked. "Why haven't I done this yet?!" Not only would organizing all those documents keep everything important at my fingertips, rather than in messes all over the house, but it would make going to the doctor, checking past tax returns, and finding numbers for power outages so much simpler.

After much sorting of paperwork, a trip to Office Max for binders, folders, dividers, and a magazine file, and a few hours sorting, organizing, and beautifying, all my important documents are in one easy-to-find location.

Here's the scoop of how I did it:

I divided all the important paperwork into six different categories:
  • My Taxes (1.5" binder)
  • Tanner's Taxes (1.5" binder)
  • Medical Records (1" binder)
  • Home and Auto (1" binder)
  • Insurance and Retirement (1.5" binder)
  • Manuals (Magazine file)

 Here's the breakdown for each:
  • Tax binders
    • Tanner and I each have our own binder, complete with dividers for five years worth of tax returns. All the paperwork is hole punched and filed, and each year has its own pocket at the back to hold all of our payroll stubs and other small paperwork.
  • Medical Records
    • The divisions in this binder include: medical, dental, optometrist, specialist, and prescriptions.
    • Each division has statements from doctor visits, copies of prescriptions, doctor's notes, and past immunizations and physicals.
    • Since all this paperwork can get overwhelming, I also created a concise Medical Records page that lists both Tanner and my personal info, doctor information, emergency contacts, past immunizations, past doctor visits, and any genetic medical issues in our family. I know I have a hard time filling this "first time" paperwork out at doctor visits, so after doing some research with my extended family, I now have a cheat sheet to keep with me. You, too, can use my template! {Medical History Chart}
  • Home and Auto
    • This binder is divided into two parts. Within Home is currently all rental paperwork, housing agreements, renter's insurance, personal billing (ie, phone, power, water, sewage, etc), and emergency outage phone numbers. If you want fun templates to keep all this info, check out this post via {i heart organizing}... she has a bunch of great tools in her shop which will help you stay organized.
    • The Auto section holds auto insurance paperwork, copies of car titles, taxes, and plate information. Everything is either hole punched or kept in 3-ring folders within the binder.
  • Insurance and Retirement
    • The insurance section is for medical insurance: I have a lot of paperwork and manuals which I received through my employer, so I keep these in folders in the binder, including frequent important letters I receive through my health care in the mail.
    • The retirement section is also information from my employer; statements for my 401K and Roth IRA and the manuals and letters they send me in conjunction with that.
  • Manuals
    • The magazine file I bought to hold things that don't fit nicely into binders, ie, manuals! Anything Tanner and I own which has a manual with it is stored in the file. Currently it holds building instructions for a lot of our furniture, my camera manuals, computer manuals, appliance manuals, etc.

Really important documents (ie, passport, car titles, birth certificates, social security cards) are kept safely in a lock box, and only copies are stored in the binders for reference. In the future I'm going to also come up with a organizational tool for banking statements, checks, and accounts, but currently a lot of it is online or in safer locations.

So, there you have it! All my binders are kept in a bookshelf in the guest room, carefully labeled and set up for quick grab-and-go access, in case we need to quickly leave the house.
How do you organize your important paperwork?


  1. Great ideas! and very inspiring! I will do some paper organization/control in July, and I will implementing the binders idea. Thanks!

    1. It works great for us! It's so nice to know where everything is in case we need it.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing. I am going to start organizing paper work next week. I know you posted this a while ago, is there anything you would change?

    1. Good question! So far it has worked really well, but one thing I've noticed is that the medical binder fills up much more quickly than any of the others. You may need larger than a 1" binder.
      I've had to create a second medical binder so that Tanner and I each have our own personal files. This also helps keep things more organized, since prescriptions and paperwork for each type of visit (dental, medical, specialist, etc) can add up quickly (especially for two people!). Folders and sleeves help keep small things organized if you can't 3-hole-punch them.
      Also, I've been contemplating making a medical emergency cheat-sheet in wallet sizes so that we can have the basic important info on us at all times. (See also for something similar)

      I hope that helps!

  3. Well, I was using file folders, but I like this idea much better =) I was also contemplating using one of those digital scanners with pre-loaded filing systems, but a cheaper version (aka using the scanner I already have to file away all these papers). I was thinking as I read that a one-inch binder may not be big enough for our medical papers -- especially me, as I have some health issues and see a doctor about once a month -- but I see in the comments that you upgraded to a larger binder. This is a FANTASTIC idea!

    1. I've been thinking about doing some digital scanning, myself. It's not a bad idea to have back ups of important info! The files I do have I keep on a flash drive in my firebox, just in case.
      And yes, the medical binder does tend to get the biggest (and I find I'm adding to it/organizing it the most often).
      Glad you like it!

  4. Thank you for reposting. I desparately need this - and lots of other organizing. THANK YOU!

  5. I'm currently trying to sort our paperwork. Where do you store bank statements etc?


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