Organizing Your Household Documents

So often, on  fiction and reality television, I see people who carry a day planner, or in most cases, a whole life planner.  All of their contact names and numbers are written in a section of this book (including their own family), along with their business cards, and their own personal identification and documentation.  They don't know what it is they're doing from one hour to the next, without looking at their calendar/date/appointment pages.  They really, just can't live without that book.  Seemed kind of dangerous to me, especially because they are always misplacing this precious gem.

On the upside, at least all of the important information necessary for a successful day, for an individual or a small business, is conveniently located in one place, easy to store, easy to find, and mobile, in case it ever needs to be.  It occurred to me, that I should be doing this for my household.  So here's what I did...

I found last year's school binder in my daughter's closet. It's a rather large, two inch binder, with a durable soft cover, and a zipper that seals up the two sides, creating more of a case than a notebook.  I filled the rings with as many clear plastic page protectors as I could steal, from the photo scrapbook that I haven't worked on in three years. One half of a manila file folder, which is slightly larger than the plastic pages, makes a great section divider! 

I now have an abundant supply of manila folders, since I cleaned out my filing cabinet in preparation for this project. I know it's good to save certain documents for long periods of time, even a lifetime.  However, I don't think my husband's paystub from the second week of June 2006, from his prior place of employment qualifies as such.  Stubs for the past six months, from his current employer, is probably a little overboard too, but that's what I decided to stick with.  Turns out I didn't really need my utility bill from January of last year.  Even if I were holding on to it so that I could compare our energy usage, which I wasn't, the company website provides me with all of that data, in a nicely organized graph. I decided to keep only two months of each standard monthly bill, the current and the previous.  I make printouts for those utilities that offered me a paperless billing option.  

Needless to say, I narrowed down my piles of paperwork, from a hefty mountain to a suitable foothill.  This is how I separated my sections in the book:

Household (budgets, chore lists, list of household products that need to be replaced when the budget allows).
Bills (cable, car ins, electric, water).
Vital Statistics (SS cards, birth certificates, marriage licence).
Medical (copies of the insurance cards and a list of our providers and phone numbers, including the pharmacy).
Debts (long term bills that are being paid in increments, like the hospital),
Car (insurance policy, receipts for major repairs, and parts purchased, inspection, registration and tax information),
School (that pesky county handbook, copies of interim reports or report cards, school calendars, class schedules, and lunch menus).
Health (prescription inserts, receipts for doctors and medicines that may be tax deductible next year, information on medical conditions that are dealt with on a regular basis).

I even added a few clear, plastic baseball card pages in the front to hold all the business cards we collect from doctor's offices, service contractors, auto repair shops, and such.  That sure cleared some clutter from my bulletin board.

Now as of right now, I still have individual files that are a little too bulky to keep in the three rings, and will need to be kept in the cabinet drawer.  Things like that six months worth of paystubs, tax files for the past seven years, and our extensive instruction manual collection.

This golden book is my Family Manager. The book that I just can't live without, that keeps all of our important paperwork together in one easy place. It has a designated spot on the bookshelf, so that I always know where to find it, and it doesn't get misplaced. Also, it's easy to grab and run, if we should have to evacuate for an emergency. And it always goes into the safe room with us during tornado or hurricane emergencies.

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