How to Organize Important Documents at Home and Keep It All Spick and Span

June 23, 2021Moving Tips
Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

Our household can often be overcrowded with different items, with very few of them as vital as your documents. That is why you should think thoroughly about how to organize important documents at home. Once you read our tips, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is, and you’ll find yourself with nicely stored files in no time. Furthermore, your next search for an important document won’t end in an anxiety attack and pool of tears caused by missing documentation.

How to Organize Important Papers and Records – Preparation

We are all indeed different creatures, and different things make us happy. Some people like to go shopping, and others want to travel or stay at home and watch TV or find out about the best racing games. No matter the type you belong to, nowadays, we almost don’t exist without our documentation. So make your shopping trip a little shorter, leave a book and put a pause on the best TV shows about cars, and make a little room in your life for organizing important documents.

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Step One: Arrange Your Papers

Put all your documentation in one pile. It’s a big pile, isn’t it? Don’t fall into despair – when you finish with the first step, you will see that you keep unnecessary files (some of them should’ve been thrown probably months or years ago). So go on and get rid of them. Just be careful, make a difference between a regular bill that is useless to you and the car bill of lading, for example, if you recently collaborated with an auto transport company. Go through your mail as well and see if there is something worth keeping. If not, recycle or shred it.

Step Two: Separate and Organize Your Paperwork by Type

Not all of your paperwork belongs in the same group, or a sub-group, or that matter. Be sure to separate it logically. Groups that you will create may be:

  • Personal records of each family member (birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards, passports, living wills, and alike),
  • Tax files (tax returns and other forms),
  • Medical records (health insurance, medical bills, veterinarian records if you have pets, and alike),
  • Property records (bills of sale, insurance policies for your house or vehicle, whether it is one of the most expensive cars in the world, a boat, or a tiny moped),
  • Finance records (bank and credit card statements, paid bills, and alike).

For extra neatness, you can create subtypes according to the date or the name of a family member to whom that paperwork belongs.

Pile of paperwork labeled by different colors
First things first - group your records according to their type

How to Store Important Documents at Home the Right Way

First, you should consider where you want to keep each important file. Try to find more than one space because some of your documentation, such as bills, must be paid first and then stored. Moreover, you should have a separate area for storing your mail and other not-so-important papers.

Look online for some creative storage ideas, especially for the entryway or living room, where you will probably keep bills that you need to take care of. Ensure that they are separated from magazines and newspapers and always visible so that you won’t forget the payment. You should also think about which document you must keep with you, not at the house. For example, a copy of a registration and AAA card should be on a list of things to keep in a car.

How to Choose a Storage Space for Essential Papers

When you separate your paperwork and decide which documents you should put away, you should store files in a chosen storage space. There are various possibilities for storing this type of item, and which one of them you will pick depends on several factors. Each one of them has its good and bad sides, about which you can read below:

  • A file box will allow you to search through your records efficiently, which is always a plus. However, if you live in a smaller house, you may have a problem with storing a box itself because of its size.
  • An accordion organizer is often smaller than a box and gives the same amount of efficiency, but it can be a bad choice if you have a massive amount of records needed to be stored.
  • A letter tray would be the worst possible choice because your records would be out in the open, not nearly safe enough, with too much possibility to get lost. Those trays would also take space on your shelves and desks.
  • Binders are one more way of filing your records and files but make sure to buy appropriate folders so you don’t make a hole and destroy a possibly highly valuable document.
  • A cabinet or drawer is a cost-free storage space, but they oblige you to make more effort in organizing. If you choose a drawer, for example, try using drawer dividers for each type of record. Note, however, that you probably won’t have the level of organization you could get from an accordion organizer or a box by choosing this type of storage.
  • A DIY document organizer is always an option, but ensure that your DIY skills are on a high level before you dive into that task.

If you are curious about how to make a document organizer all by yourself, be sure to watch the following video.

YouTube video

How to Organize Important Documents at Home – Final Steps

When you pick the right storage option for you, you should label different parts of a chosen unit to clearly show which compartment holds which document type (taxes, finance, medical, and so on). If you want some sub-groups, you can choose to further categorize some departments. You can do it in a lot of different ways. For example, put them in separate folders, on which you will add a sticky note that defines that particular pile.

When you are done with each paper you have, you only need to make sure every new document has its place.

Table full of markers and sticky notes
Use sticky notes for categorizing inside of groups

How to Keep Important Documents Organized

In order to keep your records organized, you must get back to them once in a while – to add new and throw the old ones. However, you should be careful – not every document can be thrown away. And take precautions – every document with your personal information on it needs to be destroyed (with a shredder or a pair of scissors) until it becomes unreadable. You don’t want to be a victim of identity theft.

Some pieces of documentation you must save for life (birth certificates, living wills, and alike,) others you can get rid of a month or two after you got them (utility bills, for example.) Receipts for more significant purchases (TV, computer, and alike) you should keep until their warranty expires. Note that tax records should be kept for approximately seven years! If the IRS knocks on your door, you would want to have all of the necessary forms to prove you are a respectable citizen.

Shredded pieces of paper
Don't forget to shred every document that contains your personal information

How to Organize Documents – Paperless Style

Thanks to modern technology, we now have the option of digitalizing all of our records. You can follow the same steps we enumerated for digital filing, too. Create one folder in which you will keep all the rest. If you need to scan your records, it would be best to use some image scanning applications, like Evernote. Be sure to back up your files in case something goes wrong with a computer. You can use an external hard disk or some online storage option.

Online Account – Access Each File Outside Your Home

The advantage of online storage options is the possibility to access your records from anywhere you want, assuming you have an internet connection. You won’t have to worry about where you put your hardware in order to find your records – you will be one click away from it. However, note that that doesn’t mean you are allowed to throw away your original documentation.

Man typing on a keyboard
Use your electronic for storing

Why Is Organizing Your Documentation Essential

When something stressful or significant happens in your life, the last thing you want to think of is your documentation. If you couldn’t avoid road rage on some of the famous routes in the USA, for example, or driving stress gets the better of you, and you end up in a car accident, you will need your car insurance as fast as possible.

Suppose you transport a car from state to state and want to register your vehicle after the move. In that case, you will need a purchase invoice of the car, a copy of vehicle insurance, and other important records, which you can easily find in your “property’ section we talked about earlier. The exact process is necessary if you want to register a leased car in another state or if you are selling a vehicle through an auction, so it’s always best to keep your documentation organized. Here is one more example: if you become a victim of a moving scam or realize that you are scammed by a car dealership, you would need your bank and credit card statements to trace your transactions, together with other proofs of your properties. Find your records easily by following the suggestions we gave you.

If you want to prepare for a move, on the other hand, it would be ideal that your documentation is already organized so that you don’t waste precious time. However, believe it or not, that is one of the first items on the list of things you forget to do when you move. Imagine that you are moving to a new state in a hurry and can’t find some important record! We wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy, to be honest.

Memory Booster

Another function of nicely organized documentation is that it can help you boost your memory when needed. For example, you are making friends in a new city after a move, and some of them would want to know for themselves how much does car shipping cost. No one would expect you to know the exact price, but you can always take a look at your records and quickly find a bill from your car shipping company. And then, you can provide them with some other car shipping advice, based on your experience, like if it is better to use open trailer services or choose enclosed auto transport, which USA auto transport company is the best, is it better to pick a door-to-door auto transport or terminal-to-terminal car shipping and so on. The conversation will continue to flow, and your new friends will be very grateful for your help.

All of the examples from above should emphasize the importance of good document organization and show you in what way it can may your life easier.

Man looking through an accordion organizer
If you store your records properly, everything will be at your fingertips

Time to Get to Work!

Organized documentation is a necessity needed by every household, big or small. You read about the methods and techniques, as well as the importance of organizing. Now when you know why, how, and where to store important documents, all you are left with is an act itself. So, roll up your sleeves and finish sorting and filing your documentation, so you won’t have to worry about it ever again.

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