Janine Godwin

Article Summary:

Organizing official documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and property information is critical to saving you a great deal of peace of mind should an emergency occur.

Organizing Official Documents for Safe Keeping

We are a generation of paper. Although we are in the midst of the "computer age", there is no way around the important documentation that defines us as individuals. Actually, it begins as soon as we are born. Once we enter the world, we earn our first and possibly the most important piece of paper - a birth certificate. And that is just the beginning of a lifetime of vital documents that prove we exist as living, breathing human beings.

But sadly, most people do not have their personal documents organized or readily available when needed. As a professional organizer, I have seen insurance papers tossed in with old newspapers, birth certificates being used as coasters, and marriage certificates mixed in the "to be shredded" pile (and this was no indication of the status of this client's marriage!). With the ever-increasing susceptibility of disasters, both natural and man-made, and the rise of identity theft, it is imperative that everyone takes the time to organize and safely store the documents that can literally save you a monumental headache should you need them. Not one person reading this article is immune to disaster or identity theft. But even if you are lucky to avoid an unfortunate situation such as the aforementioned, just having the peace of mind knowing where everything is, is reason enough to get those documents organized.

Here is a partial list of documents that you should be able to locate in 5 minutes or less, or at least know where they are kept. Feel free to customize this list as you feel necessary:

  • Bank Account Numbers
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage License
  • Citizenship Papers/Visas
  • Credit Cards
  • Passports
  • Diplomas/Certificates/ School Transcripts
  • Automobile Registration and Title
  • Divorce Decree/Custody Papers
  • Driver's License
  • House and Property Deeds
  • Home Inventory List/DVD
  • ID Cards (student, senior citizen, employer, etc.)
  • Insurance Policies
  • Military/Discharge Papers
  • Medical Records
  • Passwords to Online Accounts
  • Social Security Cards
  • Investment/Retirement Portfolio Tax Records
  • Wills
  • Death Certificates
  • Safe Deposit Keys

Many if not all of these items can be easily scanned onto a CD and stored in a safe deposit box or fireproof box. Also, it would be a good idea to have a list of people who you do business with: Insurance agent, financial or estate planner, attorney, physicians, etc. so you know whom to contact in case you do lose these documents. Another alternative is to make copies, or order certified copies of certain documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, and keep the originals in a safe deposit box.

You can never be too prepared or too careful. Sure, all this gathering of paperwork may seem overwhelming, but it is nothing compared to what you may face during a time of crisis and you are caught unprepared.

Janine Godwin, of Nooks and Crannies Professional Organizing enjoys educating the public on the benefits of organizing. As a Professional Organizer, she also writes articles, develops interactive workshops and is a public speaker on the topic of organizing. Nooks and Crannies is located in Katy, Texas and you may contact her by visiting Nooks-and-Crannies.com

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