How I Organize My Personal Documents

organizationVirginia Hart10 Comments

I find it helpful to hear how others handle certain facets of their life, particularly individual organizational systems. Today, I'm going to share with you how I organize my personal documents. I also have a couple questions for ya.

elephant paper clips > normal paper clips

As you know, storage space is limited nonexistent in our apartment so I opt for small file boxes from the Container Store. Maybe one day I'll upgrade to a nice filing cabinet of sorts. It seems like each year I have folders I no longer need or I realize new ones I need to make. I do a full overhaul every 12 months and I go through each folder, make new ones, and also shred what is no longer necessary to keep. I typically do this when I file my taxes which was Sunday's lovely task.

folder examples.

apartment leasing // I have copies of every lease I've been on including the ones back in college. Because I'm crazy? Yes. But also because when applying to a NYC apartment, they literally need every document imaginable - including information on your past several residences. And since I have zero memory, this helps. We will be opening this can of worms again very soon (blerg!) so it's good to have all the relevant paperwork.

art projects // I keep a folder of past art projects, including ones I've never shared. You never know when they might have a purpose. I also found a folder of all the many letters from publishing companies a few years ago turning down my children's book manuscripts. Sigh... it's motivation to try again.

bank accounts | retirement | etc. // self-explanatory.

big purchase receipts // Most big purchases (ex: a computer) come with a warranty or other important information. I like to keep receipts for those just-in-case scenarios.

birth certificate | passport | social security card // I spent way too many years trying to locate these things when I needed them.

cards // Although I tend to design my own cards for holidays & special occasions, I will buy cards throughout the year as I find ones I like tucked away in cute little shops or in the aisles of the local drugstore. It's great for the, "Oh it's so-and-so's birthday next week. Let me see if I have a card appropriate for a 10-year-old."

continuing education // Since undergrad, I've taken quite a few "continuing education" courses at various schools both in the city and online -- and I consider their syllabi (what a fun word that is) and coursework to be priceless information.

fitness // gym memberships, fitness goals, workout DVDs, etc.

health & dental insurance // I feel like I'm always asking myself if I paid a certain bill already. This helps me keep track.

inspiration // ...everything from magazine clippings to a beautiful image I found in a vintage shop in Chinatown to stories written by my grandmother. It's my own little Pinterest in a physical folder.

instructions // Ya know, for things like that sewing machine I have yet to learn how to use! It's a good idea to keep all those pamphlets that come with your various gadgets. You never knowww.

job info & reviews // It's a helpful place to store all your important documents from your employer.

keepsakes // In addition to other boxes I have for this purpose (I'm pretty sure I've saved every letter Patrick has written me), I also have a folder for things I've received that I love too much to throw away. I'll either decide at the end of the year that I can read it once more and throw it out (you can't keep everything unless you want to go on Hoarders) or I'll decide to transfer it to a keepsake box. For example, I just can't seem to part with my autographed playbills from Broadway shows I've seen. Maybe one day I can make them into something special.

medical records // I keep a record of everything from childhood to present. I recently asked my parents about their & my grandparents' medical histories. I always felt like doctors were asking me those questions and I never felt certain about my response! I finally asked and wrote it down.

renters' insurance | power bill  | etc. // (I'm sure if you own a home, you can think of 20 more folders you'll need!) I read somewhere that it is smart to A. take photos of your bigger possessions (I have very little to show for myself at 27, but oh well) and to make copies and keep them somewhere that is NOT your home. If (heaven forbid) there is a fire, it won't help to have those records kept with everything else. This can also apply to other important documents - best to keep copies stored in other places.

resumes & cover letters // Although I haven't updated my resume in ages, it's helpful (and funny!) to see where I left off. I don't think I would keep "child care provider" and "camp counselor" on my future version :) In my folder, I have nice thick resume paper (so few people actually care to use that these days and I'm a firm believer that details matter), examples of letters, a guide to resumes & cover letters, and a list of contacts I reached out to the last time I was looking for a job.
tax deductibles // A great way to keep track of your charity donations, etc. It's amazing what you'll forget about a year later.

tax documents // This one is pretty self-explanatory. I also save copies of this stuff electronically. As a side note, I also keep an external hard-drive to back up all the work on my computer. I never know how often to do it, though -- do you?
two things I want to figure out how to organize. help me.

business cards // I can't decide the best way to store all the business cards I collect. Should I separate them between categories? Like restaurants, stores, designers, bloggers, doctors, friends, references, etc? Should I get some sort of Rolodex or should I put them in a booklet? Right now I have a stack waiting for me that is held together by a hair tie. What do you do with yours?

passwords // I started a password log of sorts in one of my planners and I can't decide if it's safe to keep them there. Should I store this electronically? I feel like I have forty bajillion different ones and I'm constantly locking myself out of my own accounts after too many incorrect attempts (cue my laptop flying out the window). Tell do you keep track of your passwords?

I'd love to hear your tips & how you organize your important personal documents!

until next time,