Records and Information Management:
How to Organize Your Important Documents

No spring-cleaning session is complete until you’ve sifted through your receipts and documents. That’s probably why April is designated as Records and Information Management Month. So, gather up all those bits of paper, and sit down for some sorting and organizing. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to find information quickly the next time you pay taxes or file an insurance claim.

 

Here’s a simple process for completing the task.

 

Gather the info.

 

The first step in records and information management is to go through drawers and boxes to find every receipt, document, and bill you might need to save.

 

What should you look for? First, gather all documents you need to store permanently, such as those regarding:

 

  • Birth, adoption, and death
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Social Security
  • Military service and discharge

 

Then, find the documents you just need to keep for a while. This includes:

 

  • Deeds and titles
  • Home purchase and improvement records
  • Will and trust documents
  • Retirement benefit documents
  • Business licenses
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment info
  • Medical bills
  • Business receipts
  • Donation receipts
  • Record of possessions for insurance claims

 

Clear the clutter.

 

Some documents outlast their usefulness. So, the second step in records and information management is to remove every item you no longer need. Tax documents often fall into this category, such as particularly old business receipts, medical expense documents, and donation receipts.

 

Shred.

 

Identity theft is a constant threat in today’s world, so you can’t just throw all papers away. Instead, shred anything in your clutter pile that contains sensitive information, like your social security number, credit card information, or account numbers.

 

Sort.

 

Next, categorize the items you plan to keep and store. For example, group bills, deeds, receipts, and policies in separate piles and arrange them by date or location in filing folders. Then, organize all medical documents by the family members to which they apply.

 

Store.

 

Place your freshly organized documents in a safe location, such as a filing cabinet or firebox. Pick a spot that won’t flood during a storm and choose a container that you can lock. You must keep this information secure because you never want to give thieves easy access to it.

 

Back up.

 

The last item on your records and information management checklist is to back up everything. Make copies of all documents and keep them in a safe location. Also, consider scanning them for digital storage on a password-protected drive. This will give you peace of mind. If anything happens to your home, you’ll still have access to crucial documents as you make insurance claims and prepare to rebuild.