When there is an emergency, hopefully you have time to grab the essentials, ie family and pets. However, there are times when you just can’t get anything else. It is important to plan ahead in case something should happen to your home and you aren’t able to grab any personal papers. Even if nothing ever happens to your home, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to scramble for important papers at say, tax time???? Or when your 3rd grader has to start soccer and they need their medical records tomorrow. Or when you go to get a passport and realize they need your original birth certificate. I can feel the panic setting in just thinking about some of these scenarios. So everyone, it’s time to get your documents in order! These are just my suggestions, there are a million other ways to make sure your papers are safe. If you have any to add, please feel free to add them to the comments.
-Safe or Safety Deposit Box – For legal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, previous tax returns, etc, I have a fireproof safe. It is not too expensive for a small one. Not only does it protect against fire (for a limited amount of time based upon the model you choose), but it is a good place to keep all of the super important documents together. Many of them are waterproof too. It is also good to be able to lock them as an added safety measure. Another option is to get a safety deposit box. The point is to keep the most important papers together and protected.
-Back up and copy – I try to backup my entire computer onto an external hard drive at least once a month. For work stuff, I try to do it more often because I am constantly adding documents to my computer. For super important documents that I mentioned above (ie tax returns, marriage license), I also try to keep a digital copy. For my kid’s birth certificates, I ordered 3 ‘original’ hard copies of them when each kid was born. We kept one and another went to each set of grandparents. This is great because not only is there a copy, but should their birth certificates ever be needed during a visit, they are already there! Also, keep a copy of your passport on your computer and a paper copy with you when you travel in case something happens to the original.
-Scan in photos or other memories – I am currently scanning every single picture I own as well as kid’s art projects, cards from our wedding and anything else I might want to have a copy of if anything should happen to the originals.
-Upload to an external source – for the photos and memories, I upload them to an external website so if something should happen to my computer, I still have the files somewhere. I have just made the switch to Shutterfly so after using it for a bit, I’ll be able to post on the pros and cons.
-Minimize the paper – The less paper you have, the less you have to wade through, copy, scan, back up etc. So be selective in what you keep. Check out the ‘Paper Pile Purge Series’ on the blog for tips on how to do this.
Take the time now to go through your important documents. Know what you have and where everything is. That way, if you are ever in a bind, hopefully your documents will be the last thing you have to worry about.