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About a month ago a friend of mine called me in a panic to ask me to check on his house because his alarm company called him to tell him they were receiving a signal from a smoke detector in his house.  I drove to his house and arrived before him to discover 2 fire trucks and 2 crews of firefighters battling the blaze in the basement of his home.  It turns out someone burglarized his house and then set it on fire to hide the evidence left behind (mainly blood from breaking a window out of a door with his hand).  My friend had not turned on his burglar alarm before he left for work, and he paid the price.

After the fire was out and some of the smoke cleared, we were looking around his house to investigate the damage, and we saw where the thief found the drawer where all of their financial records were kept.  My friend immediately called the bank, credit card companies, and credit bureaus to protect his assets and identity.  This got me thinking about what I would do in this situation, so I’ve been doing some research.  I thought I would share a few of the things I’ve learned with all of you.

Follow these 5 tips to keep your documents safe, secure, organized and uncluttered.

 

1.     Identify.

Set aside a distinct area where you will keep your document management system. Keep this area clean and clutter-free. Having all of your essential information in one place saves you from searching for documents all over the house and reduces your storage space needs. An online digital document storage solution eliminates the need to set aside physical space in your home for document filing. Using an online system also ensures that all of your information will be accessible in one place.

2.     Prioritize.

Decide what’s most important. The FDIC provides suggestions for what should and should not be stored in a safe deposit box. Make sure you have everything you might need in case of an emergency easily accessible in your home document management system. This includes powers of attorney, passports, medical care directives, and funeral instructions. If you must keep these important documents stored in a safe deposit box, having an electronic copy stored away or online means you’ll have the best of both worlds – a safe location for the physical copy, while still having access in a time of need.

3.     Categorize.

Create a categorization structure that makes sense to you. Suggested file headings include: financial, employment, home, tax, insurance, and personal.

4.     Digitize.

In addition to physical file management, it is also recommended that essential documents be digitally stored for safe-keeping. If your electronic documents are currently residing on your computer’s hard drive or a flash drive, they can be uploaded to a secure file management site which means you can rest assured that your most essential information is safe from fire, theft or physical damage – even if your computer or zip drive is lost or stolen.

5.     Annualize.

Stay organized by committing to annual reviews of the files in your document management system. Purge or relocate outdated information and update files as needed.

If you have any ideas to help us keep our documents safe, secure, and organized, you should leave your ideas in the comment section of this post.  All ideas are appreciated and welcomed.

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