organize & simplify

One of my 2013 goals was to get better organized when it came to all our vital paperwork, but it took me awhile to decide how I wanted to do that.

I also work for a company that understands how easily and often identity theft can happen, so I’m a naturally cautious person when it comes to lumping sensitive information into one spot. I don’t do things like bank from my iPhone, log all my financial information into one spot on a site like Mint.com, etcetera and so forth!  Thus the idea of a family binder sort of horrified me. What kind of moron puts all that important stuff in one spot?!!?

But after reading this blog post last year, I decided to become that moron. 😉

I really did like the idea of all the important stuff being in one spot that is easily grabbed in the event of an emergency – and wasn’t in a spot commonly checked by home invaders like a filing cabinet – and got to work designing one that worked for my family.

What goes in it?

This is really up to you – what do you want to be able to grab in case of a fire or other emergency? Our binder contains a bit of everything, broken into categories – read below for more details and free print-outs for your own Family Binder! 🙂

Family Section

  • Bio Page for each member – human or pet
  • Life event certificates (birth, death, marriage)
  • Social Security Cards (stored in large business card sheet protector)
  • Important Contacts Sheet: If you want to keep a record of any personal bankers, insurance agents, realtors, babysitters, doctors, specialists, you name it – put it here!

Medical Section

  • Copies of our annual physicals (if you don’t already get these, ask your physician’s office to send you copies of your results each year)
  • Copies of other medical events or testing (for example, my annual allergy testing – but maybe surgical info, heart testing, diabetes info, etc would go here for your family)
  • Medical History Sheets for each family member (GREAT one found here)

Financial/Insurance/Property Section

  • Insurance Information Sheet: Numbers & contact info for things like our car, home, medical, dental, vision, and life insurance policies
  • Financial Information Sheet: Banking accounts, credit cards, debit cards, IRA/401K plans, HRA accounts, etc.
  • Credit Score copies (we order these annually and I suggest you do, too! They’re free!)
  • Copies of life insurance policies
  • Homeowners Insurance Declaration (policy copy)
  • Vehicle Sheet: Each vehicle’s protector contains title, registration, inspection, & insurance copy information
  • House Survey
  • Deed to house

Taxes

Each year of taxes has it’s own pocket (I used these) and I keep seven years of tax records. Why seven? Because although the statute of limitations for the IRS is 3 years, if they’ve determined you’ve under-reported by 25%, they can go up to 7. We don’t under-report, but that is just my “All Hell Breaks Loose” attitude that causes me to over-plan and over-save all the things, lol.

  • Tax return
  • W2 forms
  • Receipts for claims: Tax-deductible donations, energy-saving items, etc.
  • Mortgage Interest statements
  • Property tax statements

Other Information

Other great ideas that may pertain to your family would be copies of any Last Will & Testaments, medical directives, other property information, written home inventories/recipets (always a good idea to pin a photo of high dollar items to receipts for insurance claim purposes), any USB cards you back up family photos onto, home evacuation plans, etc.

Now Keep It Safe

Now that you’ve got your entire life in one binder, it’s severely important you keep this in a place not easily accessible to the wrong hands. This means you’re not keeping this visible on a bookshelf in your home office, it isn’t hanging out in your master bedroom closet, it’s not chilling in your obvious filing cabinet. I’m quite serious. This is where you need to put on your creative thinking cap and find a space that works for you – maybe it’s taped to the underside of a heavy fabric armchair, maybe it’s hidden inside a bland looking toy box in your children’s nursery (children’s bedrooms are one of the least ransacked areas in home invasions). Think hard! Avoid these following high-checked areas – and check out this post from LifeHacker if you need help brainstorming your best spot – and remember that wherever you pick, it also needs to be a place you can access quickly & easily in the event of something like a fire:

  • Master bedrooms & closets
  • Sock drawers/dresser drawers
  • Behind toilet tanks & under mattresses
  • The freezer (unless hideously well hidden)
  • Safes

Now Print It Out & Put It Together!

Our home binder is a mustard + teal theme because THAT IS AWESOME, so my printables are in the same color theme, but I did give you some choices on your covers! 🙂 You can snag the .PSD version if you’ve got Adobe PS and want to type in your last name, or print the blank .PNG file to write yours in if you don’t!

Covers

teal and yellow cover green and navy cover gray and orange cover
.PSD file | PNG file .PSD file | PNG file .PSD file | PNG file

Bio Pages
On each adult bio page, I keep updated photos. I also keep fingerprints. This may sound silly, but this way should the unthinkable ever happen to a loved one, I can give these to the right officials so we can do all that is needed for the situation – especially missing kiddos. On the pet page, as weird as this sounds, I keep a small hair clipping in an airtight ziplock bag (the small kind you can grab at Walmart in the jewelry making section). Why? Because if our pet were to go missing and we wanted to hire scent hounds, they need the pet’s scent and it can’t be from something shared by another pet or the scent hound can’t work. So before our pups get haircuts, we grab a hair snippet for safe-keeping. If you aren’t The Crazy Dog Lady that I clearly am, feel free to skip this – or use a piece of cloth rubbed all over your pets’ fur instead and replace annually. This also isn’t a bad idea for kiddos either. I’d rather seem OCD than wish I’d done it if any family member turned up missing!

adult bio page child bio page pet bio page
.PDF file | .PNG file .PDF file | .PNG file .PDF file | .PNG file

Informational Pages
Print as many as you need – Important Contacts, Financial Information, Insurance Information!

important contacts sheet financial information sheet insurance information sheet
.PDF file | .PNG file .PDF file | .PNG file .PDF file | .PNG file 

Each item goes into a regular sheet protector to keep it safe – and I used Avery Return Address Labels to label each sheet protector or envelope, as highlighted below. This allows me to easily remove items when I need them and remember exactly where they went – and what is missing (for when I create giant paperwork messes…. shh). I also nabbed these binder envelopes to house each tax year so nothing slips loose and other items, such as diamond certification/appraisals on my wedding rings, etc! I originally used Avery Business Card holders for the security cards & other business cards, but they’re a little snug for the SS cards, so I’m probably going to upgrade to these. Examples from our binder below!

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I’m not actually a Type A personality.

But if you looked at all my recent organizational projects, you might disagree. 😉

I’ve been meaning to post them (because who doesn’t want to read about my adventures in laundry room categorization?!?) but here is what I’ve been up to lately:

► Read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. Assumed that, with us both working in the financial field, it would be nothing new (I was correct) and that it would have been a solid waste of a few days of nighttime reading (I was wrong). I’m now currently obsessed, and we began our tweaked version of our “TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER!” (say it with echoes… like a bad car dealership commercial.. SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY).

► FINALLY closing on our mortgage refinance… today. Just a short EIGHTEEN weeks in. Don’t ask. Just… don’t. 😉 But overall, could not be more ecstatic!

► Created and put together our Ultimate Family Binder. I’m serious ya’ll. It’s allowed to call itself Ultimate. And in true me fashion, I made sure to create print-ables to post so that YOU can create yours as well, and we can all high-five and get matching jackets and meet weekly to discuss our awesome ultimate binder goodness. Mark your calendars.

► Combined saving money AND my crazy need for ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place’ by making over the laundry room. Some real paint, some spray paint, and $20-at-the-Dollar-Store later, I found myself closing my eyes in the middle of the least respected room in my house, in utter swoonage. Oh, Laundry Room, we are now good friends.

► Have begun the next few organization projects: attacking storage spaces in the kitchen and formal dining room.

► Decided that I am going to paint all our interior doors black. Does that sound like an awful idea? I beg to differ, as my current Pinterest obsessions have shown:

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Though I like to humor myself with the delusion idea that I am not a Type A personality, the truth is I’m at least a Type L personality – for List Maker. I’m sure that’s a thing, right?

This plays really well into the fact that I also rest easier when the house is clean and everything is in it’s place – Someone once asked me how we have white couches and rugs with seven pets who climb all over them and the real answer is: Because we wisely bought washable couches that can be bleached. But let’s pretend it’s because I’m immaculate.

And now in a totally normal transition, each spring we make a list of all the nitty-gritty tasks to dive into as they relate to our home and cleaning (aka this isn’t the list that contains things like checking smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, checking the water heater and adjusting it’s holding temperature, inspecting the a/c unit for debris and clogs, replacing interior a/c filters, etc). I thought this may be a great list for folks who don’t know where to start with these things, and it’s super easy to add or subtract from it as it suites your home! Just save it, delete/edit whatever you need since it’s a word doc, and print!

Grab the Crazy Cleaning Lady List by clicking here!

Next week I’ll try to post my weekly cleaning spreadsheet, which sits on my fridge and helps me break down regular cleaning into daily 15-30 minute tasks. *Dork alert* I know – but it also helps me get into the swing of maintaining a clean/organized home in less time, which I assume I’ll appreciate even more when we become parents and I can’t dedicate an entire Saturday to organizing the pantry, LOL! 😉

 

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quote on clutter

I have been on a kick lately to completely organize my life.

Feeling visually organized helps me stay mentally organized – so we have spent the last month slowly making sense of the clutter that is our home!

Over Labor Day weekend, we tried our best to tackle a FIFTEEN-PAGE cleaning list I came up with.

Fifteen pages. Yes. I said that. Because I’m a ridiculous glutton for punishment?

declutter ideas

We didn’t get through it all (who could?!) but we did tackle a lot of things we don’t do on a normal cleaning schedule. Fun things like cleaning the pipes behind toilets and sinks, wiping light bulbs and washing lighting fixtures, scrubbing doors and baseboards, replacing stove vent filters, hosing 22 blinds off, dusting the ceiling and vents, polishing the inside and outside of every kitchen cabinet, removing panels from the fridge and dryer to vacuum out coils and ducts – you know, good times were had by all?*

decluttering ideas

And then we began to organize! It is amazing how much more space we suddenly have when we take the time to give everything it’s place and purge things we just don’t need (like that second blender..). We’re nowhere near done but we were already able to donate TEN garbage bags and two large boxes full of items to Operation Kindness – so now cleaning feels EVEN better.

declutter ideas

We bought a vacuum-it-flat bag to store two giant comforters more compactly, we bought a new wall-mount mail organizer because the insane accumulation of mail that had taken up residence on my kitchen island (which already fights for space with two laptops) was making me stabby and we just reduced THREE giant Tupperware’s of over 400 DVDs into two easily-flipped-through binders.

decluttered linen closet

We organized every kitchen cabinet/drawer and found ourselves with two completely empty shelves – which feels incredible, considering a few weeks ago I was SMOOSHING doors closed with the hopes that nothing would leap to slay me the next time I dared venture into it. Even our linen closet, which is small to begin with, has SPACE. For THINGS. And two bins helped divide under the upstairs guest bathroom into a half for guest needs and a half for Ashley’s items. I even organized my underoo’s and sock drawer – and was this tempted to show you because I was so thrilled with the results, but I realized even I should have SOME limits. 😉

decluttering the guest bathroom

It’s like Christmas in July! If July were actually, you know, in September/October. ::blank stare::

We still have plenty more to tackle, finish, dream up… but so far, it’s feeling faaaaaantastic!

*Blatant, blatant lies – but fun or not, it was nice to get it done!

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