I’m so excited to share with you guys this guest post about how to organize important papers–and disguise them. Thank you so much Celeste for sharing your tips with us!
Columbus-based writer Celeste O’Connor is a gym addict, guitarist, foodie, organizer, and artist. But when she’s not doing all that, she likes to write about making everyday life easier and neater.
Before I started to organize important papers, I had a shoebox full of W-2s, large purchase receipts, educational information, financial information… It was a mess. And to make matters worse I had another separate shoebox filled to the lid with letters I’ve received over the years, dating back to even before I was born! 20ish years of sentimental letters, photos, and notes, thrown into a box.
Sure, a shoebox does in fact store your paper info and memories, but if you are looking for your birth certificate and old newspaper clippings to get completely destroyed over time, you may want to ditch the cardboard box and start stashing stationery in a case binder.
Types of Documents to Store
As I mentioned, I had 2 boxes of important papers, one box for financial, medical, and educational records, and another for sentimental cards and notes that I like to open when I feel like having a good cry. I personally just transferred these over into 2 separate binders, but if you have more info to store, you may need more binders; it all depends on your life.
What You Will Need
Thankfully, what you need to organize important papers is an affordable list unless you are the really creative type (unlike me). Then you can go full-on scrapbooker with stickers, buttons, embellishments, etc.
- A three-ring binder. I use a UniKeep because they are heavy-duty and come with an overlay which lets me decorate the outside. These binders are like the tanks of 3-ring binders, and they snap shut so your documents stay safe.
- Page Protectors of many sizes and shapes. The ones I’m using here are all from the Etsy shop Fizzywire.
- Optional: Stickers, construction/scrapbooking paper, markers/pens
- Your documents of course!
I organized my more important documents in multiple sections. I have a page protector for each year of W-2s and tax info, one for savings bonds, one for my apartment lease, one for my car’s title/receipt/warranty, and one “Misc” for items that I didn’t feel belonged anywhere.
Lastly, I have a page protector that’s meant to hold trading cards in the back and slipped in a credit card, (hoping if it were stashed away I’d be less likely to use it), my college ID, my TopGolf membership card, my SS card, a SIM card, extra debit card, and some small odds and ends.
Cards and Notes Collection
The sentimental shoebox disaster was a tricky one to organize. I chose to organize by occasion, but you could also sort them by the sender, chronologically, by color… It’s all up to you!
So, in the very front is a page holding some blank cards and envelopes and a small diary. Then the items I’ve received are as follows:
- A CD with photos
- Physical photos, newspaper clippings
- Notes I used to pass with my best friend in high school
- Birthday cards
- A section with memories of my late Grandfather
- Valentine’s Day cards
- Christmas cards
- Sweet notes my mom gave me in high school (when I was too angsty to listen to her speak)
- A page full of duplicate photos
Now, depending on what you collect, these sections will vary for you. But hopefully, you can gain some inspiration from mine.
Sometimes people give you cards that are just too huge to fit in certain page protectors. Why do they manufacture greeting cards as large as my head? This is one of life’s greatest mysteries. But for those cards, I opt for these mini binder page protectors also from Fizzywire. They’re meant to go inside mini binders, but they open both on the top and the side, allowing for large greeting cards to slide right in.
To finish off this guy, I added a piece of 50-cent scrapbooking paper I found from Hobby Lobby. I just chose a design I liked and didn’t add any labels, because this way I can disguise the binder as a nice decoration piece.
Disguising Your Binders
Whenever I organize things, I like to have my organization products either out of sight or as close as possible. Living in a very small apartment, closet and storage space isn’t abundant for me, so I stacked these guys on my cube organizer and put some decorations on top. I think it does an okay job at looking like a simple decorative box.
I could see other organization nuts taking it much further; UniKeep does have thinner binders (0.5 inches, 1 inch) and also miniature binders (about the size of an A5 piece of paper), where you could keep photos, folded up letters, recipes, concert tickets… The binder is your oyster! Whatever it is you want to file away, I hope my system helped you find new ideas to organize important papers.