Think G.O.R.D. for document organization

Simplify your life by organizing your paper records at home.

A stand filled with files

How much time do you spend searching for documents because you cannot remember where they are? Michigan State University Extension recommends that you develop a system that can be used to organize your important papers. Keep the acronym G.O.R.D. in mind as you begin this process. G.O.R.D stands for gather, organize, review and discard. The basic steps are:

  1. Gather the documents
  2. Organize the documents into the categories (For example: tax, property, investment, personal)
  3. Review the documents
  4. Discard expired, unneeded or duplicate documents

So what do you keep and where do you keep it? Documents that are government or court recorded should be kept. This includes, but is not limited to, birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, adoption documents and military service papers. The previously-listed records as well as government bonds, documents that show proof of ownership and security certificates should be kept in safety deposit boxes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has links for individuals looking for vital records from individual states.

Some documents can be kept at home. Save your utility, cable and phone bills, ATM receipts and credit card statements until you can reconcile your bank statements. Simply shred all documents that are no longer needed. Two worthwhile investments are a lockable file cabinet that is waterproof and fireproof and a cross cut shredder.

Going paperless is an option that lets you manage your personal paperwork without the clutter caused from mail. You can easily view copies of your bills and statements that are stored online. Minimize the amount of paper used by selectively printing only what you need. Remember to write and hide a list of your user IDs and passwords that are needed to access online accounts.

In addition, complement your newly organized documents by setting up a maintenance routine to keep things in order. Also, select a trusted friend or family member and tell them where your documents are stored, in case of an emergency. Organization of your paperwork will make it easier to find the documents that you need when needed. 

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