If one of your goals for the New Year was to get your home organized then one important item to add to your to-do list is to also include making time to gather and create a proper Home Resource File or Binder. Whether you are old school and prefer something tangible and on paper or you like to keep things sleek and electronic, read on for what to keep up with and how to organize it.
Analog or Digital
If you like to keep hard copies of documents and to be able to physically put your hands on information, consider either keeping a three-ring binder or file folders (ideally in a secure and fireproof location like a safe). If your preference is to keep digital files, be sure that they are protected under secure passwords. In either case, let a trusted family member know how to access this information in an emergency.
What To Track and File
When creating a resource below is a list of suggested items to include.
Tier 1: Personal Identification and Life or Death Records
- Any personal legal documents like birth certificates, social security cards, passports, and marriage licenses for anyone residing in the home
- Tax information like tax returns (up to the past seven years), W-2, and 1099 forms, as well as additional information that might come in handy during tax time
- Property records, deeds, and bill of sale
- Wills, powers of attorney, medical directives, and important medical records
- Life insurance policy information
Tier 2: Personal Property Account Information and Logins
- Mortgage payment records
- Home insurance policies
- Vehicle registration
- Auto insurance policies
- Health insurance policies
- Employer information like paystubs, retirement accounts, pension or investment statements
Tier 3: Home System Accounts
- Logins to all of your mortgage and utility bills
- Logins for other monthly recurring expenses like cell phone service, internet providers, streaming services, and subscription boxes
- Logins to banking information
- Logins to accounts for debtors for credit cards, students loans, or personal loans
- Logins to all other online accounts
Tier 4: Home Maintenance
- List of service providers you use for plumbing, electrical, sewer, and outdoor maintenance
- Copies of warranties on large appliances and things you replace like hot water heaters, HVAC units, etc.
- Instructions for using systems that have been installed like home security systems, irrigation systems, safety lights, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors
Tier 5: For Military-Connected Families Only
- Current orders
- A “go file” with copies of each family member’s social security card, front and back of driver’s license, copies of military ID card, birth certificates, wills, and powers of attorney
- School and vaccine records for school-aged children
- Family Care Plan if service member is deployed
- A running document with all of your previous addresses from most recent to last
- An inventory of household goods (bonus for measurements and photos of current condition) for PCS purposes
- Pertinent medical records from last duty station
- Copies of current lease with proof of address and one or two copies of a recent utility bill
- Official or unofficial transcripts and an updated resume
Whew! That Sounds Like a Lot
If that sounds like a lot to keep, store, and track– well, it is. However, when it comes to having a major life transition like a relocation, a change in marital status, or an untimely death, knowing that these documents are at your fingertips, either in an organized notebook or file folder or with a few clicks of a mouse, will be a huge relief and offer you peace of mind.
Stay ready and prepared for what life throws at you and always make sure that while this information is somewhat easily accessible to you, that it is safeguarded and protected from the outside world.