Your Family Files (8) – How to organize your documents and valuables

Whether you use digital storage or hard copy storage, you have to organize your documents so these can be easy to find.

Remember that your purpose is to make your documents easy to locate, so do not get lost in the maze of those beautiful organizers. There are simply too many choices in the market, some of which look so sleek and pretty. However, these are just tools, and having these will not automatically solve the clutter problem.

The 15 categories

Organize your documents and valuables according to these 15 categories:

  1. Civil registry documents
  2. Passports and travel documents
  3. Real estate documents
  4. Financial documents
  5. Vehicle registration documents
  6. Licenses
  7. Insurance and related documents
  8. Powers of attorney
  9. Last will and testament
  10. Medical records
  11. Academic records
  12. Professional and employment records
  13. Identification cards
  14. Lists and inventories
  15. Valuables

Where to store them

Categories 1 to 14 can fit into folders, brown envelopes, or clearbooks. Category 15 consisting of valuables such as heirloom pieces, souvenirs and other objects are to be physically stored in a specific place. However, you can store photos and lists of these in folders, brown envelopes or clearbooks as well.


I recommend using clearbooks because these make documents last longer, protect them from the elements, and make them easy to locate just by flipping the plastic pages. When using clearbooks, you can set aside the first page for a table of contents, with reference to specific pages of the clearbook where particular documents are found.

Go digital

In addition to clearbooks, take photographs or scan the documents, and store these in digital storage devices like CDs, USB or portable hard drives. Make virtual folders using the same 15 categories. In this way,  you can easily take the USB or hard drive with you in case of emergencies or when you need to see certain documents without having to go through the hard copies. Be sure to update the soft copies regularly.

Hard copy storage

Next, decide where to store hard copies – in a safety deposit box in the bank, a fireproof safe at home, a filing cabinet, regular cabinet at home, or off-site storage facility.

Back to the 10-minute test

At the beginning of this series, I asked: “If you had to leave home in an emergency, and could only take three things with you, what would these be? Could you easily grab your important personal and legal documents in a ready-to-go bag before swinging out the door?”

If you have soft copies of these important personal and legal documents in a CD or USB drive, which also contains soft copies of photos and an inventory of your valuables,  you can easily grab that CD or USB drive in an emergency and take it with you. Your hard copies and physical valuables would be stored elsewhere in a safe place that you can access later.

Be in control

I trust that you have acquired enough information so you can be in control of your personal and legal documents as well as valuables.

As you read this ebook, you may have discovered that there are some documents that you need to secure or put together, such as your Last Will and Testament, your Living Will, insurance policies, or even copies of your family registry documents. I suggest you attend to these as soon as possible.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions on storage solutions, email me at I’d love to hear from you, and will get back to you as soon as I can.

Until next time!

Posted in Family files.

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