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Blog: Minimizing Financial Clutter
Your Life In a Portable Safe

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping a client get his tax records organized to submit to his accountant. (Yes, I know it is September, not April, but we'll save that story for another blog.)  Several critical documents were nowhere to be found.  At least, we weren't able to find them among the mountains of papers that covered every square inch of his living and dining rooms and filled the trunk and back seat of his car.  They probably really are there, somewhere, but we ran out of time to continue searching for them. 
My client and I were chatting about how to tackle that mass of paper.  I suggested that we pick up one paper at a time and put it into one of four BIG CATEGORIES:
1.       Papers that needed his action (including those elusive tax statements),
2.       Papers he would want to grab if his house was on fire,
3.       Papers he needed (or wanted) to keep but that he didn't need to DO anything about, or
4.       Trash (which would be everything that didn't fit into categories 1, 2, or 3).
We proceeded to wax philosophical about Categories 2 and 3:  If the house really was on fire, God forbid, and he was able to grab the Category 2 papers and take them to safety, then just how important are those Category 3 papers anyway?  Why do we need to spend time organizing them and take up space in our homes housing them if they are not "fireproof safe-worthy"?  I admit that I didn't have a very good answer to my own question.  I guess the answer is that maintaining the Category 3 papers in an orderly fashion makes our lives easier.  (My client's life would certainly have been easier that day, had he put those tax statements in his tax file.)  But would life go on without most of them?  Probably so.
A few days later, Hurricane Ike destroyed hundreds of homes in Texas.   The owners lost everything that they left behind when they evacuated. 
I thought about my conversation with my client only several days before that devastating event.  If I knew, as the people in Texas knew, that disaster was coming and that I had to leave my home in just a few hours, what information would I need to begin rebuilding my life?  My documents are pretty well organized, but I certainly couldn't take my file cabinets with me.  Here's what I came up with:
         Proof of Identity  or Ownership birth certificate, passport, copy of driver's license, marriage license, and any other government- issued or legal documents.
         Key to Safe Deposit Box so you'll be able to access your additional valuable documents and items.
         Names and Numbers a simple list or Excel spreadsheet containing 4 pieces of information:
Account Name    Account Number    Phone Number    Contact Person (if known)
Now, here's where you'll need to do some homework.  On your spreadsheet, write down the appropriate information for every bank account, credit card, investment account, car, insurance policy, every bill you pay everything you own, rent, or pay for.  If you have this information in a portable fireproof box, you'll be able to grab it, go, and restart your life.

posted on: 9/21/2008 11:30:00 AM by Katherine Trezise
category: Finances

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Minimizing Financial Clutter

by Katherine Trezise

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About Katherine:

Katherine Trezise is president of Absolutely Organized, based in Baltimore, MD. She is president-elect of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. Katherine holds a masters degree in business administration, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®. Absolutely Organized specializes in helping people organize their homes, paperwork and financial records to make room in their lives for the things, people and activities that are most important to them.

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