• Jerilyn

The Beginner's Guide to Long Term Paper Storage

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Hello all!

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and I have to tell you, we had a fantastic time. Originally there were no plans for our evening and we thought we would just quietly watch the football game with all of the fantastic food my husband spent all day preparing. He loves smoking food on his Big Green Egg - and let me tell you it is GOOD. I'm so blessed to have a husband who loves to cook! But at the last minute, we decided to invite some friends over and it turned into a great evening!! Football, food, friends, family and fun was had by all. I just love impromptu gatherings!

Now that the fun of the weekend is over, let's start off our week with a Motivational Monday!

Today I am going to talk about a pain point for many of us: our paper storage!! Are you struggling to find a system that works for your family and paper storage? Maybe you have a filing cabinet with so many drawers and old papers and you never know exactly where that file is, or maybe you wonder whether you should be keeping those papers, or even how long to keep them? I am here to help!

Today I am going to teach you exactly how to keep a family file box or filing cabinet in a way that is easy and manageable and makes sense.

Here it is: the Long Term Document storage system!

I remember when my husband and I first got married, we were generously gifted a lot of money towards The Bay (a fantastic department store here in Canada in case you are not in the know ;)) and we were able to purchase some useful and excellent pieces of furniture. One of the items we chose to purchase was a gorgeous, 2 drawer, totally useful in my opinion, filing cabinet. It was wood and beautiful and looked like it belonged in my grandfather's office and I loved it. But oh my goodness did it ever collect papers. I do not blame the filing cabinet for this, oh no, it was entirely my fault. Every single paper that came into our home just got shoved in there and we (I) forgot about them. I had no system in place, just threw things in randomly. I have to admit, I even told myself I was grown up and "filing" when I would shove papers into my filing cabinet. Some things I didn't need to keep went in there to not be discovered again until we moved, and other papers we NEEDED I could not find ever again.

I was young and newly married and didn't really have many (if any) cleaning or home maintenance routines in place yet, and I would literally stuff every single last paper that I thought I might need to keep into that cabinet. I had no idea WHAT i was supposed to be keeping, nor did I know how long I was supposed to be keeping the things I didn't know I had to keep. (See how that could throw you for a loop??) And I did NOT have a system. Nothing at all. No dividers, only hanging file folders. Things got heavier and heavier and then one day, i kid you not, IT CRACKED. My beautiful wood filing cabinet had been destroyed because of my paper hoarding.


I decided then and there to learn how to store my files in a way that worked for me that did not make me scared to go and open it up to find something. I remember the complete fear and the near heart attack every time my husband asked me where a paper was, because I had no idea!!! I'd be worried that I misplaced it and he would ask why and I would panic - what a nightmare. Looking back I cringe so hard at the disorganization that was happening in my life.

So I began to research. After looking around, I found a fantastic system that I have since tweaked and made work for us. I'm going to share it with you here and explain how to make one of your own!

I have a paper system in my home where everything gets dealt with once. I make a rule that as soon as something comes in, it goes into 1 of 4 places:

1) To the recycling bin! We didn't need it in our home in the first place.

2) Into my home management binder! If you are not sure what I'm talking about, click here to read my blog post on making your own!

3) Into a To Do folder! This is where items that require attention stay until dealt with.

4) Into a To File folder! This is where the papers for long term document storage are found!

This box makes up one of my file locations. I also have bins for each of my children which I will show you next week on the blog, so hold tight for that one! You can use any filing receptacle for this type of long term storage, but I love my clear file box as it makes it easy to see if papers have fallen underneath the folders and I am able to keep it functioning. Plus I can store it in my storage room and easily take it out if I need to find a document.

This box holds everything that I need to keep or am required to keep for some future moment in time. Now that I actually know what those documents are :)

If you are unsure of how long to keep certain documents in Canada, I have created a cheat sheet with just that information - super helpful!

I have my files separated into categories which I will show you here. I use stickers for each category to make it super easy to find what I am looking for when I open it up. Let's dive right in!

Category 1: Important/Legal Documents

I got this adorable passport holder in Hawaii in 2006 and have used it every trip since!

This category includes:

  • Birth certificates

  • Driver's Licences (I keep a copy on file)

  • Education Records

  • Employment

  • Land Titles

  • Marriage Certificate

  • Passports

  • Religious Records

  • SINs

  • Vehicle Titles

  • Will

This section could also include the following:

  • Personal Directive

  • Power of Attorney

  • Past Marriage/Divorce Certificates

  • Death Certificates

  • Citizenship Documentation

  • Any other important documentation

Category 2: Money related documents

This category includes:

  • Credit Cards

  • Income Tax (once these are filed for the year, they get moved to another tax specific file box. This section includes current year tax info only.)

  • Insurance

  • Investments

  • Loan Information

  • Retirement

This section could also include the following:

  • Stock market information

  • Bank information

  • Any other money related documents

Category 3: Household documents

I use the Home Inventory file to store everything from precious jewelry appraisals to family heirloom information such as the history of a quilt made by my Great Grandmother.

This category includes:

  • Projects/Plans

  • Home Inventory

  • Home Maintenance

  • Vehicle Maintenance

This section could also include the following:

  • Renovation Information

  • School Reporting Information for homeschoolers

  • Any other household related documentation

Category 4: Medical

I keep one file folder for each adult member of the family. The kids have their own medical files in their personal file boxes.

This category includes:

  • Benefit Coverage

  • Personal Medical File for each adult in the home (the kids have their own Medical files in their personal storage boxes.)

This section could also include the following:

  • Family History

  • Any other medical related documentation

Category 5: Personal

I use our achievement folders to keep anything we have accomplished that we are proud of and would like to keep documentation of.

This category includes:

  • Awards

  • Volunteer

  • Personal Achievements for each adult in the home (the kids have their own folders in their personal file boxes - more on that next week!)

This section could also include the following:

  • Special personal correspondence

  • Any other personal documentation

That's it!

This is such an easy system to maintain and the separation of the categories makes things easy to find and it is easy to use. It makes it so much easier when you are looking for that one thing you know is in there.

I recommend going through this file box at least once a year - an easy way to do that is by adding it to your spring cleaning checklist!

That's it! If you haven't yet, check us out on Instagram @freshspacehome and on Facebook @freshspacehomeorganization. And as always let me know your thoughts! I love hearing from you.

Happy Organizing!

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