It’s getting close to spring cleaning time, and most people just think about going through the house and cleaning from top to bottom. But it’s also a good time to clean up your household records as well.
It’s important for every household to have some sort of record-keeping system to help make it easier to keep tabs on all the various papers, receipts and other records. Being able to find the information you need, and quickly, sometimes can mean the difference between money lost or gained. A well-organized system also can mean less stress for you or your family members in a crisis situation.
If you don’t have a record-keeping system in place, the first step is to determine what will work best for you and your family and to motivate yourself to get started. It doesn’t do any good if you don’t use the system.
Start by pulling out all the household records, receipts and other documents stored around the home. Then decide what to keep and what to toss. For example, there’s generally no need to hang on to the warranty information and receipts for products you no longer own. There are some records, however, that need to be kept indefinitely, such as birth and death certificates, legal papers relating to marriage and other documents that are government- or court-recorded.
How long you keep other records depends on the type of record. Asset and property records may be needed for tax, resale or estate settlement purposes. They need to be kept at least as long as you own the asset or property, then as long as you keep other tax receipts and records once the asset or property is disposed of and reported on your income tax return. The next step is to decide where to store the information. Remember the general rule – the more expensive, time consuming and difficult it is to replace a specific record, the safer the storage place for that record should be. Some papers can be kept perfectly fine in a filing cabinet, desk drawer, or sturdy boxes. Other papers and documents should be stored either in a fireproof, burglarproof home safe or a safe deposit box.
The Oklahoma weather may also factor into where and how records are stored. Keep in mind that a fireproof, burglarproof home safe may not be tornado proof. Financial and business papers such as investment certificates, bonds, deeds, mortgage papers, a list of insurance policies with numbers and agents, vehicle titles and a household inventory requiring safe-keeping.
You’ll also need to decide who in the household will take the major responsibility for keeping and organizing records, although all family members should pitch in and help with this effort. It is a good idea to schedule regular times throughout the year to keep the record-keeping system updated. However, in the event of an emergency, if the main record keeper is not available, someone else should be able to locate important records that are needed.
If you don’t currently have any type of record-keeping system established, it may take a while to get all of your important papers organized, but the effort will be worth it the next time you’re looking for a specific piece of information . For more information or to schedule a program locally about financial management, nutrition, health and wellness, parenting education, OHCE contact me at the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County at 918-456-6163.
Heather Winn is a family and consumer sciences educator for the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.