5-Minute Fixes: Take Inventory of Your Personal Documents

February 6, 2020
Top Secret Snap File Folder

This morning I challenged my husband to find my healthcare power of attorney document...then I timed him while he looked. It took him 53 seconds. I was impressed (and he was pretty proud of himself.)

Interestingly, he told me he would not have thought to look on my computer first. That makes it even more important that my paper files are in order...and they’re kind of not. I wondered if even I could locate other important documents as quickly. So today’s five-minute fix is to take inventory of your personal documents. (Things like birth certificates, social security numbers, legal docs, etc.) 

Five Minute Fix

5-minute Fix: Take an inventory of your personal documents.

Download this free personal document inventory worksheet to get a quick sense of where you stand (and what to look for.) I focused on personal documents today but the worksheet has inventories for household, property, financial, and legal documents as well. 

The document inventory took me about a minute to complete: 

Personal Document Inventory

Since I had a few more minutes, I decided to pull all the documents out and consolidate them into a snazzy folder. That step actually took me 9 minutes to complete since I had things in different parts of the house. (I bet you do, too!)

There were some surprises in this exercise: 

  • My memory of what I had in my filing cabinet was wrong. There were documents I thought I did not have but it turned out I did, and other documents I thought I did have which I could not actually find. 
  • There was a lot of junk in the files. I may have needed draft copies or unsigned copies of these legal papers at some point but I don’t need them now. Ditto for the previous version of my estate planning docs. It felt good to clear out some of the miscellany, knowing it will make it easier for me and anyone else to just pull the right papers when the need arises.
  • Something was missing from my list. Health insurance cards weren’t on the list. Keeping a copy of my card in my files will help me replace it faster if I lose it, so I added that to my list. (I also made a note to include that change in the next version of Life in Motion Guide!) ​

Take the document inventory, and let me know, did anything surprise you? Did you spend any additional time getting organized? 

Take Care,

Karen Purze
Extra Credit: Make Requests for Any Missing Documents

If you discovered missing or misplaced documents, take a few minutes to request or download them. In my case, for example, I printed a copy of my auto insurance id card from my insurer’s website, a copy of my health insurance id card from my health insurers’s site, and called my insurance agent to request copies of my life insurance policy (which can’t be downloaded from their site for some reason).

That took me another 20 minutes but I now have digital copies of these documents in addition to the printed copies I put in my Top Secret file. Bonus!

See more 5-minute fixes below! If you’d like to stay in touch, subscribe to my mailing list or join the conversation on FacebookInstagramTwitter or LinkedIn.

Karen Purze

About the Author

Karen Purze

Karen Purze is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She blogs about end-of-life and emergency planning at lifeinmotionguide.com.

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