Basics, Estate Planning, Home, Parenthood, Wellness

How do you organize your important documents?

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Are you familiar with the dusty old shoebox filled with important documents, electricity bills, your grade 12 report card, account statements, parking tickets, birthday cards,… and your passport, from the last 10 years? Don’t worry – you aren’t alone! We live in a digital world, where most things made of paper either end up in the dusty shoebox or piled up on your kitchen counter/coffee table/dresser.

The main problem with the shoebox and disorganized documents in general is that in the end, it causes you stress:

  • You could easily forget to renew a document, because it is buried and you don’t remember when it is supposed to be renewed.

  • You could easily lose or misplace an important document which will be a hassle to replace.

  • You won’t have easy, quick access to the documents when you need them urgently.

  • You may miss a payment on your credit card/bill because the statement or the bill is buried under a pile of junk mail.

Let’s see if we can help you organize your shoebox and ultimately even get rid of it completely! Follow the 3 simple steps below and you will have an organized, stress-free life in no time.

Step 1. Eliminate ongoing pileup.

Nowadays, most if not all companies offer the option to receive electronic bills, statements, invoices, etc. Grab your mail from the last 2 months, make a list of all physical letters you’ve received and who they are from. Now go on and create accounts on the websites of those companies and request electronic bills/statements through the account.

If the ability to access your bills and account details at any moment isn’t enough for you to get online, think of all the trees you will be saving!

Aside from your bank statements, your utility bills, cell phone bills, internet bills, you likely receive mail (less frequently) from the CRA. You can apply for MyCRA online account by following these simple steps.

Step 2. Systemize what you already have.

This is going to be fun! Grab your favourite beverage, the shoebox, use a shovel to pick up the pile of letters and papers from your kitchen counter and dump them all of it in the middle of the floor. Now, breathe and get out of the house for a minute to go to Staples to pick up some binders or a filing case.

When you get back, refreshed and with 10 other items which you did not intend to buy (including washi tape, fluorescent highlighters and a new mouse pad), grab that beverage again and get to work.

Put all bills together, checking the latest one to make sure it is paid. If you intend to use these bills on your tax return, make sure you put them aside in a “tax return” folder.

To earn extra points in the organization game, we recommend you note all bill due dates in your calendar (physical or electronic), so you can stay on top of them and never get charged a late payment penalty. This will also help you when you use a budgeting app, which you can learn about here.

Do the same with receipts. Unless you are using the receipts for your tax return, or planning on returning the items you purchased, there is no reason for you to keep them.

Contracts should go together with other correspondence from the provider. They are important to keep, especially if you don’t have an electronic copy of them. You never know when you will need to refer back to them.

Pro tip. Note contract renewal dates in your physical or digital calendar, so you can be reminded to check on promotions or deals rolling out around the contract renewal time.

Now, important documents! That includes things like: your birth certificate, adoption, baptism, name change documents, passport, marriage, death certificates, driver’s license copies, SIN, citizenship or landed immigrant status paperwork, permanent residence, diplomas, medical records. When you put them all together, make sure you check the ones that have an expiry date and make yourself a note in your digital or physical calendar to renew them before they expire.

Tax returns. According to the CRA, you are to keep your tax returns and letters of assessment for 7 years. You can read more about the rules and requirements here.

Membership/loyalty cards. You, just like the rest of us probably have loyalty cards for stores you’ve ever only been to once (Bass Pro Shop anyone?!). But you also probably have memberships and loyalty cards that you need to use on a regular basis. We recommend you put all your cards together in one physical location and for on-the-go access, use a mobile wallet app like Stocard.

Pro tip. Many loyalty programs now have digital apps which allow you to store your loyalty card and gives you access to great deals for that specific store. If you are a frequent visitor/user, make sure you download the app and take full advantage of the program.

Step 3. Get on the cloud!

We live in the 21 Century, it’s time you take full advantage of technology to make your life easy! Now that you have all your documents neatly organized, get some copies of them in a cloud storage, so they can be easily accessed from anywhere, and restored, should something terrible happen to them.

Lucky for you, we know everything there is to know about documents and we’ve put together an amazing tool called Filing Cabinet which not only offers secure storage for all your documents, but also tons of information and education of why and when you will need them, how long you should store the physical copies for. Lastly, you can set renewal reminders right within the filing cabinet calendar and get notifications directly in your inbox!

Want to check out this amazing tool? Click here to start your free 7-day trial!

And just like that, your entire life is organized – your mom would be so proud! Give yourself a pat on the back – you did it!

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