Military families know full well there is a form for everything – and I do mean everything. We recently PCS’d to a new area and I am swimming in paperwork. If it’s not a form to fill out for my driver’s license it’s one for school shot records, new patient information for the doctor, dentist, or chiropractor. My right hand hurts just thinking about it.
As if I thought that was not enough of a challenge, last week I decided to take on registering our vehicles in Texas. Oh the paper! We are Texas residents and so even though we are military we had to go through this long series of proving we paid taxes on the vehicles when we purchased them (no more easy-peasey Ad Valorem sheet signed by the Commander) in the other states, finding all of the paperwork from titles to insurance. You know the drill. We had the papers – we keep everything – but it was such a stack to sift through. About two hours into separating papers my OCD kicked in and I had to stop and search for resources to help me get this under control. I’m just that type of gal.
Do I really need to keep this paperwork from the sale of our house ten years ago at duty station number two? Does this daughter’s shot records on this sheet matter if they’ve transferred to another sheet and been updated with the new state’s requirements? Does this Tricare card even work anymore? What about this Will – have we updated it? And this stack of “deployment paperwork” we did back on deployment number one - keep or toss?
Turns out there really is help – man, I love the internet – when it comes to important paperwork. USA.gov has some great advice on putting documents into three piles – active file, dead storage, and items to discard/shred - I immediately put this system into place.
This site provides a great list of what needs to be in your active file. Additionally there is a helpful list of how long things should be kept and when it is acceptable to discard certain items. They offer the advice, “All active file papers over 3-years-old are considered dead storage. This may not necessarily apply to everything—for example, appliance manuals that you use frequently should stay in the active file.”
I will admit that there was a large amount in the active file but we did get rid of quite a bit. I created a file with financial information – current bills, statements, tax statements, etc. I created a box with appliance manuals. I have a file of house related items that conveniently went into an accordion style binder the realtor gave us. And of course, we have our safe deposit box where we keep the highly important we-need-to-grab-this-if-there-is-a-fire type documents.
There are some items specific to military that weren’t necessarily on the USA.gov list that I kept in the active file. I thought this list might help you when you’re setting up your system:
Recent Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
Thrift Savings Plan Statement (TSP)
Move-In Inspection/Personal Property Inventory
Most Recent ORB/ERB (Service member)
Tricare Card/DEERS enrollment
POA (all, including special)
Multiple copies of Service member’s current orders
I did figure out something rather quickly in this process: buy a heavy-duty shredder. You’re going to need it.
Have you organized your file system? What tips do you have to share?
Did I/USA.gov miss an important paperwork document that you want to mention that you kept?
What was the oldest or most interesting document you came across in your clean-up?