Life Hacks Personal

A guide to organising your Personal Documents

January 23, 2015


To some, this may seem like a no-brainer. If you grew up doing this for yourself, you may even keep a personal file without thinking about it, but if not, here’s why I do it.

Keeping a personal file of important documents is a great way to minimise the hassle of paperwork when faced with a job opportunity, university application, or even an exciting trip overseas, this is a guide to how I keep my personal documents in check.

I have a simple ring-binder, which I have labelled as “personal documents” on both the cover and the spine, to differentiate it from the myriad of university files on my file-shelf.

In the binder, I’ve divided the content into 6 sections under which to file documents, which are as follows:

Education: Matric Certificate, recommendation Letter from my high school, University acceptance letters, current “proof of registration” letter from my University for the relevant year of study, pamphlets/information about courses and exchange opportunities.

Why it’s helpful: Many student-jobs both in South Africa or holiday jobs overseas require current proof of registration as a student, and a copy of your Matric certificate.

Mobility: Current certified copy of my driver’s license, car registration, motor-plan information, service certificates and receipts, car insurance information.

Why it’s helpful: Losing your driver’s license is awful, having a certified copy allows for a proper search before heading down to the traffic department to apply for a new license card, and receiving a temporary license. Having all relevant information for your car is essential for future resale.

Health: Vaccination certificates, Organ Donor information/certification, Reminders for checkups, a copy of my medical aid card, notes on medication and vaccinations.

Why it’s helpful: as a medical student, I have to have an updated Hepatitis B certificate to be able to see patients in the hospital; we’ve been told they can ask to see it at any given time, so it’s good to have it nearby. I keep the package inserts from all the medications I take, in case of an adverse reaction, so I can go back and check possible side effects.

Contracts/Memberships: Gym contract, Loyalty card letters (the letters that notify you about points, etc.).

Why it’s helpful: if you have a gym contract: KEEP YOUR COPY SAFE! I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of people being screwed over by their gym due to fine print, so read well before you sign, and if you have any problems, read your contract before challenging the management, you’ll know where you stand, and they won’t be able to create a phony argument around what you “apparently” agreed to.

Finance: Information on banking accounts/credit cards (current bank charges etc), Bank statements, Payments made, personal budget, savings plan.

Why it’s helpful: Knowing what’s going on with your finances is important and budgeting makes saving so much easier.

Travel: Current certified copies of my passports, pending Visa applications, all travel documents for future trips in planning (copies of air tickets especially), proof of payment for travel related expenses.

Why it’s helpful: the paperwork around travelling is enough to give the most frequent, frequent-flier a headache, keeping all travel documents together lightens that load.

General: Current certified copy of my ID, Copy of my current, updated CV, employment tax number.

Why it’s helpful: It’s not just helpful, it’s essential. Work-wise, your ID, CV and tax number are fundamentals.

In an ideal world, it would be amazing to be able to do all of this digitally, but the truth is most bureaucratic organisations still expect you to have hard-copies. Having certified copies makes life a whole lot easier when you’ve misplaced an important document or even of something that contains an important document is stolen.

Sometimes putting systems in place takes time; I went from a few flip-files to this consolidated file that keeps everything together and safe. Even if you do live with your family (like I do) and they keep track of these documents for you, the time will one day come for you to move out, and then you’ll have to take care of all of the paperwork without assistance. This system allows for me to get used to the responsibility, so that it becomes second nature.

I know this was a long one, but I hope it’s useful

Ray xx

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