Organizing Your Paperwork
The key to staying on top of the flood of paper you’ll likely accumulate is to break large filing tasks into small ones. So even if you don’t have time to actually file things away, you can still keep your paperwork organized and accessible in case you need it. Here are some ideas you might find helpful:
- Keep handy a box or file for items you know are important but don’t have time to file. Examples could be bills to pay, health care plan summaries, Explanation of Benefits (EOB), and new contact information for professionals you frequently work with.
- When you open a bill, highlight the due date. Organize your bills in a way that helps you pay them on time, every month. For monthly recurring bills, mark the due dates on your calendar.
- Take a look at the File Categories below. Create large piles of documents for each main category.
- Break large piles into smaller piles for each sub-category.
- Place each small pile of documents in a manila folder, then label it.
- Place each group of folders in a hanging folder file, then label it.
Make Recordkeeping a Family Affair
Knowing how to get and keep life’s details organized is a practical life skill that can provide big payoffs in time, money (bills don’t get lost!) and peace of mind. Delegate to other family members small organizational tasks such as opening mail and putting paperwork into piles or files. It lightens your load and passes on an important life skill.
Below is a detailed list of file categories that will help you get started in the filing process. Not all file categories listed may apply to your situation, and you might come up with new categories not listed here.
To break down your filing into smaller tasks, begin with the main categories you think you need to be the most organized about, say “Government Health Care Assistance,” “Spending Plan,” and “Transition Planning.” As you come to know what kind of paperwork you reference regularly, you’ll likely keep it more organized. This will help you quickly find important papers when you need to enroll your child in schools, see a new doctor, or apply for health care plan reimbursements or benefits.
Ultimately, you’ll end up with a file system that helps you do your most important work of all: Be the most effective advocate for your child.
Financial: Your Finances
- Spending Plan
- Your Budget
- Money Saving Tips
- Pay Stubs
- Child Support
- Public and Private Cash Assistance
- Interest Income
- Investment Income
- Rental Income
- Cash Gifts
- Checking Account
- Credit Cards
- Mortgage Loans
- Auto Loans
- School Loans
- Personal Loans
- Personal Savings
- Savings Account
- Living Expenses
- Disability-Related Expenses
- Tax Returns
- Tax Saving Tips
- Source of Funds (examples: Grants, Studies, Foundations)
- Employer Plans
- Social Security
- Estate Planning and Will
- Special needs trust
Financial: Your Child's Finances
- Individual Development Account (IDA)
- Employment Income
- Checking or Savings Accounts
Financial: Health Care Plans
- Government Health Care Assistance
- Medicaid/Medicaid Waiver
- Private Insurance
- Medical, Hospitalization, Dental, Vision
- Long-Term Care
- Employer-Provided Health Care Plan
- Individual Education Plan (IEP)
- Assistive Technology and Accommodations
- Transition Planning
- Post-Secondary Education
- Selecting a School
- Paying for School: Scholarships, Grants, Work Study, Government Loans
- Person Centered Plan
- Annual Service Plans (from support agencies)
- Information about Support Agencies and Organizations (that serve your child)
Employment (your child’s)
Housing (your child’s)
(for example, provisions of the 2010 Health Care Reform legislation and your rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA])
One Family’s Approach to Paperwork
"When we first brought our daughter, Ann, home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed. Ann was so tiny and needed all my attention. Here we were—faced with heaps of junk mail, unpaid household bills, insurance claim forms, and more. On top of these, there were medical bills from doctors, labs, and the hospital. I didn’t understand the charges and I didn’t know what medical expenses our insurance covered. At first I was tempted to shove it all aside and think about it later. Instead, I enlisted my husband’s help. He threw out the junk mail and sorted everything else into rough piles. Even my young son, Eddie, helped by throwing away all the empty envelopes. In the days that followed, I spent a little time each day setting up a filing system. When I had finished, I felt such relief. And, no more clutter! We now use that system all the time. It helps in many ways. We know how much we owe and when bills are due. We have information on hand if we need to appeal an insurance decision. Most importantly, we’ve been able to prove my daughter’s eligibility for benefits."