I am not a fan of paper clutter. We pay all of our bills electronically; we go through our mail immediately, and mostly toss it all in the recycling bin; and we don’t hold onto invitations and cards. (I know, I’m ruthless.) We have one small file cabinet that holds any essential documents and we rarely have to open it.
While I’ve already written an entire blog post about reducing paper clutter (you can read it here), I wanted to talk about how to organize digital files safely. Also, I wanted to highlight the things you actually do need to save, both hard copies and digital ones. I am not an expert by any means, so I did lots of digging and research for this one. Plus, I’m just sharing my experience and how we do it. I’m sure there are many great ways to organize digital files, so figure out what is right for you!
Backing Up Paper Copies…Digitally
While we’ve always been good at only keeping essential paperwork, we never had a good system in place for backing up all of those important documents. We have the original files saved in our file cabinet, but that was it. I started thinking, “What if there is a fire, a flood, or theft? How would we access these important documents?” I knew firsthand the effects of a flood and I hated the idea of losing more items in a disaster. (Remember when our entire storage unit filled with six feet of water?!) So I knew that creating digital copies of important life documents was crucial, but I didn’t know the best way to do it and how to do it safely.
Plus, I didn’t just want to just store these digital copies on my computer or a hard drive. Instead, I wanted to make sure I could access them from anywhere, in case my laptop was stolen or I accidentally put my computer on the hood of my car and drove away. (Yes, this second situation did happen a couple of years ago and the laptop was never found. Ughhhh!)
Finding a Password Manager
In my quest to find a good spot to save our digital files, I realized that I was also in need of better online passwords. I was using the old school way – keeping a document with all of my passwords on my desktop. Horrible, I know! And often, I would use the same, weak passwords over and over again. Yikes! In January, I decided that it was time to change all of my passwords to strong ones and to find a password manager. It seemed like a good way to kick off the new year!
I read a lot of reviews and ended up going with LastPass because I liked being able to store passwords AND documents. (Note: This is in no way sponsored by them. I’m just sharing my experience.) I looked at a lot of the options reviewed in this article and decided that LastPass was best for our situation. (I’ve also heard good things about Keeper.) I ended up buying the family plan, which costs $4/month, so both Finn and I could store our passwords and any crucial family documents.
Overhauling My Passwords
So, my first step was to input all of my passwords into the new password manager. I went through my documents and added them all for both my personal life and Playbook stuff. After putting them all in, I realized that I had a lot of weak and duplicate passwords and LastPass gave me a pitiful security score. I then went through and changed each and every one of my passwords to strong ones. (LastPass creates strong passwords for you and automatically stores them.)
I’m not going to go into the weeds on how this works, because I’m sure every password manager is different. But it was important to change all of my passwords and then store them securely. Don’t worry, I deleted the password document I was using before. Ha!
Now, you’re probably thinking, “How do you know that the password manager is really secure?” When you sign up for a password manager, you create a master password for the account. This is used to encrypt the contents of your password vault. Additionally, I set up two-factor authentication to secure my password manager account. So it’s very secure!
Organize Digital Files
Okay, so my passwords were finally super-duper secure, so it was time to figure out how to organize my digital files. My entire goal was to make backups of important paper documents that had no online presence. So instead of saving things like bank statements, that can be accessed online through the bank, I decided to focus on scanning one-of-a-kind documents.
- Birth Certificates
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Cards
- Marriage Certificate
- Social Security Cards
- Car Title
I used our printer/scanner to scan all of these and upload them to LastPass. ( I know there are scanner apps that you can use on your phone if you don’t have a scanner at home.) I’m not gonna lie, it took quite a bit of time to gather all of the documents, scan them, and upload them. However, I now have peace of mind knowing that I’ll never lose copies of these documents. Plus, I can easily access this information from anywhere at any time. For example, if I’m filling out a form and need Finn’s social security number, I don’t have to call him and ask for it or try to memorize it, which I’ve never been able to do.
Let’s Get Digital!
This has not been the sexiest post in the world, but I do think it’s an important one. Just a month ago, I had weak online passwords; I couldn’t find passwords quickly; and I only had paper copies of important documents. Now, I’m feeling a lot better about my digital files and the security of my online world. So, this is your official kick in the pants to secure and organize your digital life! Also, please share in the comments if you use a different password manager and how you like it. We can all learn from one another.Casey