Keeping Documents (and Other Treasures) Safe

We do not have hurricanes or tsunamis in Minnesota, so I do not a keep a Go-Bag at the ready. But the week of the riots in South Minneapolis I put one together. It had our portable lockbox, dog food, dog leashes, and a few other necessities. Fortunately, the riots passed and the items in the bag were put back where they go. Months later I needed my son’s passport and realized I had no idea where the key to the lockbox was. I was sure it was somewhere safe – but that was my only clue. My husband researched how to break into our lockbox, and we learned that it was incredibly easy to do! I believe sliding a credit card between the lid and base easily unlocked it. So much for keeping things secure.

That said, the kind of things we keep in our safe are not items that I am worried someone would steal. They are the documents that we need to keep – car titles, birth certificates, marriage certificate, etc. – but would hold little monetary value to anyone else. I keep them there to protect them from fire or floods. A benefit, however, is that I always know where these documents are. When getting the passports, I don’t need to think about how or where they are filed – I know they are in the lockbox. If I was locking up riches, I would have a safe that was not moveable and not easy to break into.

So, should you be locking up your valuables? Like my approach to all things organizing, the perfect fit for you depends on your situation and comfort level. What needs to be protected at all costs? And what does protection entail? Safety from flood or fire? Or safe from intruders? I read a review of one safe that could be programmed with up to 32 fingerprints for biometric access but would not protect items from fire or water. If your safe contents are primarily gold bars, that might be a perfect option for you.

Another option for keeping your collection of diamond lavaliers safe is to rent a safety deposit box at the bank. This is a great option for storing important and valuable items that you do not need immediate access to. If you are urgently needed in Paris tomorrow, you don’t want to be delayed because your passport it locked up at the bank and it is Saturday! Additionally, it is important to remember that items in safety deposit boxes are not automatically insured. You may want to talk to your insurance company about adding a rider to your policy to protect valuables stored in a safety deposit box. (While they should be secure, my bank burned down, then flooded during the riots, so I might be a little more cautious than most. To my knowledge, items in boxes were safe but customers had to wait weeks until the burned building was made safe to enter.)

You might want a small, simple fire-proof safe to keep your things; or a big, heavy, high-tech safe; or a safety deposit box for your valuables and important documents. The items you place value on are unique to you. You may have photos that have no street value but mean the world to you. The most important thing is to choose a level of protection that will let you sleep peacefully at night – even when you are out of town. Better to go overboard with protection than regret losing irreplaceable things.

Hopefully you don’t have to worry about protection from dogs! We got home at 10 pm the night before my son’s early morning appointment to get a new passport only to find that our dog had chewed up the passport photo! Fortunately, Walgreens was able to take another one that night and all was good. Had the photo been in the lockbox it might have been safe from the dog, but this is the dog who ate a frying pan, so we really don’t know.

From the Expert