A chilly winter day is a terrible time to organize the garage but a great time to organize paper with a steaming mug of your favorite beverage at hand. Once you’ve got the receipts and statements for your taxes under control, take some time out to organize your health and medical records.

First, gather all your medical records together. You might be a saver, with records dating back to your mother’s obstetrician or you might be a tosser, with only the latest lab results and health insurance claims. You might be a clipper, with lots of articles on health torn from magazines and printed from websites. Whether everything is in files or stacked and stashed hither and yon, get it all out to review on a large desk, dining room table or countertop.

Decide what you want to call your categories. If you don’t completely buy in to western medicine and only rarely visit a doctor, you may want to label your files “Health” rather than “Medical.” Either one will end up being the over-arching category and the label on each hanging file which keeps all the particular, more specific records together in your alphabetized file system.

Once you’ve labeled your hanging files (Health or Medical) you can start to organize the papers. Do you want to organize by doctor? If you see a lot of different doctors, this can make sense. Label interior (manila) files with the doctor’s last name and start to gather any paperwork that goes into each doctor’s file. Putting it in order by date makes it much easier to find later when you need something. A “Doctors, Misc.” file makes sense if you have several doctors you have only seen a few times over the years or only saw for a single consultation. Keeping notes on what your doctors tell you during visits and filing them in each doctors file can be very helpful when dealing with various maladies or trying to remember which supplements were recommended for what ailments.

If you only see one or two doctors, or if you really only see a doctor for a condition, such as asthma or eye problems, you might label files by the condition or body part, for example, Eyes or Respiratory or Face Lift. If you get regular blood work done as a wellness measure, you probably just want a file called Lab Results or Blood Work. Post 2020 it makes sense to have a file called Immunizations or Vaccines as a place to keep cards and records. Remember, when naming files, use the name that makes most sense to you.

A list of your doctors and their contact information is important to have as is a list of all the prescription medicines and other supplements you are taking or have taken. Type this into a document and save it on your computer, but also print out copies to take with you to the doctor or to give to anyone helping you with any health concerns. Put a copy of each in your files where they can easily be found (for example, files labeled “Doctor Contact Information” and “Prescriptions 2023”) also.

How long you keep medical records is up to you. Ask your doctor/s if there are any records you are required to hold on to. Also ask if they store all of your records and for how long. Some people would rather rely on their doctor’s office to store their medical information and just call the office when they need something, but I find that to be extremely inefficient. Cue the annoying hold music.

I suggest filing medical bills and insurance claims with financial information rather than with medical and health records. We might want to look back to see what our Vitamin D levels were in 2010, but it’s doubtful we would need to also see how much the lab charged that year to do the blood work. It really depends on the procedure. It might make sense to keep receipts for elective procedures (such as plastic surgery) with the associated medical file because these are usually expenses that are not tax deductible or covered under insurance. It really depends on how you want to use the information in the future if at all.

If you have had a major health crisis, you may need help organizing the paperwork, as it can be copious. One tiny error on the part of a medical office can generate dozens of letters and incorrect bills and necessitate several phone calls to straighten things out, so multiply that by the amount of time you spend seeing doctors and it can get overwhelming fast. Having your records organized with places to put all this incoming information will decrease your stress level immensely and can be lo