HASTINGS, Minn. (December 27, 2009) — Under the mattress, inside shoeboxes and even in the garage are just a few of the places that people use to safeguard their personal documents -- which perhaps explains why 30 percent of Americans have lost important papers.

This is just one of the statistics found in a new national survey developed by Smead, a leading provider of filing and organizational products.

The survey asked respondents to list the most unusual place where important documents are hidden and found that 10 percent of Americans keep personal documents in an underwear drawer and six percent use shoeboxes. Respondents also listed kitchen cupboards, the garage and even under the mattress as a place to store personal papers.

"While some people have a system to keep their day-to-day documents in order, many haven’t developed a system to keep track of life’s important documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, home mortgage documents, wills and more," said Louise Kurzeka, a professional organizer that works with Smead. "Unfortunately problems can and will arise if you don’t keep those personal documents in a safe and secure place."

The survey found that 30 percent of Americans have lost an important document and that replacing the lost document took several days. It also found a variety of reasons that people don’t get their important personal documents organized including nearly 40 percent of respondents that either don’t have the time or are overwhelmed by the thought of getting organized. Respondents also noted that they weren’t sure what was important to keep and also they didn’t know where to start as reasons for not being organized.

"January is GO (Get Organized) Month, which is the ideal time to locate all of your important documents and develop those file systems to keep things in a safe and secure place that is easily accessible as well as protected," Kurzeka said.

The survey also found that Americans rank their social security card as their most important personal document (47 percent), followed by birth certificates of family members (22 percent), deeds/titles/stock certificates (11 percent), passport (10.5 percent), and personal wills (9.9 percent.)

Get Personal Documents Organized in 2010

The New Year offers the perfect time to get important personal documents organized by following these easy tips:

  • Keep it simple – Getting your personal documents in order doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. The hard part may be locating the documents. First make a list of the documents you need including your social security card, birth certificates of family members, passports, wills, deeds, titles and stock certificates, and than check them off the list once each is located and put in a central location.
  • Keep it safe – Once you have gathered all the documents, take the time to find a system that will organize your documents as well as safeguard them from the elements. File the original documents in a permanent file that keeps them safe and secure such as a fire and waterproof safe.
  • Keep it handy – Make copies of the documents you may need periodically and choose a location in your home that is easily accessible and where the documents can be retrieved at a moment’s notice.
  • Smead offers a free interactive Web site called Smead Organomics ( that will help you develop a personalized system to get your documents in order.

The online survey of 1,000 adults age 18 and older was conducted December 9, 2009 – December 11, 2009 by eNation.

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Smead Manufacturing Company, a leader in office filing products and records management systems, was established in 1906 in Hastings, Minnesota. Smead is a privately held, certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) offering thousands of organizational products for use in the home or office. For more information on Smead’s high-quality organizational products, including hundreds of environmentally friendly products made from Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified materials, visit To find your personal organizing style, visit Smead Organomics at