A Grab And Go Binder: Why You Need One And How To Build It

Published On: September 27th, 2019Categories: CoparentingTags: , , , , 8.2 min read
three ring binder

Although I’m not the neatest person on record (my husband Craig will attest to that), I have always been fairly organized with my files.

But it didn’t occur to me until we started building our family emergency plan that we should also have a “grab and go” binder. That is, a binder filled with all the resources we would need if we lost all of our important papers or our home.

So we recently built one. And I took notes, so I’ll walk you through setting yours up step by step. AND I’ve put all of our printable, customizable forms in our Resource Library so you can download them and make your own notebook. All for FREE – for access, click here!

Why You Need A Grab and Go Binder

Obviously, It’s Useful For Emergencies

If you need to evacuate in a hurry, you’ll be able to grab the binder and go. You’ll have all the important documents and phone numbers you need. Doctors, insurers, credit card numbers. Schools, family, vets – all in one place so that as you need to notify folks and try to rebuild, you won’t have to also search out all of that info.

But It’s Also Useful For Keeping Organized

Every once in a while, I’m asked for a copy of my passport or my marriage license. Isn’t it easier to know that’s all in one place rather than having to dig through a safe, a file, or even a stack of papers to find it? Once you finish your Grab and Go, you’ll have everything you need in one place. Keep it in an easy to find location in your home so that anytime you’re asked for something, it’s right there!

What Needs To Go In the Grab And Go Binder

In short – a lot of information. This is a task that will take you some time to put together. Especially if all this stuff is
spread out around your house (no judgment here!). This is a great opportunity to get all of these documents in one place. And to order any birth records or anything else that you may not have on hand. Much better to do it now than have to do it after you’ve had an emergency.

stack of papers

It may seem daunting to sift through your papers to make this binder, but it will be worth it in the end!

Before you start, I do want to point out one thing. With the exception of your passports, the documents that go in your Grab And Go Binder should all be copies of the original documents.

You may recall that in my post on preparing your financial emergency plan, I recommended that you store your important information in three places. That still holds true.

You should compile the originals and keep them in a fire-resistant or fireproof safe. The copies should go in your Grab And Go Book. And you should scan all of the documents to keep in the cloud.

Here’s a list of the documents you should pull together for your book. If you want to print this out, I’ve made it easy for you in – you guessed it, our Resource Library. You can sign up to get the password for the library here.

Important Papers:

  • Vehicle titles, property deeds
  • Identification: Passports, drivers licenses, birth or adoption certificates, marriage/divorce certificates
  • Health Info: Immunization, health records, including prescriptions for medications and glasses
  • Powers of Attorney – to include a medical power of attorney, living will, etc.
  • Trust papers, wills, deeds to burial plots
  • Insurance policies (homeowners, life, auto, property, boat or RV, etc.)
  • Important contracts
  • School transcripts and diplomas
  • Military service records
  • Stocks and bonds, bank account numbers
  • Income tax records from prior years


Don’t rely on your cell phone in an emergency, you may not be able to access it.

  • Make a list of your extended family members’ and friends’ phone numbers. Print out all those contacts and keep them with your important papers.
  • Make an emergency contact list of important numbers such as doctors, school, work, neighbors and employers.

I’ve drawn up some great printable templates for all this information. And I want you to have them for FREE when you’re ready to put your notebook together.

Pets and Livestock

  • Immunization records and proof of spay/neuter for your dogs and/or cats
  • Livestock registration papers and health certificates
  • Photos of your pets and livestock for identification purposes and to prove ownership
Grab And Go Binder

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Scan Your Grab And Go Binder

Before you get everything into the notebook, scan the documents so that you can keep a record of them in the cloud. That way if both the original copies of your documents and your binder were to perish, you’d still be able to access your information. I’ve put together detailed instructions in our Resource Library on how to organize your emergency files into Dropbox.

How To Put Your Binder Together

You’ll need the following supplies to assemble your book. I found everything on Amazon and spent right around $50. Easy peasy and a worthwhile investment.

  • A Three-Ring Binder – I chose pink so that it would stand out from my other notebooks, making it easier to find when we need it. I started with a 1 1/2″ binder, but quickly realized I needed something bigger. If needed, you could expand to 2 notebooks, or one 2″ or 3″ depending on how many documents you have.
  • Sheet Protectors
  • A pencil pouch with three-ring holes (for your passports)
  • Tabbed envelopes with three-ring holes (for bulky insurance policies, wills, etc)
  • Tabbed dividers
  • A copy of my printable checklist and emergency guides, which you can download from our Resource Library. I’ve also set you up with a cover for the front and back of your notebook.
  • OPTIONAL: A label maker. I use this for all of my files because it makes the file names easier to read in my cabinet. On the same note, it makes the dividers easier to read in what will probably be a big notebook.
Insurance coverage

Make sure you have hard copies of all of your insurance policies in case you need them.

I put almost all of the pages in our binder in document sheet protectors. That way if you’re on the go you don’t have to worry quite so much about a splash of water. Or soda or coffee.

Or wine; it is an emergency binder after all.

You can set up the binder in whatever order you’d like. But I suggest dividing it into the following areas:

Identification and Contact Information

This will include copies of identification for each family member, as well as personal and employment contact information. Make copies of everyone in the family’s drivers licenses, birth or adoption certificates, passports, and military IDs.

And don’t forget about family pets. You should include identifying information about them, to include vet contacts and shot records.

In addition to contact information, you’ll want to include emergency contact information in this section.

Personal/Health Documents

This will include medical records, contact information for any medical professionals, and any medical diagnosis or medication that is important to know about in an emergency. Marriage certificates, divorce decrees, adoption records, etc. could also go here.

Financial Records and Financial Liabilities

These two subjects can go in one tab, or you can divide them up in two – all depending on how complicated your finances are. This tab will include basic information about all the banking and/or investment accounts you hold, as well as bills you owe.

In the event of an emergency, you’ll still be responsible for staying on track with your debts, so you’ll want to have all of that information handy.

Home Inventories

Remember when we talked about how to do a home inventory? You’ll want to keep a printed copy of it here, along with hard copies of photographs where possible.

Property/Tax Information

This is where you’ll put copies of any deeds or car titles. You’ll also want copies of your home or rental insurance. Property tax statements, previous years’ tax returns, and personal property tax information can also go here.

Legal Documents

Here you’ll want to store any contracts to which you’re a party. Any living wills, estates, trusts – you get the gist.

Again, you can find more on how to organize all of this in our Resource Library, which you can get access to here.

Where To Store Your Grab And Go Binder

In short, someplace safe, easy to access, and that you’ll remember! I know, I know – that can be a tall order. The exercise of finding my car keys every morning attests to that!

But in all seriousness, find a place in your house that is not too far from the front door, but also isn’t out in the open. Although most of what’s in the book won’t be original documents, there will likely be a lot of account numbers and other sensitive information in the book. Not to mention passports. So you don’t want the notebook out in the open for curious guests to look through.

Just make sure it’s an easy to remember location – and make sure more than one of you in the house knows where it is. We put ours in a closet on our main floor. That way if we ever need to leave the house in a hurry, we can get to it on our way out the door.

I hope this is helpful to you. Next up, we’ll be talking about how to put together your emergency plan. As always, let me know if you have any ideas or feedback!



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  1. Ellen September 30, 2019 at 8:54 am - Reply

    This is the kind of thing no one really WANTS to think about. But incredibly smart thing to do. Appreciate the step by step walk through. Pinned for when I am ready to begin!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 8:55 am - Reply

      Thanks, Ellen! Definitely not the most fun topic – but very important!! Hope it’s useful when you get started!

  2. Dawnmarie @ EnjoyingtheDays September 30, 2019 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Wow, I had not even thought of this, and it could be very valuable. I appreciate that you shared this idea and advice.

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 10:55 am - Reply


  3. Jody September 30, 2019 at 10:09 am - Reply

    Oh dear my daughter would love this she loves binders.

  4. Robin September 30, 2019 at 10:43 am - Reply

    What a wonderful idea! I love being organized and you definitely had some great tips on here! Writing phone numbers down is a great one, we will not always be able to rely on our cell phones!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Thanks! Yes – we rely so heavily on our phones and I’ve realized there are very few numbers that I know by heart!!

  5. Kristen Usrey September 30, 2019 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I had never thought about this before, but now I am. There is so much useful information here.

  6. Lora September 30, 2019 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Oh I so need to make one of these for my family! Thanks for the ideas, tips!

  7. Holly Bird September 30, 2019 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Great idea! We all need one of these! I had not really thought about it, I keep all my papers in a fire-proof safe…but having something ready to go is important! Thank you for the great idea..I am going to make mine this week!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 11:23 am - Reply

      Thanks, Holly! I hope it’s helpful as you make yours!!

  8. Lisa September 30, 2019 at 11:50 am - Reply

    This is a very smart idea and great resource. We don’t think of these things and we should.

  9. Candy K September 30, 2019 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    This is a great idea! We definitely need one of these. Thanks for the idea!

  10. Michelle September 30, 2019 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    This is wonderful. I can’t wait to get started on it. I can’t believe I haven’t done something like this already. I am a pretty big planner. I also find things like this fun. Any reason to use my label maker!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Michelle! Yes, I love my label maker!! And don’t forget that we have lots of free printable that will help you organize your book!

  11. Kendra September 30, 2019 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Than you for this post. I’m bookmarking and pinning this one. What a great idea! This is totally something I need to prioritize. We have paper clutter everywhere and would have no clue where to even start if we had to “grab and go”!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Great, Kendra, glad to hear it will be useful! And we have free printable that will help you organize it all!

  12. Lisa September 30, 2019 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    This is a great idea! I need to be more organized

  13. Angela September 30, 2019 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Oh man, with all the fire evacuations CA has had – this is a must have!!! Great post!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Angela!!

  14. Emily September 30, 2019 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    What a great idea! Staying organized is a must!

  15. Marta September 30, 2019 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Wow this is such a good idea! I’m putting this on my to-do list so that I can get it done sooner rather than later.

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Marta!

  16. Katherine Wolfe September 30, 2019 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    I’m a full-on binder girl but I don’t have one like this! This is awesome! Thanks! Pinning if for my list of things to get done STAT!

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Katherine! And don’t forget all the printables we have to help you get it organized! 🙂

  17. Magan September 30, 2019 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Great idea! We keep our papers in a safe, but this would be a great idea, even in our safe.

  18. Jen September 30, 2019 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    This is SUCH a good idea! We should all be proactive to assemble a grab and go binder so we’re not stuck thinking “I should have” when we need it!

  19. Tiffany September 30, 2019 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    Great idea! Might have to add this to my to-do list!

  20. JANE September 30, 2019 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    This is an amazing and creative idea! I never thought of it. I have my documents spread out in different folders that it’s sometimes challenging to look for it. One stop shop for all your documents is a cool idea! Thanks for sharing. I have to put this on my to do list.

    • cgnormand September 30, 2019 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Jane! Glad to hear this will be helpful for you!!

  21. Karen September 30, 2019 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Hmmm. This is something I never thought about. We have a safe and also a place we keep important papers but not all together. Thank you for this. Got me thinking.

  22. jen September 30, 2019 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    This is so smart! I think I’ll suggest this as a project for my daughter. She’ll love putting this together!

  23. Shannon October 1, 2019 at 2:20 am - Reply

    I sit here starting at a shelf full of documents and other things that overwhelms me every time I need something. This is something I will put on my to do list and just get done! Like you said, it will be worth it!

    • cgnormand October 1, 2019 at 7:16 am - Reply

      Thanks, Shannon! It will definitely be worth it. And don’t forget, we have printables in our library that can help you get it all organized!

  24. judean October 1, 2019 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Great idea – such a simple idea but not something most people think about. I have many important documents in a fireproof safe but nothing organized and I think I will tackle this task to get all the information together in one place. Thanks for sharing!

    • cgnormand October 1, 2019 at 11:37 am - Reply

      Thanks so much! It is definitely important! If it’s helpful, check out my free printables – they’ll help you get everything organized into one place.

  25. Suzan October 1, 2019 at 11:31 am - Reply

    What a great winter project and such an important one no matter where you live. Many thanks!

    • cgnormand October 1, 2019 at 11:36 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Suzan!

      • Christina Furnival October 1, 2019 at 3:52 pm - Reply

        Such a smart idea! We have all of that in our filing cabinet but not together in an easy grab binder!

  26. Malia October 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Huh, what an interesting concept! We are filing cabinet folks, and have all of our important documents in specifically marked files, but it’d be tricky to grab them if something ever happened. I appreciate your comment on scanning everything into the cloud (we have done that with many but not all of our documents). Thanks for this easy to follow guide!

  27. Jenna October 2, 2019 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    This binder is perfect for someone like me who likes to keep everything in the same place! You listed a few things I hadn’t even thought of keeping together!

    • cgnormand October 2, 2019 at 1:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Jenna – so glad it was helpful! Don’t forget about all of our free Printables that will help you get it all organized!! 🙂

  28. Haley Kelley October 2, 2019 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    This is a great idea! Definitely going to put it to use because I should definitely have one.

  29. Cindy October 3, 2019 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    This is a great idea! My important docs, passports and other valuable papers are all over the house. I need to do this!

    • cgnormand October 3, 2019 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Cindy! It’s a must for everyone!!

  30. T.M. October 7, 2019 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Love my binder!!! I’ve used several over the years for important documents, important events, etc. Great reminder for what to keep in it, too.

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