Going Paperless (you can totally do this.)

Going paperless

Hello, Friday! It’s the end of our Spring Cleaning Week on the blog, and I’m capping things off with a topic I hold dear— going paperless.

[highlight] Let’s start off by acknowledging that there is no way to be truly, 100% paperless [/highlight]. Anyone who tells you otherwise is hiding a pile or two in a drawer. I mean, think about it, paper is being handed to us all the time: Documents from work, handouts from my kids’ schools, bills, receipts, business cards. And then there’s the paper we want to bring into our lives: Magazines, greeting cards, doodles in a notebook.

Being paperless doesn’t magically mean that you stop getting paper. Rather, it means that (a) you’re doing your best not to generate paper (by printing things out or distributing paper to others), and (b) you’re digitizing the paper you get (and getting it off your kitchen counters). If you can make this happen in your life more and more, you’ll start to notice some powerful side effects.

Most notably, [highlight] whenever I want to find a document, wherever I am, it’s accessible [/highlight]. Let that sink in for a second— I never have to rummage through piles or flip through file folders. It’s like having a bottomless filing cabinet near me at all times. By typing a couple of keywords, I can find the instruction manual to my Bluetooth headset, a contract for work I did 5 years ago, or the business card of the bee exterminator that we hired when our old house was infested. Instruction manuals, contracts, travel itineraries, my blog posts, gift ideas, lists of clothes in winter storage, party plans, tax receipts… it’s all in there. And because my virtual storage space is virtually limitless, I never have to think about which documents are important enough to file… it just all goes in.

Also, [highlight] being paperless allows me to clear up my physical space [/highlight], and achieve an unclutteredness that I couldn’t make happen for years. I used to have tons of files, meticulously labelled, and piles and piles of things waiting to be sorted and filed. When it came time to find something, it was never where it was supposed to be. Now, filing almost doesn’t matter: With the cloud storage I use, I can search by Name, keyword, tags, date… even the geographic location in which I stored the note, so finding things is rarely a problem. None of it taking up space in my physical life.

The basic building blocks of a paperless lifestyle are:

Paperless: Inbox

It’s not always convenient to scan paper as it comes in, so designating an Inbox to hold papers until you’ve got time to scan them is a great idea. (This one is one of my favorites, from Poppin).

Paperless: Scanner

A scanner will magically make your paper go POOF.  My favorite scanners have a sheet-feeder, which makes easy work of scanning piles at a time, but this smaller guy by Neat can tuck easily into a kitchen drawer, or a handbag, which makes it pretty convenient.

Paperless: Shredder

Once your important documents are scanned, you’ll want to get rid of them, but if they have sensitive information on them, you’ll want to make mince meat of them first. This shredder from Muji uses hand cranks to slice and dice your bills or credit card statements, no batteries required.

Paperless: Repository

Scanning to your computer is good; scanning to the cloud takes things to the next level. Apps like Evernote allow you to see your files more visually, and all these apps, including Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox allow you to sync your files to all your devices, so you can access them everywhere. All have bank-level security, but use a secure password to make sure your files are safe.

Paperless: Backup

Your files are scanned, your paper is shredded, and everything’s in the cloud. Just to be extra safe (these are your most important files, after all), it’s always a good idea to make sure your files are backed up in a second location. This external hard drive from Seagate has 1 TB of space and should do the trick.

Wanna dip your toe without investing in a scanner? Entry-level options include using apps like Scannable to scan documents, but truthfully that gets tiresome if your’e really trying to clean your life up. If you want to scan your estate plan, your tax return, a 10-page essay your child got a great grade on… you can see how that might take a while. That said, using your phone to scan things on the go— like business cards you collect at a meeting, or receipts you get while traveling— is a great way to ensure they don’t go missing before you get home to your scanner.

Once you have all these things in place it’s time to scan, store, and get out the countertop cleaner… because you’ll be able to see it again.

Ready to go paperless? I promise you can do it. Questions? Ask away in the comments. 

Photo credit: Weekday Carnival

9 comments on “Going Paperless (you can totally do this.)”

  1. I am so interested in trying to do this. I have my stacks of paper and my Neat but am concerned I will be using all my computer space with it. If I am reading this correctly you are using the cloud and not using all your disc space ?????? I hope you are going to have more and more precise info about this in the future. THANK YOU

    1. Brenda— I will definitely write more about going paperless! But yes, I would use an external hard drive or the cloud (in fact, I recommend you use both, for redundant backups) instead of your hard drive space, to build this “virtual filing cabinet”.

  2. I have been using both Google Drive and Evernote for quite awhile. A great app I found for receipts is called Ziploop. It is a great receipt app!

    1. Wendy— Sure thing! Sounds like I need to keep writing paperless posts! Just so I’m clear— do you mean categories of what you’d store in your new paperless filing cabinet (ie. Receipts, Bills, etc.)?

  3. Carley: I switched to an iMac when I retired last year as a treat to myself & love it, was able to keep my great HP MFP printer. However HP won’t issue a driver for Yosemite (OS X 10.10.3) so I can’t use the scan function anymore. Color me sad! So I started looking for a compatible scanner & there don’t seem to be any choices out there with a 4 or 5 star rating. I’d like to use the Neet scanner because of the software it has but it’s not working well yet with Yosemite. What to do? My DH has a Windows PC, should I just do all my scanning on his computer & forget about the Mac for that function? All this paper is driving me insane. I scanned everything with this MFP on my PC for my business for the 8 years prior to retiring & it worked flawlessly so you can imagine my annoyance at not being able to do the same thing on a Mac. Got suggestions?

    1. Ingrid— most of the scanners I recommend— ScanSnap, Doxie and Neat (pictured)— have patches and updates and work with Yosemite. It’s outdated, but not so much that you shouldn’t be able to find a scanner that works. Shame on HP for not updating your printer!

      RE: your husband’s computer— I think the best option is always to stay where you’re comfortable: If scanning involves commandeering his computer and working in an OS that isn’t comfy for you, you’re less likely to stick with it.

      Hope that’s helpful!

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