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:
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.
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.
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.
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.