Decluttering the Paper: Going Paperless
It’s no secret decluttering is a huge trend right now and I’m totally on board. I truly believe the less we have, the less we buy. The more organized we are, the more fulfilled we feel. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, the one thing that stays a cluttered mess is our filing cabinet. Here’s the fix: going paperless!
There’s nothing like needing that one document but you can’t find it in the messy file cabinet… Or, maybe it’s actually lost in the overly organized and detailed file cabinet which ends up being no help either because you can’t remember where you filed that one thing.
After many years of going crazy not being able to find anything in the umpteen piles of “to be filed” (and the realization that I absolutely loathe filing), I decided to go paperless.
I was often receiving my bills and statements electronically anyway, so this was an easy way to store them organized in one place. Now, it’s been over 4 years and I would never go back!
The process is very simple: scan in the document and add it to the proper folder or program of your choosing. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
The program I use and LOVE for storing my documents is Evernote. It’s user-friendly and has a mobile app that syncs with your computer. One of the most valuable features is being able to tag documents then search by those tags when you’re looking for something specific. Within my Evernote storage, I do also organize my documents (or notes) but with the search function, dare I say you don’t really need to?
In the beginning, It’s a little overwhelming trying to figure out how to organize papers digitally and deciding what’s worth keeping and scanning in or just purging. With the documents that we do need to keep like birth certificates, mortgage documentation, marriage certificate, etc. I use a decorative filing box to store them. That way they’re easily accessible but hidden away.
Here’s what I do:
- Scan the document into Evernote (here’s an updated version of the scanner I use and LOVE)
- It’s automatically added to my designated place on my computer and my “inbox” in Evernote.
- From there, I select the document and title it, tag it and put it into its proper folder.
- Shred the original document
- Be thankful I don’t have to file
While it’s an easy-breezy system now, it wasn’t that way in the beginning. I came across “Paperless Home” by Donnie Lawson and it made every step so much easier.
The book walks you through which scanner would best fit your needs, how to set up the scanner and then connect it to Evernote (or whichever program you choose). Then, how to seamlessly scan in your documents.
If you’re interested, the ebook has now rolled into his wife Abby’s organization course Impactful Habits, Organized Home, which gives you way more bang for your buck.
To be honest, I would buy the book 10 times over instead of having to figure all of that out on my own.
Now that you have an idea of the process and equipment, really sit down and think about which documents you want to keep. What do you want available at your fingertips?
I was a hoarder for a while keeping about 3 years of documents, and it took me what felt like forever to get the backup scanned in. Now, I’m scanning anything within the last year and cleaning out anything beyond 2 years to keep my Evernote from getting gunked up.
If you get your bills electronically, just download the bills and add them to Evernote.
What to scan in:
- Household utility bills
- Vet bills/records
- Medical records (I love being in a doctors office and being able to properly answer the questions and dates they ask)
- Motivational documents
- Insurance EOB if you don’t already get them electronically
- Inspiration from magazines
- Employment documentation
- Documents for tax season
- Have a miscellaneous folder
- Product instruction and warranties
- Business cards and contacts
- Usernames and Passwords
- Kids art projects
The possibilities are endless. Whatever you can get rid of in hardcopy form to declutter your file cabinets is scannable.
Keep in mind, it’s a personal choice scanning in personal and confidential documents. You could always scan then save to a backup drive instead of saving them online if you’re uncomfortable doing so. There are certain items I don’t like to have saved in a cloud and decided to keep them on my laptop and an external hard drive.