Beyond Paperless – A Guide to Organizing What Matters

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Hey there, party people! Organization month continues with a discussion about going paperless. 

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But we’re talking about more than not keeping copies of old tax returns in your filing cabinet. It’s easier than ever to live a totally paperless life. Think about it!

Going Paperless

There’s no need to:

  • carry paper money
  • receive paper bills in the mail
  • write paper checks to pay those bills

More people are telecommuting for work so even data is being stored and transferred digitally – no more paper files or memos. And many retail stores now offer the option of a receipt delivered via text or email too.

And it’s also easy to:

  • get your news online
  • sign up for digital subscriptions of your favorite magazines
  • get paperless communications and documents

Even some banks and mortgage companies are letting you electronically sign documents in the home loan application process.

There really aren’t many excuses NOT to go paperless, really.

But where to start?

Start by reducing the amount of unnecessary paper you receive

Where’s the one place that has a consistent stream of mostly useless paper that you have to deal with on a daily basis? That’s right, your mailbox.

By switching over to paperless billing you’re already going to reduce the amount of mail you receive by half. There’s not one single bill that I need a hard copy of – utilities, car payments, mortgage, credit cards. I’ve elected to receive electronic billing statements and disclosures for them all.

One word of caution though. If you happen to miss an email reminder about an upcoming payment, you’re on the hook for any late fees or late marks on your credit report. It’s much better to sign up for automatic payments if at all possible. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll never miss a payment.  If it’s a bill with a variable amount, like your electric bill, look into level pay as well. Utility companies will typically review your account periodically but will notify you in advance of any changes to your monthly amount because of usage analysis.

Opt Out of Mail You Don’t Want

The other action you can take to reduce your mail is to opt out of receiving junk mail. 80 million trees and billions of gallons of water are wasted each year in the production of junk mail. Most of this goes straight into your trash and eventually makes its way to landfills. You can find more information and opt out of junk mail on the Data & Marketing Association’s website by clicking here.

You can also choose to stop receiving prescreened offers of credit as well. Check out this site for more information on your options for that.

It really irks me when I find 2 or 3 phone books on my porch. I’m not sure if there’s a quota they need to meet or what, but I don’t need one phonebook, let alone 3. Opt out of receiving them through the National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-Out Site.

Receipts

Our mailboxes are the primary source of unnecessary paper but it’s not the only source. I know that the bottom of my purse starts to look like a paper graveyard after a while from all the receipts. Fortunately, more retailers are starting to offer digital receipts as an alternative. Your receipt is either sent to you via email or text so there’s no paper involved at all. I’ve never understood how the purchase of a pack of gum can generate a 3-foot long receipt and 5 coupons.

Most of the bigger banks offer digital receipts as an option at the ATM as well. Instead of printing out a receipt when you withdraw money, you can send the receipt either to your online banking inbox or via email to the address in your account profile.

Here are some of the retailers and banks currently offering digital receipts:
Scanners

There are some papers you can’t avoid keeping but that doesn’t mean you need to stick them in a filing cabinet.

Important documents or even things you want to hold on to like your kids’ art and schoolwork can be scanned and saved forever. I used to have stacks and stacks of Alex’s creations when she was in elementary school. Eventually, I had to throw most of them away and it always broke my heart a little. If I’d had access to a scanner or a storage app like Evernote back then I would have kept them all!

If you’re really serious about switching to a paperless (or as much as possible) lifestyle, consider investing in a scanner. This is especially going to come in handy at the beginning of your process to go paperless when you’re likely to have stacks of things to scan.

Look for a scanner with integrated Wi-Fi, or even better, one with Wi-Fi and a rechargeable battery so that it doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer in order to work. A wireless solution will be totally portable so you can take it with you and save to your favorite cloud storage app like Evernote no matter where you are.

Here are 2 options for you

The Epson WorkForce ES-300W was rated an excellent scanner for 2017 by PCMag. The ES-300W includes an automatic document feeder, supports duplex (double-sided) scanning, has integrated Wi-Fi and a rechargeable battery for completely wireless operation. In terms of speed, the ES-300W scans at a rate of 25 pages per minute for single-sided docs and 50 pages per minute for duplex scanning. Not too shabby at all. It’s fairly lightweight, weighing in at just under 3 pounds which makes it easier to travel with.

The Doxie GO SE + Wi-Fi is an affordable scanner that has a rechargeable battery, includes all the software you need to make your scans look top-notch, and integrates with most major cloud storage apps like iCloud Drive, OneNote, and Evernote. It comes with included memory with the option to add more, has support for Optical Character Recognition making your scans searchable, and is compatible with all your mobile devices. If you’re looking for a quality scanner but don’t want to shell out the big bucks, this is a good solid option.

 

Evernote

If you don’t mind scanning a lot of documents with your phone, one of the easiest (and free!) options is to use Evernote. Open the app on your phone, choose the notebook that you want it saved to, tap the green plus sign, and choose “Camera”. Then simply line up your phone over the top of document/photo/thing you want to save. Evernote will show that it’s capturing. Once it’s got it, you can tap on the image in the lower part of your screen and choose what file type to save it as:

  • Photo
  • Document
  • Color Document
  • Post-it Note® Note
  • Business Card

And the best part? Evernote uses a type of OCR that scans your documents and images. Any recognizable text is indexed which makes it searchable by you. This feature has been made available in the free version and this makes Evernote one of the most valuable tools for storage out there in my opinion.

Now you just need a system

Alright! The only thing left to do now is to devise a system to use going forward. You might be tempted to skip this step but I would caution against it. If you don’t have some way to handle new incoming paper, it’ll just be a matter of time before you have stacks of paper again. Or worse, you’ve lost something that you really needed to hold onto.

Designate a space in your home as a landing area for papers. This wall-mounted mail sorter is perfect to hang on a wall near to where you primarily enter your home. Store new mail, school papers for your kids and your keys too! There’s even a small corkboard to leave important notes or reminders. Later, you can grab everything and scan what you want to keep and recycle the rest.

If you’re looking for more information on organization, check out these posts!

Setting Goals Like A Boss

Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Be Productive and Get Organized!

How I Use Todoist To Run My Life

Reclaim Your Weekend with a Cleaning Schedule

Meal Planning 101 – What’s for Dinner?

It's easier than it ever has been to live a totally paperless life. There's no need to carry paper currency, receive paper bills or write paper checks. More people are telecommuting for work so even files and communication are handled digitally. If you're looking to reduce your footprint even more, read on.

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