Technology has reduced a remarkable amount of paper clutter in my home.
On my computer I keep:
- my calendar – I love being able to schedule birthdays and anniversaries to repeat every year.
- my address book – It’s the Address Book program on the MacBook.
- Photos — I rarely print them.
- Lists — I save the ones I’ll use again such as long term plans or trip packing lists.
- Documents – I signed up to receive statements and bills online, and I scanned the papers I wanted to keep long-term.
- Recipes — I have my personal recipes saved, and then I use resources like AllRecipes.com.
- Financial records
And thanks to the internet, I no longer keep:
- the phone book
- newspapers and magazines
- nonfiction books with how-to information
- reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias
I still keep cards and notes, drawings, and important documents in their original paper form. I wouldn’t want to let go of some of my letters from family members. Actually, this is giving me the idea to go ahead and scan some of them just in case I were to lose them.
Seven strategies for going paperless:
- Start with the current incoming papers. You don’t have to do it all at once. It takes an investment of time to scan old papers. You can simply wait and then gradually discard the old paper files when you don’t need them anymore.
- Don’t use your printer. Instead of using up ink and paper, choose the “print to pdf” feature if you need to save something you found on a web page.
- Decide what you will use for scanning. I have a very basic scanner, but if you have a lot of papers, it may be worth investing in a scanner with speed. Perhaps your employer will let you use the office scanner for your personal documents.
- Give your documents descriptive names, and try to be consistent. I try to include a date in the label, and I do it in this style: “20080901-Bank statement”. Any list of documents will always stay in chronological order and the standard name format makes it easier to find them.
- Plan how will you find them later. Some people prefer to sort documents into a structured folder system. Another option is to put them in one folder (or maybe put all from the current year together) and then search.
- Backing up your computer becomes even more important. Have two versions of backups, such as a CD of important documents in addition to an external hard drive.
- Don’t worry about scanning temporary files. Focus on the documents you want to keep long-term, and toss the papers that are temporary.
What’s funny is that I wrote the draft for this post on the back of a piece of scratch paper. Paper will never be replaced completely — and there’s something nice about that.
What about you? How have you gone paperless?