Not only does a paperless system kill clutter and clear up storage space, it can also keep you organized, reduce stress and save time when searching for long-lost documents. Sounds great, right? Well, when you’re staring at a decade’s worth of paper, going paperless can seem daunting and not worth it.
Relax! Say goodbye to paper with this process:
1. Invest in the Correct Tools
Before you think about incoming mail, deal with the paper you’ve already accumulated. You’ll need two tools: a scanner and Evernote. While the scanner is an investment, Evernote’s Premium will cost you less than a fancy Starbucks latte ($5 / month). And Premium is worth it. With that $5 a month, you’ll be able to scan all of your documents at once for keywords, so you’ll never dig through recipes for that one chicken salad with the pecans again. (But more on that later.)
2. Organize Your Paper Into Three Piles
Take all of your paper, and create three piles: 1) Toss, 2) Scan and 3) Keep.
The "toss" pile will consist of things like the assignments you did in high school, those old pieces of scratch paper and the love letter from your ex. Basically, the trash you hold onto for no good reason.
In the "scan" pile, you’ll put everything you want to hold onto, like bank statements, tax information and favorite recipes. This will be the largest pile.
Finally, in "keep" pile, you’ll place birth certificates, marriage license(s) and passports. This is the pile for the uber-important stuff that you actually need in hard-copy form.
3. Get Scanning
Toss or shred pile number one. Set pile number three aside. Now it’s number two’s turn. Time to get scanning! We recommend scanning everything in the "scan" pile directly into Evernote. This will save you the headache of trying to keep up with a folder organization system on your hard drive. Plus, (like I mentioned before) Premium will scan everything for keywords, so you won’t have to rely on memory to know your organization system. Boom!
It gets even better. Once everything is scanned into Evernote, you can access your documents from your smartphone, tablet or Evernote.com. So, next time you’re pulled over, you’ll know for sure that you have your proof of insurance handy.
4. Ditch the Filing Cabinet
Now, give the "keep" pile some love. This pile should be relatively small, so a big ‘ole clunky filing cabinet is unnecessary. Instead, store your important docs in a firebox or in a bank deposit box.
1. Switch to Electronic Bills and Bank Statements
Most companies that send you recurring bills or receipts, such as banks or insurance companies, also offer the option to receive statements online. Take them up on it! Making the switch usually only takes a few minutes. Tip: Drink something with a huge amount of caffeine in it, and do all your accounts at once.
2. Change Your Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions
What happens after you read your monthly Vogue? What about the Sunday NYT? If the answer is typically “trash,” switch your subscription to online only. You’ll be able to enjoy the same great photos, content and crossword puzzles from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
3. Create a Workflow You’ll Stick With
Mail happens. So do bills. And clipped recipes, and birthday cards, and "save the date" invitations. All of a sudden, your paper situation is bad again. To prevent this from happening, make a plan now! Use a three-tiered paper shelf to stay organized. Remember those piles you made earlier? Assign one to each level of shelf. Then, once a week, take ten minutes to either toss, scan or keep.
4. Ask for Digital Receipts
If you’re a receipt tosser (you know who you are), then don’t even bother - it will save you paper to just decline a receipt. But, if you keep receipts for tax purposes, always ask for a digital receipt before the cashier rings up your items. Create an email account just for digital receipts that’s quick and easy to say. Not only will you never lose a receipt, you’ll have them all in one place when it’s tax time.
5. Download an App for Notes and To-Do Lists
Paper clutter isn’t just about papers. Sometimes, to-do lists and scratch paper get in the mix and makes things really messy. Plan ahead and download a to-do list app like Any.Do or TeuxDeux before you jot down thoughts or activities. With a digital to do list, you’ll be able to search your lists for keywords quickly and reorder your list based on changing priorities.
6. Visit the Library
Calling all bookworms: Sometimes your favorite tomes create clutter. Instead of buying new paperbacks every time you’re itching for a read, visit the library. You’ll save precious shelf space and money.