Break out the Pumpkin Spice Lattes because September is here! And with it comes a new area of focus for the Organize and Refine Your Home Challenge — Going paperless! During the first two weeks, we’re going to cover the basic things you need to know about reducing the amount of paper in your life. Then in the last 2 weeks of the challenge, we’ll focus on reducing paper in two key areas of your home: the office and the kitchen. Sound good?
If paper clutter isn’t a problem for you, then pat yourself on the back because you are in the minority my friend! And congrats…because you get to skip this month’s Challenge assignments. If paper clutter IS a problem and you’re just not keen on the whole digital document thing, you may want to hop on over and check out the Summer Shred Paper Declutter series (which offers up tips and ideas for organizing all categories of physical papers).
For the rest of you…let’s get this party started!
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LET’S DEFINE “GOING PAPERLESS”
Paper gets a bad rap in the organizing world. It was definitely the #1 issue that plagued my organizing clients (and it’s the #1 reason that people seek out the help of a professional organizer, go figure). But should the goal of going paperless be to actually become paper-free?
Let’s face it. Becoming paper-free is just not a realistic goal. As much as I’m all about eliminating paper from my life, I still consider myself a paper/digital hybrid girl. I still like to use printables for certain things (e.g., meal planning, my daily docket). And then there’s those types of papers that we really do need to keep, like original copies of vital documents.
So instead of paperless, let’s go with the phrase “paper-less” from this point forward. Going paper-less essentially means that we’re becoming intentional about reducing the amount of paper in our home and in our life.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO GO PAPER-LESS?
There are many reasons that people set out on a journey to go paper-less. For some, it’s about “going green” and reducing the number of trees they’re killing. For others, it’s about saving money. I’m sure you’ve noticed that ink, toner, and paper are not cheap!
Of course, reducing the volume of paper clutter in the home is a huge benefit to going paper-less. But did you know that another common benefit is increased productivity? When documents are digitized (i.e., scanned), the information that’s contained within the documents can become searchable. What might take 30 minutes to find in a stack of documents can now be found in 5 seconds by using your computer’s search function.
Just like with any other decluttering/organizing project, it’s important to get clear about your end goal for going paper-less. Where do you want to be at the end of this month relative to your current paper clutter situation?
REDUCE INCOMING PAPER
No matter what your specific goal might be, the first step to going paper-less is to reduce the amount of paper that’s currently coming into your home. Begin asking yourself, “what papers can I eliminate?” To help you answer this question, check out these tips for reducing household paper clutter.
(using apps like PaperKarma to reduce junk mail is a simple way to decrease paper clutter)
THE PAPER-LESS PROCESS
Once you’ve taken steps to reduce incoming paper, it’s time to take action on those existing papers in your home that you’ve made a conscious decision to eliminate. You’ve got two options when it comes to eliminating them: 1) trash them or 2) transform them into digital documents that will live in a “digital file cabinet”.
There are basically 3 steps involved with moving those physical papers into your digital file cabinet:
- Scanning (digitizing)
We’ll talk about organizing and safeguarding documents as part of next week’s assignment. But for today, let’s focus on step #1.
DETERMINE YOUR SCANNING METHOD
What tools you use to digitize your paper really depends on the size of your paper piles. If the volume of incoming papers is fairly manageable and your paper backlog can be classified as mild to moderate, then you might be just fine using a flatbed scanner or your all-in-one printer.
For occasional, light scanning work, you can actually put your smart phone to work by using your camera and one of these apps that allow you to snap a photo of your paper and transform it into a PDF document:
Mobile scanning apps:
- Camscanner – IOS & Camscanner – Android
- Genius Scan – IOS & Genius Scan-Android
- Scanner Pro – IOS
- Turbo Scan – IOS & Turbo Scan Android
- Document Scanner – Android
The larger your paper backlog and the more paper you’ve got coming through the door on a regular basis, the more I’d recommend investing in a dedicated document scanner. When shopping for a dedicated document scanner, be sure it has the following features:
- a document feeder
- ability to scan double-sided
- OCR capability (the technology that makes scanned PDF files searchable).
If you attempt to scan large volumes of paper using anything but a dedicated document scanner, you’ll soon become annoyed at how inefficient the process is. Having the right tool for the job will remove a huge barrier to getting a large scanning project completed. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I actually enjoy scanning documents with my document scanner!
So which document scanner do I use? I’m a huge fan of my Fujitzu S1300i personal scanner. It has a 15 page automatic document feeder, and can scan in either single-or double-sided mode. It’s portable and works with both Macs and PCs (we have both in our household).
Check out these great scanners to see which one suits your needs and budget:
DIVE DEEPER WITH THESE RESOURCES
If you want to dive in deeper to learn more about going paper-less, I highly recommend the following resources:
GOING PAPERLESS – THE BASICS ASSIGNMENT:
- Establish your specific goals for going paper-less in your home
- Reduce as much incoming paper as possible by implementing paper reduction strategies
- Explore different options for scanning your papers and determine which ones you’ll use
- Explore resources for learning more about going paperless
Don’t forget to come back over the next few weeks to learn about:
This post is part of the 2016 Organize and Refine Your Home Challenge