Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Becoming a Paperless Household

 I keep our scanner by my favorite chair to make the process easier.  I hope to purchase this incredibly compact model for the future as this bad boy is a bit big no?

Your working on downsizing you possessions, but did you consider downsizing your papers?  All those files you keep, boxes of your child's schoolwork, mail and correspondence.  They tend to breed and multiple before your very eyes don't they?  How does this happen?   First off I blame the mail.  Now, don't get me wrong I love getting the mail each day hoping for what I call "real mail" from a "real person" whom I actually know.  Basically the type of mail I rarely get.  What I do get with regularity are ads and flyers, credit card and insurance offers, bills and catalogs.  I find the real trick to mail is dealing with it straight away.  Do not let it sit in a pile waiting to get to it later.  My plan of attack on our daily mail is to dump all ads, flyers and magazines directly into the recycling.  I don't peruse the ads or open the catalogs (remember you don't want more stuff so why look at something geared to making you want stuff you don't need) but put them directly into our recycling bin.  Next, I take all those credit card and insurance offers shred them up and dump those as well into the recycling.  You can try to get yourself removed from the mailing lists of all these companies by "opting out" and this website will walk you through the process.  I've had some luck with this, but these types of mailings seem to wheedle their way back into my mailbox.  I'm not saying it's not worth doing, but is does take a fair amount of effort on your part.  Then there are the bills.  Nowadays, most banks credit card and utility companies will even request you go paperless as it saves them money.  Instead of a hard copy coming through the mail all your bills go through your bank account, or to your email account for you to deal with electronically.  It's very simple to switch over to paperless and you can always print out a hard copy of your bill if the need arises.  The last bit of mail, my favorite as I mentioned above, is mail from people you know sending you cards and letters.  These too will eventually pile up on you.  It can seem heartless to recycle these as well, but this is exactly what I do.  The secret though is that before you recycle all those Christmas cards you scan them to save on your computer, in a memory stick, separate hard drive, CDs what have you.  This is the little scanner  doesn't even need to be hooked up to your computer for it to work, but any type of scanner will do the job.
Next up, is that overflowing box of your child's artwork and school work.  All these papers too can be scanned after their stint on your refrigerator door.  Many scanners can store these documents as pdfs and will "staple" many pdf  documents together, or if your scanner software doesn't there arr other free software programs that do like this one.  You can name and organize these files so they make sense to you whether you want to store them monthly, by grade level, separately for each child etc.  You won't then have to experience what I did when I purchased my own home as an adult and my parents happily trotted over with boxes of papers from my childhood all higgledy-piggledy.  Amongst all those papers were lots and lots of photos and these are another difficult item to keep in check.  Photographs evoke emotions and trigger our memory and we don't want to let them go.  Now that most people own a smart phone or a digital camera this problem isn't as dire as it once was, but there are still all those photos from your childhood, wedding, family and school portraits etc.  So scan them, store them digitally and let the hard copies go.  There are even services now that will scan your photos for you like this company.  Then you can set up you computer screen saver to run through your photos or get one of these digital picture frames to enjoy seeing your photos daily, instead of the once in a blue moon when you dig out that box or album. 

Basically, you can become a paperless household with digital scanning.  All those financial records sitting in that big filing cabinet for the "what if" moment of an audit could be shredded.  Scan them into your computer and store the back up copies on a few disks to keep someplace safe.  We recently did this with all the information we would need to rebuild our lives in case a disaster hit our home:  credit card and bank account info, back taxes, drivers license and social security numbers, investment portfolio information, wills, insurance info, family photos - you get the idea.  We gave a copy to each of our parents for safe keeping, but you could just as easily use a firebox in your home or get a safety deposit box at your local bank.

Once you get the back log of your papers scanned it's really very simple to take a few moments at the end of the day to scan any new papers that came your way over the course of the day.  Before you know it the disaster that was once your desk will be gone.  You'll have free up lots of space emptying all those boxes of schoolwork and photos.  The heavy weight of all that paper will be no more.  What a great feeling of freedom.

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