It’s time to talk about paper – you know, those piles you’ve been setting
aside for months or keep shoving in a drawer to “deal with later”, yes those! Most of those papers shouldn’t have even found their way into your home, but they have and now it’s time to change that and do something with them.
Just because you need to keep documents, does not mean you need to keep every document in paper. Most documents can be kept digitally and very easily accessible with the right systems in place and a maintenance plan.
Creating an electronic home filing system will help clear the paper clutter and allow you to access your documents from anywhere, all on your smartphone.
Creating an Electronic Home Filing System
1. The first step to creating an electronic home filing system is to start cutting down on the amount of paper you receive. This means getting off mailing lists, signing up for e-billing, cordially declining flyers or coupons you'll never use, catalogs you'll never read, or other papers you feel like you need to hang on to when you know you really don't.
Unsubscribe from all catalogs - yes all of them! You can find anything you want online. Decreasing the amount of incoming mail will cut down on your mail sort time immensely, not to mention how much happier you will make our beautiful Earth! Once you have unsubscribed, your mailbox will be free of junk mail for a while, but will slowly accumulate again - especially around holidays.
Continue to remove yourself from mailing lists on an ongoing basis every 6-8 months.
2. The second step is to make sure you have a good mail management system in place. The more efficiently you handle the mail when it comes in, the less often you'll have to do a big session of filing, recycling, and shredding.
There are 3 main categories of mail:
Action - anything that needs attention now or at some point. Break it down into further categories such as immediate action, respond, add to calendar, scan/file, etc.
Recycle - junk mail that has no value to you and no identifying information on it beyond your name. If your address is on it and you want to take extra precautions, tear off that part of the mail and place it in your shred pile, recycling the rest.
Shred - any piece of mail that has any identifying information on it beyond your name and address. This would include social security numbers, dates of birth, credit card offers, etc.
Once you have established which category your mail belongs to, keep a basket or hanging file for any items you need to take action on, but recycle and shred the others at this time - only touch these once.
If you're not the type of person who wants to manage your mail as soon as you walk in the door, designate a place where all of the mail goes and wait until you're ready to sort it so you're not sifting through the same papers multiple times.
Having a consistent and visible home for the mail until you are ready to sort it, will be helpful for everyone in your home.
If you let this presorting stage get out of hand, you may really begin to struggle with paper clutter. It can even get to the point where you feel like you may be hoarding it. In these cases, it can be very helpful to reach out to a professional who can guide you through the decluttering process.
Setting up an Electronic System
Getting rid of your paper filing by setting up an electronic filing system will save you space, reduce your paper clutter, and make it so simple for you to find exactly what you're looking for. An electronic filing system can be set up very easily!
Determining how and where to store your files can seem like a daunting process, but once you establish your goals and desired system, you will never go back to paper again!
When deciding which document scanner to purchase, the following features are key:
double-sided scanning with advanced paper feeding system
multiple sized scanning capabilities for documents, business cards, and receipts
options to scan to Google Drive, Dropbox, your desktop folders, and more
automatic cropping and blank page deletion
quick scan speeds
You will need to set up a folder system on a computer or directly in the cloud, as well as an external hard drive or disk station. A disk station serves as a house for multiple external hard drives, keeping all backups in one place, and syncs with other devices through wifi.
Next, set up general folders for different types of documents (for example: auto, financial, health, home, important docs, receipts, taxes, etc.) You don’t need to get too precise with storing the documents since electronic filing systems are searchable.
Then, scan each document and store it in a folder according to the contents. Be sure to give each a unique filename to describe it so it can be found quickly by your computer's search function. Also, adding the date at the beginning of the filename can help you keep the documents within each folder in chronological order. For example, rather than calling your property tax payment receipt propertytax_payment.pdf, name it 2020.05.05 Property Tax Pymt.pdf. However you choose to name your files, consistency is key!
There are also a number of apps available that can help you quickly record and store a variety of documents. Many can be managed through your smartphone or tablet, so you can get rid of paperwork (especially receipts) when you're nowhere near your home computer.
How to Get Rid of Documents
Shredding documents is the main way to protect yourself from identity theft. As a general rule, anything that has account numbers, birth dates, maiden names, passwords and PINs, signatures, and social security numbers should be shredded. Everything else, such as paperwork, you can just recycle.
Maintaining Your New System
Now that you have a system in place, you have to keep at it. If you don't have time every day to devote to sorting your mail, place it in an inbox on your desk or near your entryway. Plan on spending time two to three times per week to sort each piece of mail so you don't miss anything important.
Try to schedule this time when paying bills, filing your taxes, or taking care of a similar recurring task so you don't forget and your paperwork gets out of hand. Put it on your calendar and make it a priority to keep the paper clutter away for good.
Remember, the less paper coming into your home, the less you have to sort through and deal with.
It's also a good idea to get in the habit of going through your stored documents on a regular basis.
There is never a good time to sort through paper - it is hard work and takes time, but it is so worth it. Working toward a paperless home office will save you time, money, space, and frustration when looking for documents. Start today and you will be on your way to living your paper-free dream in no time!
What has helped you stay on top of your paperless system or what areas are the hardest for you to keep up with? Leave us a comment below or tag us on Facebook or Instagram @thesimplelifeindy, we would love to hear from you!