I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most organized person in the world. I love organizing things but the daily upkeep never continues and I’m constantly misplacing things. I once lost a $100 bill, so you can imagine how many other less important things I’ve lost over the years.
Because of this, I’ve spent some time working to going paperless. Yes, I love paper planners to write down notes and keep more organized but hate paper clutter. The piles of bills and mail to address makes me stress unnecessarily.
I wanted to ditch the need for filing cabinets and storing physical bills and paperwork. I live in a digital world and I knew going paperless would be an easier way for me to keep things organized, decluttered, and safe.
Why Go Paperless?
The amount of important documents you are supposed to keep is somewhat ridiculous. I had the bills, paperwork, reminders, etc. that we all accumulate as adults and all the stuff for my business on top of that. It’s all stuff I’ll need to reference later or am legally required to keep. Keeping lots of paper around that I might have to pull out at some point drove me crazy. Even with an organized filing cabinet I knew there had to be a better way to keep these types of documents.
One day a couple years ago a coworker introduced me to Evernote and I’ve been on a journey since then to go completely paperless. It’s pretty awesome!
Reasons to Go Paperless
- Reduced clutter. Clutter in the form of paper can get overwhelming. If you’re trying to cut back on the amount of clutter in your home then going paperless is a fantastic way to do so.
- Saved time. Searching through a filing cabinet takes much more time than searching through a computer system. The improved efficiency of searching for documents will save you a ton of time.
- Disaster proof. All those important documents can be destroyed with fire, water, mold, etc. A natural disaster can wipe them out in an instant. Keeping them paperless stored in several locations keeps them safe and disaster proof. I can access my information anywhere I have internet access.
- More privacy. I’ve seen friends bank account balances, credit card information, insurance paperwork and more just by hanging out at their house. Papers are easily seen if you leave them out which is why storing them in a secure system actually gives you more privacy.
Going Paperless Technology
Below are the paperless technology and tools I’m using. It all started with my iPhone and Evernote but I’ve since added a few more elements to my toolbox to make the process easier.
There are a ton of options for scanners out there and almost any of them will do. I started with an iphone originally to just take pictures as my scanning method. I didn’t own a printer or scanner when I started but wanted to upgrade to a better system when I opened a business so I ended up getting a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner for PC and Mac to use as my scanner for documents.
After doing a ton of research and reading reviews I decided the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner was the best fit for what I was planning. It had the best reviews on Amazon and it fit all the needs I had: high capacity, fast scanning, and WiFi connection.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner was an investment for me. It’s not cheap at $399 but it ended up being exactly what I needed. There are other cheaper scanners available as well. I’d recommend choosing a high quality scanner because you are going to use it A LOT when you go paperless.
Paying for quality upfront is most likely worth it in this case.
Just a note about this: I originally started this process by using my iPhone and a scanning app. It got me hooked and is the reason why I upgraded to a nice scanner and went all paperless.
If you just want to test the waters then it’s an okay way to start but definitely not sustainable long term if you plan to really work a paperless system.
2. Paper Inbox
You’ll need an inbox where all your documents go before being scanned. Anything paper that comes in the mail will go directly to this inbox to be opened, scanned, and processed. You will inevitably still get things like business cards or notes jotted down on post-it notes at times so you must plan for these paper elements to get worked into your paperless system.
Your paper inbox doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I just use a tray I picked up from Target similar to this basic 3-tier tray. It just needs to store paper until it is properly processed.
Having a paper inbox is actually a great thing to have whether you go paperless or not. It’s so easy to stay organized when you have a habit of putting all the paper in one place.
Training yourself to do this just makes life easier and saves you from wondering where you put that one bill that’s due soon. This also helps when you have multiple adults in the household who may open the mail or receive important documents. Having one central location for processing papers is very helpful.
3. Safe or Firebox
Since you can’t scan and use everything, you will need a safe or firebox to keep all your important papers. This will include things like your social security card, birth certificate, etc. Anything super important that is a legal document or requires an original signature should go in here.
Safes aren’t nearly as expensive as you might think but they are well worth any cost. Keeping those most important items safe is a great way to have complete piece of mind. I chose the SentrySafe HD4100CG Fire-Safe Waterproof File.
We keep our safe in a non-obvious location, tucked away for safe keeping (ha!).
To say Evernote changed my life is a bit of an understatement. I’m typing this blog post in Evernote as we speak. I use it for everything at work. I also use it for my paperless life. It’s the perfect little digital filing system that you can use for any part of your life.
There is a learning curve when you start using Evernote. I actually hated it the first time I tried it because I didn’t know how to get the most out of it. Over time I picked up tips and tricks and a workflow that works for me. Learning how to use Evernote helped make all of this possible and it continues to keep me more organized than I ever was before I used it.
There are several reasons why Evernote rocks including it’s organizational options, search abilities, storage options, and lots of documentation on how to use it. There are tons of blog posts out there that can teach you best practices, so I won’t get into that now. Just make sure you read a few and play around and get comfortable using the software.
There is a free and premium version of Evernote. To go paperless entirely you will need the premium version which costs $5 per month but it’s okay to start out with the free version. I did that and then upgraded when I realized I needed more space to make bigger notes and upload more per month. The upgraded version of the software has a lot of nifty features that are well worth the $5 per month.
You can sign up for Evernote here which is a referral link.
Another reason why Evernote rocks is because you can install it on all your devices and it will sync on all of them. So you’ll have access to your notes on Mac/Windows/iPhone/iPad/Android/web browser. Personally I use the Mac desktop app the most but I’ll also access Evernote through my phone when I’m on the go. Having multiple options makes it even easier to access all your important info and notes.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned and implemented for using Evernote:
- Pick a naming process for notes and stick with it. Maybe you start with the date or an important acronym. However you decide to do it, try to stick with keeping the same process for each note you add and give the note a relevant name. The consistency makes it easier to search and find things.
- Notebooks hold notes in Evernote and while they are useful it’s a lot better to have fewer. I have less than 10 notebooks set up because I prefer to search via tags, titles, and note content. However, different people do this differently and some have hundreds of notebooks. It all depends on how you set up your system!
- Tags are much like the tags you might use on a blog post and they are a very useful part of Evernote. Notes can have multiple tags that represent what the content is about. You can go in and edit tags on notes and the whole list of tags as well. Some people prefer using Notebooks over Tags but I’m a big fan of Tags.
- When you upload pictures and PDFs to Evernote, it uses Optical Character Recognition to transform it into text you can search through. This is part of the paid version which is why I recommend you spring for it. It’s super convenient to be able to search these documents this way!
- Evernote can store tons of different file types including PDF files, text files, Word files, Excel files, pictures, web pages and snippets, voice memos. They also have an awesome team working to include all kinds of other files.
- Evernote organization is personal and will depend on how you like to organize systems like this. There isn’t a right or wrong way and there are many people who prefer doing it different ways. Play around and find out which way you prefer! Your system will grow and evolve as you use Evernote more.
You can read a ton of different blog posts on how to organize Evernote when going paperless. It’s important to play around with it and get a system of your own worked out that you will actually use. Once you do, Evernote is amazing!