Going paperless is one of the best ways to cut clutter, get organized and save money in your home. Along with these benefits, going paperless also helps the environment. Used paper is represents 16% of landfill solid waste and the U.S. uses almost 70 million trees each year to produce paper. By forming a few new paper-saving habits, you can help reduce waste, protect the environment and declutter your home.
15 Ways to Help You Go Paperless
Snap a Photo with Your Phone. If your wallet has more crumpled receipts than cash, consider using your smart phone’s camera. Snap a picture of a receipt after you receive it and you now have a digital copy. Email it to yourself, or store it in whatever digital method you choose.
Use a Document Scanner. If it’s been a while since you used a scanner, you may be surprised at the functionality. The S1300i from Fujitsu is an example of a small and sleek scanner that is able to scan both sides of a document quickly.
Use a Third-Party Scanning Service. If the idea of manually scanning hundreds of documents is daunting, fear not. There are third-party services that can handle bulk orders of scanning. DocuFree is one such service. All you have to do is ship your documents to DocuFree and they will scan them and create digital copies. They will also upload them to their secure cloud network.
Use a Digital Note-Taker. Apps such as Evernote are great tools for managing notes, memos and lists electronically. You can manage your Evernote memos across multiple devices and operating systems. You don’t have to keep track of crumpled grocery lists anymore. You can jot the list down on your phone, tablet, or computer and open the list on your smart phone in the grocery store.
Remove Junk Mail. It can be a nuisance to sort through a stack of junk mail to make sure there are no important letters or notices. Luckily, you can reduce the amount of junk mail you get. TrustedID Mail Preference Service, DMACHOICE.org and OptOutPrescreen.com are all examples of free services that give you instructions on how to opt out of junk mail subscriptions, or even opt out for you.
Enroll in E-Statements. In addition to online bill pay, you can receive your statements through email. Most bill collectors offer an e-statement option. Sign up and your bills will be emailed and you can then opt out of having hard copies mailed the old-fashioned way.
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Pay Bills Online. You can reduce mail clutter further by paying your bills online. Divide your bills into three sections: bills you pay every month that cost the same amount, bills you pay every month that have a varying amount and bills you don’t pay every month. Most monthly fixed bills can be paid with an automated payment system that you can sign up for. For bills with varying amounts, you can automate payments through your bank. Another option is to use an online service like mint.com. Mint allows users to connect multiple bank accounts, credits cards and bills to their Mint account. They can then set up payments for all their bills and monitor their bank accounts from one source.
Get An E-Reader. If you have books stacked on top of books in your home, consider buying an e-reader. Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle are two of the most popular e-readers. You’ll be able to keep hundreds of books in your account and read them on your e-reader device. You can even share books with friends. Best of all, you can bring your e-reader on vacation instead of those heavy, hardcover bestsellers.
Get Digital Subscriptions. Chances are good that if you have a favorite magazine, it’s available in digital format. E-readers such as the Nook and Kindle may not be great for flipping through magazines because of their paper white screens. Tablets such as the iPad may better. Consider switching over to digital subscriptions.
Get a Paper Shredder. It’s tough to go paperless if you don’t have the tools to get rid of the paper. Throwing sensitive documents straight into the trash is not recommended. Instead, consider shredding them first. AmazonBasics offers a line of popular and economical shredders, many cost under $100. If you’re going to be shredding a lot of paper, consider HSM’s 150 Sheet shredder. It costs around $600, but a high-capacity shredder like this can save hours of time.
Get a Paper Tray. You will still have paper lying around your home despite your best efforts. Don’t fight it. Expect it. A paper tray is a great way to organize those documents you can’t digitize. Some trays are complex and have six or more slots to keep papers organized. Try to keep yours simple. A two slot tray might be all you need. One slot for papers you need to deal with and one slot for those that are ready to go out.
Get A Digital Calendar. A digital calendar is great because you can sink it across all of your devices. If you jot down the date and time for a doctor’s appointment on your smart phone, you can view that appointment from your computer. Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular digital calendars. You can also very easily sync your Evernote account with Outlook. This way, your Evernote memos will be accessible from your Outlook account.
Use an E-Signature. It can be a hassle to print a document, sign it, scan it and then email it back to someone. Thankfully, most PDF readers have a signature function so you can sign the document electronically. First, write your signature on a sheet of paper. Then scan it using a photo or document scanner and save it to your computer. Open the document you need to sign in Adobe Acrobat Reader. In the right-hand panel you’ll see an option for “Fill & Sign.” Click on this and then select your scanned signature. Adobe Reader will place your signature in the selected field.
Digitize Keepsakes. If keepsakes such as birthday cards, postcards, letters or other sentimental documents are clogging up your drawers and shelves, consider digitizing them. The EPSON Perfection V550 Flatbed is an example of a photo scanner that can do just that. You can scan all those memorable birthday cards and letters and keep a digital copy of them on your computer. It’s worth mentioning that this is different than a document scanner. A document scanner quickly scans text documents. A photo scanner can scan high resolution images.
Use a firebox. There will always be documents you need to keep. Passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and legal documents are some examples. Having a safe place to keep these documents can help declutter the paper in your house. A firebox, such as the First Alert 2017 F, can keep papers, flash drives and CDs safe from fire. In fact, the 2017 F can handle an external temperature of 1500°F for up to 30 minutes.
Going paperless can be a tough transition. We’ve been using paper all our lives and it can be difficult to move out of that comfort zone. The transition doesn’t have to be all or nothing though. By using two or three of these strategies you can reduce clutter, help the environment and safely maintain documents.