After cleaning out my closet it was time to clean out all the loose papers in my home. Even tough I am a huge paper lover, there is nothing more anoying than loose papers hanging around in the house. They don’t look pretty, they only look anoying and cluttered. So time to make a change and start a paperless home.
What is a paperless home?
A paperless home is not a home without any paper at all. I mean, no Bullet Journal? No toilet paper? No way! It’s more about removing all the unnecessairy paper and creating a digital administration. It really amazed me how much paper we save and never look at again. After years and years of “needing” to keep an physical administration, it will be quite a switch to start going paperless. However, just imagine all the space you save when you don’t need to keep all the paperwork at home anymore, how much safer it is to still have all your documents when something unfortunate happens, like a fire or burglary. With this blogpost I want to inspire you with another way of doing things. It might not suit your view or lifestyle, but it also might inspire you to start something new and amazing.
What is needed for going paperless?
I am always a bit hesitant,when it comes to blogposts that prescribe a lot of products that are needed to complete a certain task. So before I start this part, I want to say that there is ALWAYS another way of doing things. Buying these products can help the process and speed it up a lot. This will especially be easy when you have a very large administration in paper and want to start going paperless at once. However, especially when there is not much paper to process and you have more time on hands to get things in order, there will be other options as well. I’ll name these options together with all the other products I mention, so you can choose what suits your situation best.
In order to digitalize all the papers in your home, an easy to use scanner is needed. The scanner needs to be able to handle large amounts of paper. Scanning a lot of paper one after the other, needs to be easy and quick. The fujitsu S1300i is a lightweight scanner with wifi connection. This makes it easy to take the scanner with you wherever you go and there is no need to plug any cables into your computer. The Fujitsu S1300i can scan both sides of a paper, which makes the task of scanning a lot of papers half the work compared to regular scanners.
When you don’t need anything portable, the iX500 is the way to go. This scanner is larger than the S1300i, but it has a larger capacity and scans much faster.
I wouldn’t recommend going as cheap as possible when buying a scanner in order to go paperless. I know cheap isn’t always worse (as expensive isn’t always better) but, I wouldn’t want to risk the stress and irritations it would give when a scanner isn’t able to do its job quickly or not as convenient as it should. This stress will keep you from going trough all your papers and will maybe even cause you to stop going paperless at all. Ofcourse there is another option when you don’t want to spend money on a new scanner.
When you own a tablet or smartphone (who doesn’t nowadays?) you can also download the app Scannable (IOS) or Scanbot (Android). Working with these apps isn’t as fast and convenient as working with a professional scanner when going trough large stacks of paper, but they are easy to use and can handle the job pretty well. I use Scannable for over a year now and I love it! I think it is one of my favorite apps on my iPad. Scannable even recognizes the type of paper you try to scan. When scanning a business card for exampe, it will recognize the scan as a business card and it will save the information on the card as a rich contact. It communicates directly with Evernote (more on that later) and best of all: it’s completely Free!
Now we have the scanner organized, it is time to think about a good shredder. Especially when you are handeling a lot of official documents with personal information or autographs on it, you don’t want to leave this information in the out and open.
I’ve never owned a shredder before, but now I think it might be handy to have one after all. Shredding every single paper very carefully by hand is a lot of work and is never as careful as a good shredder is. Make sure to choose a shredder that is able to handle large stacks of paper for a longer time, without getting overheated. As long as the shredder can handle these things, it will do the job just fine. This Amazon basics shredder is said to do a good job for the price you pay for it.
Last but not least, we need a safe space to save and organize all the scanned documents. For this, I use evernote. Not only does evernote offer a lot of space for a very low price, but it also has a lot of tools to organize your scans and documents in an easy way. Scannable, the app mentioned before, uploads it’s scans automatically to evernote. Using evernote for going paperless is because of this the easiest, quickest and cheapest way of organizing your administration.
I see lots of people recommend using evernote pro, when using evernote for all the paper in your life. Evernote pro gives you more space to upload and save your paperwork. It also gives you the opportunity to synchronize with all devices you want instead of just two, it makes your pdf’s searchable and it gives you a seperate tab for business cards. These options will indeed make your administration more clear, clean and it will make documents much easier to find. However, you can always start with evernote basic and upgrade later when you feel going paperless is indeed something you want to go on with or you can use this link when signing up for evernote, to get a couple of months of evernote premium for free.
How to keep your documents safe
When digitalizing something that has been phisical for several years it is always a bit scary. Because it will always be a bit vague how safe your documents will be. Especially when it comes to personal documents, like income or tax documents, you want them to be save.
Let me start of by saying that keeping your administration on paper isn’t 100% save as well. Everybody that comes into your home has access to the papers you keep there. You don’t want to know the amounth of times I walked into someones house and private documents were just laying on the table for everyone to read. I even found a bank statement of someone living in my street when I was a child. I kept the statement as a treasure, but it is still personal information that was litteraly open on the street to read for everyone. A burglary or a fire can destroy your whole administration at once and give you problems you don’t ever want to think about.
That being said, storing your documents in “the cloud” isn’t 100% save as well, but it will solve a lot of the problems named before. However, when saving personal information online people always fear hackers breaking into their accounts and having access to all their personal information. I am not gonna tell you that this fear is nonsense, because it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t protect yourself against it. Since we’ll be using Evernote to store our documents, I’ll go a bit deeper in document safety in Evernote. However, most of the information will also apply to other sources.
It might be a bit obvious, but your password is the first and one of the most important thing to protect your documents. Make sure your password is unique and contains as many letters, numbers and characters as possible. Creating a completely randomized password is even more safe. However, I can imagine that remembering such a password will be very hard. It might help to create a pass-sentence instead of creating a pass-word.
2 step verification
After creating a safe password, you can make it even harder to break into your account by using 2 step verification. When using 2 step verification, you get a message on your mobile phone with a unique code every time someone tries to login and guesses your password correctly. You first need to fill in this code before you can login and access your documents. The 2 step verification will work as a second, ever changing password.
Protection of your documents
Since you’ll be storing your personal data in Evernote, it is of high importance your documents are safe there. You don’t want anyone breaking into your account, but you also don’t want Evernote employees nosing in your personal bank statement. Because of this, I did some research on dataprotection in Evernote. Evernote uses several encription tools to encrypt the information flow between your computer and the Evernote server (and vice versa). This means that the information gets translated into an unknown secret language and only gets translated again when it has arrived. This language changes every single time and because of that it is impossible to intercept. More on encryption and the protection of your information can be read on this page on Evernote security.
How to go paperless?
The first step when going paperless is to find all the paper you can find in your home and bring them to one place. Look for all the instruction manuals, all the receipts, invoices and even magazines. When you have everything together it is time to start sorting. Sort all paper by: throw away, scan or save. When doing things correctly the throw away pile should be the largest pile, the scan pile the middle pile and the save pile should be the smallest or non-existent.
When you’ve sorted all the paper, throw away all papers from the throw away pile. Make sure all papers with personal information are shredded propperly and recycle what remains.
Now it is time to scan all the documents from the scanning pile. If you want you can do this by categorie but personally I just scan whatever is on top of the pile. When the product is scanned, I put it on the throw away pile or in the shredder. Scanning can be a time consuming process, so make sure you have something to drink on hand, some music to listen to and no appointments during the day.
When all paper is scanned and all scanned paper is thrown away, you can put away the very few items you’ll save (birth certificate etc.) and start organizing your scans.
When you open Evernote after scanning all the items, you’ll see a lot of documents in your “main” evernote inbox. We now need to organize these items in order to make them easily searchable. In the next sections I’ll discuss a couple of ways to do this, however you’re free to organize your documents in a way that seems logical to you.
I start with creating a couple of maps with categories for important documents. I name them as I would have named them in my paper administration such as treasury or manuals. When I have all the categories I need, I go back to my main inbox and start naming all scanned documents. Make sure to give them a logical name and include a document date in the titel. The titel will be searchable, so creating a clear titel will help in finding back your documents.
After giving the document a titel, I give the document a couple (two or three) tags. Every document can have several tags, but can only be saved in one map, so choose wisely. I tag my invoices with the name of the company I worked with and I tag it with “invoice”. After tagging the document, I relocate the document from the main inbox, to the category it belongs to (in this case that could be invoices, treasury or income).
After going over every single scanned document, you’ll have a nicely organized and searchable administration of all the paper that was previously in your home. Great! But, how will you manage the documents that will be send to you by mail? How will you keep your home paperless?
Keeping your home paperless
Even tough more and more instances choose to send their messages and invoices via email, mail is still something you’ll receive now and then. In order to keep your home paperless, it is important to tackle the incoming paper as soon as possible. When receiving an invoice by mail, I always try to pay it straight away, make a note of payment and scan it in. Now I have immediately tackled the task and my home is still paperless. However, some papers can’t be dealt with right away. For these papers it could be easy to have a small inbox on your desk. Make sure ALL the paper that comes into the home, will be parked in this inbox. Now make free some time every week to empty your inbox and you’re good to go.
In order to keep your administration in Evernote neatly organized, you could take some time every year to go through your maps and make sure all documents still need to be saved. Manuals from devices that have been long gone, can be thrown away and bank statements older then 7 years are also redundant.
Going paperless is not a hard task, but it has a lot of benefits. You need less storage in your home, it’s better for the environment, it will keep your papers safe from disaster, it saves a lot of time when searching for the right document or when doing your taxes and it increases privacy.
Are you ready to go paperless?