How to go paperless - The 2 important tools you'll need

Evernote and Google Drive are my secret weapons when it comes to a paperless home. We keep the important stuff, wedding license, birth certificates, passports, etc. But every receipt, bill, owner's manual, and paystub are digital. Today we're going to talk about how to take on this massive task and get your files organized.


01. Why Should You Go Paperless?

There are a thousand reasons you might want to have less paper floating around your house or office. For us, we always had a hard time locating what document we needed. On top of that, we live in a small apartment and storing/organizing said papers became a bit silly over time. We have a file drawer, each of us had file boxes and eventually our magazine boxes became filled with paperwork too. We didn't even know what we could throw out and what we should keep - it was too big a job to clean it all out. 

Regardless of your reasons, switching to digital storage means less clutter, easier to find what you need, and easier to clean out. Not to mention in case of a fire, floods or break in, your files will be safe and sound in the cloud.

So, even if the job feels overwhelming, start with numbers two and four, and work on number three over time. You don't have to do it all in one day - just take 30 minutes every Saturday to scan and toss. The piles will go down quick and your new system will become a welcomed relief in your day-to-day.

02. Getting Organized

Before you scan a single document, you need to have a system in place. If you just start scanning without a plan, your digital files will be just as cluttered as your real files. 

First, choose your tools.

I love Evernote. I talk about it constantly because I use it for everything. Evernote, Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, iCloud Storage, any of these cloud-based storage solutions will work. Pick one or two places to keep everything. Personally, I use Evernote and Google Docs.

I use Evernote to scan all my files into a notebook. Google Drive is where I store things like images, graphics, and work-related docs. It's important to note that Evernote is not a storage solution and shouldn't be used to upload thousands of photos. Evernote is for referencing and notes.

Design your system

Create folders, a notebook or tags (or all of the above) to place your files. You don't have to think of every single tag you'll need, but getting some basics will help you organize as you scan and will save you a ton of time in the long run.

We only have 3 notebooks: 

  1. My husband's files from the military
  2. Important Documents like tax forms, our marriage license, and our lease
  3. Storage for instruction manuals, receipts, and school forms

In Google Drive, I have a ton of folders for work, my day job, and my own personal images. Whatever system you choose, just take 10 minutes to create the folders you need. 

03. Scan Away

Now, it's time to fill your new system with your files. You can open your file drawer and start at the front, organizing, tagging and moving as you go. Or you can take out all your files and organize them into piles based on where they'll be scanned in. When we decided to go paperless we spent two hours organizing all our files and taking that time to throw away any files that we no longer needed (that manual to the vacuum we tossed 2 years ago, or a long expired coupon for Target). Whatever you choose, break it up into time chunks. It'll make it easier to get everything done without overwhelming you.

If you don't have a scanner you can use your phone. I use an app called Scannable. It integrates seamlessly with my Evernote account and scanning photos is easy with the auto mode. I also have a scanner/printer that I use to scan in large packets of paper.

04. Staying On Track

No matter how long it takes you to scan all your current files in, the key to making this system work is to NEVER file away a piece of paper without scanning it first. Scan it, then decide if it's something you need to keep a physical copy of. If you're not comfortable throwing out the paper right away, keep a monthly file and at the end of every month, go through it and clean it out. 

Another way to minimize the clutter is to go digital with all your bills, mail, and newsletters. You don't really need your credit card bills mailed when they can go to your inbox instead. And you might actually spend less money by unsubscribing from those Target and Asos catalogs.

If your files are organized you'll save time and you'll free up some space in your home.

NEXT Challenge: Clean up your email inbox.

Nora Conrad