Saving you from the paper clutter – my top 5

I get at lot of bills every week. Admittedly I am somewhat of a collector and keeper. I guess it is from when we were hunters and gatherers. At my house there is a never ending stream of banking bills, statements and written offers.

I have been digitalizing my entire photo collection with a cheap scanner. And got the idea to do the same with papers. I started with photos, but my desire for less clutter became more apparent as the project progressed. To some it might seem to be an impractical cause. I must admit that it is – but only in the initial stage. When you get into routines it is far better and even more efficient to remove the clutter.

Here is my own top 5 ways to own less paper and working my way to less clutter in my home, and saving me money at the same time:

  1. Get less advertising snail mail
    The good old mail box accumulates a great deal of paper clutter. I use the Danish system ‘Ingen reklamer – tak‘ which is a national initiative that actually works. I get no more advertising in my mailbox. US visitors can use OptOutPrescreen.com to stop the flow offers from credit card companies and insurance agencies. Research exactly what you can opt out from and do it. The time invested in research pays back plenty fold.
  2. Get electronic billpay
    Whenever you get the chance to go digital, just do it! The great part here is that not only will you not receive all that paper, but you also save money at the same time. I save a couple hundred dollars every year on getting my bills in an electronic format. I no longer have to pays fees to pay a physical bill any more.
  3. Scan your receipts or get them in digital format
    I use a cheap scanner that actually makes the scans into PDF, that I store on my computer with the filename YYYY-MM-DD_XXXXXX.PDF, where YYYY is year, MM month, DD date, XXXXX origin. So if Google sent me a bill today the final scanned file would be called 2007-12-27_google.pdf. I often ask to get my recipet as in an email too. That way I already have it af bits and bytes, and need not scan in the first place. The problem with many of the receipts I get, is that they fade rather quickly, as they are printed on thermal paper that oxidises. Having a scan is way better than the original, as they do not fade or get lost in some pile.
  4. Work, bank and collaborate online
    Use online applications to track your money, do your banking and even work. I need nothing fancy, so I just use Google Docs when I need a spreadsheet or document. I use 100% web based banks, and I am registred to recieve all bills digitally. My banking statements, insurence papers and, paychecs and tax papers all go into my digital inbox at e-boks.dk (availailable in Denmark only – see what you have locally). In a similar fashion Shoeboxed lets you scan or photograph your receipts and organize them online. If you, like me, do volunteering work as well, save all the frustrations with paper by collaborating on online documents instead of having ten versions in everybody’s mail box (yes, we want to avoid digital clutter too).
  5. Keep paper tidy and know that to get rid of
    Know which pieces of paper to keep (and how long to keep them – local laws are different). Clean out your archives. All my files are PDF, so they do not take up much storage space, however they can easily get cleaned out as they all have the same file name syntax. Just order them by file name, and easily just delete the ones that just useless paper to you. If (and that is a big IF) you do need some papers, be sure to store them in a proper manner. Shoe boxes are out of the question (Unless it is https://www.shoeboxed.com/). Get yourself a ring binder and get a system in them. The system des not have to be more fancy than you just put stuff in as you get them. Then the content is ordered by date. If your paper does not fit into the binder, fold it or photo copy it to keep the binder tidy.

A word of caution! While having everything on a computer makes it far more accessible, remember to do back-ups!