Do you dream of a world without paper? The idea of a paperless lifestyle has been around for years, but many of us still struggle just to avoid drowning in paper. My clients often complain that there’s paper everywhere in their homes. They want to get control of it, but they’re frustrated about how to make that happen.
Unfortunately, there’s not a simple route to paperlessness. Paper comes from many sources, so it requires a multi-pronged solution. None of the steps are complicated, though, and each one can make a dent in the volume of paper you handle every day. Try some of these to reduce your paper load, and you’ll be on your way to a paperless lifestyle—and the envy of your friends!
- Opt out of prescreened credit and insurance offers at OptOutPrescreen.com. This action will stop those annoying, unsolicited pre-approval letters.
- Substantially reduce junk mail by registering yourself on the National “Do Not Mail” list.
- Eliminate unsolicited catalogs by signing up and opting out at Catalog Choice.
- For paper items that you’d like to retain for future reference, invest in a desktop scanner. Scan the documents, save them as image files or PDFs, and throw away the originals.
- Switch bank, credit card, and utility bills and statements to electronic versions that arrive via e-mail instead of your mailbox.
- If you’re nervous about relying on web sites to maintain your data, generate PDF versions of bills and statements. Then you’ll be able to print a paper copy any time you need one without returning to the web site. (All Macs offer this option on the print menu, and applications are available to set up a “virtual” PDF printer on Windows computers.)
- Shrink your volume of reading material by purchasing an iPad or a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle or Nook. You can subscribe to magazines and newspapers on the e-reader, as well as purchase and download electronic books (“e-books”).
- Instead of accumulating notes on scraps of paper or in a notebook, take notes and create to-do lists electronically on your laptop, iPad, or smart phone. There are many applications (such as Evernote) for capturing and organizing notes and lists and synchronizing them among your electronic devices.
- Empty your pockets, purses, and shopping bags of receipts. Keep the credit card receipts long enough to reconcile them against your account statement. After that—and for most cash purchases—there’s no need to hold on to receipts for items you plan to keep. (A notable exception is receipts that will document a business expense on your tax return. Place those in a large envelope marked with the tax year to get them out of your purse or off your kitchen counter.)
Even if you’re not ready to implement all of these ideas, trying a few of them will help. Change one thing, and when you see the difference in the volume of paper you have to handle, you might decide to keep going. If you make it all the way through the list, you’ll find yourself in the paperless world of your dreams!
This article was featured in our July 2012 e-mail newsletter. To subscribe to our newsletter, please use the “Subscribe” form, above right.
The Clutter Fairy is available for one-on-one organizing sessions tailored to your needs. We’ll visit your home or office to perform a free assessment of your space and its potential. Call 713‑816‑9505 or send e-mail to schedule an appointment.