Would you like to have a paperless home office, but you aren’t sure where to start?
Creating a paperless home office is a great way to organize your filing system and declutter your work area.
It is also a great way to declutter your house if you find mail and other pieces of paper (think receipts) laying all around in a paper trail from room to room.
Piles of paper can quickly take over our space. Daily mail includes credit card offers, catalogs, insurance forms and offers, charity solicitations and bills.
It takes a large amount of time to go through these documents, and if we don’t do something with them immediately (toss them, file them, etc.), we typically end up going through them again and again.
Hint: Can you tell I have been this person? 🙂
[bctt tweet=”Going paperless in your home office not only helps the environment, it saves you an incredible amount of time.” username=”drtawnaschmidt”]
When you go paperless you spend less time sorting through mail and you have less documents to file. You also save money because you have less catalogs, magazines, and credit card offers to browse and ultimately make a purchase.
Of course, once your home office is paperless, be wary of shopping online and making unnecessary purchases.
I created a paperless home office several years before I moved into the RV. (If you have considered living small or on the road, this article might be of great help!)
It was one of the best decluttering activities I did to increase the amount of time in each day.
As you prepare for your own home office, keep in mind you will not be 100% paper-free. There are items you need to keep the original, such as licenses (like your marriage license), certificates, and vehicle titles.
Keep in mind going paperless is a process that takes dedication and commitment.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t let the process overwhelm you to the point you give up.
Make the transition step-by-step and before you know it, you will be living a paper-free life.
Your Move To A Paperless Home Office – Tips To Get Started
These simple tips will give you the foundation you need to go paperless in your home office. The hardest part is getting started and putting the ‘ball into motion.’
Once you have the process completed, I am fairly confident you will wish you had made the move sooner!
1 | Sign Up For e-Statements
Make a list of all the companies you do business with, such as
- cell phone company
- bank or credit union
- cable, satellite or TV service companies
- utility company
- insurance companies (vehicle, life, health, rental, etc.)
- credit cards
Sign up to receive electronic bills and statements by email instead of receiving them in paper format in the mail. Most, if not all, the companies you do business with should have this option.
Start the process by first checking to see if you can sign up for paperless statements on the company website. If you cannot locate a way, contact the company via phone. Make a note of the day you make contact with the company, as well as who you talked to when you called.
As you contact the companies or sign up for paperless access online, mark them off your list and make a note of the date you requested the change.
It may take 1-2 months for the transition to happen and you want to be sure you don’t miss any statements or bills during the transition.
Within a couple of weeks you will start seeing a change in your incoming mail.
2 | Opt Out Of Junk Mail Lists
Opting out of junk mail lists and catalogs will significantly reduce your incoming mail.
There are services that can help you complete this step. DMA Choice is one of the most frequently used because it represents about 80% of the total volume of marketing mail in the United States.
Catalog Choice is another option. On their website, they state, “We’ve helped over 2 million users reduce junk mail over the past 8 years. It’s simple. It’s secure. It works.”
Both services let you pick the publications you want to keep or scrap. Catalog Choice also allows you to opt-out of receiving phone books (it’s hard to believe these are still printed!)
Publications that can be stopped include
- credit offers
- magazine offers
- donation requests
- retail promotions
- bank offers
- charities and nonprofits
- sweepstakes and contests
- consumer surveys
- flyers and advertising supplements
3 | Cancel Your Subscriptions
Cancelling subscriptions will decrease your incoming mail even more, getting you closer to your goal of a paperless home office.
There may be a few of your subscriptions you want to keep, such as a favorite magazine or newspaper. I even recommend adding a kids magazine subscription for your littles. There are some things that simply cannot replace reading in print!
Many people will try to convince you to cancel these as well. As much as I love technology, there are still things I think are worthwhile to do the old-fashioned way.
Reading is one of those things!
For this step analyze each subscription you get in the mail and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you read each issue?
- Do you look forward to the day it will be delivered?
- Can it be recycled?
If I were to guess, this type of mail is not what is cluttering your kitchen table, your desk or your office filing cabinet!
4 | Set Up Online Bill Pay
I can’t imagine there are any institutions that don’t offer online bill pay.
I have been using this service for many years. It is so flexible, simple, and convenient I cannot imagine going back to the days when I would sit down at the kitchen table with a stack of bills, my checkbook, a stack of envelopes and stamps, and start writing checks.
When you start paying your bills online, you have two options:
- Set up bill pay to the company directly from your bank account
- Set up automatic payment from the account you are making payment to (such as a loan for a vehicle – set up the payment from this account to debit it from your bank account)
I prefer to have all my payments start in my bank account so they are in one place and I can see all payments being made at any time.
Paying bills online can be a steep learning curve for people that are used to writing checks and dropping the bills in the mail or paying them in person.
If the internet or online bill pay makes you nervous because you worry about security, keep in mind that your payments will process over the internet at some point whether you initiate the process or your bank initiates the process.
Online payment receipts are typically generated and emailed to you.
If you don’t get this email your bank will keep an ongoing record of all payments. You can request a copy at any time, or even look at your bank statement to see the transactions you have initiated.
5 | Create Your Digital Filing System
There are 3 key points to remember when setting up the digital filing system for a paperless home office.
- Create a category system
- Name your files consistently
- Pick your storage (where you will store your digital files)
First is creating your category system. This is essentially the names of your files. Think of what you would write on your file tab in a filing cabinet.
This step is super important!
There is little that is more frustrating than trying to find a document in a digital file and it is nowhere to be found. The up side is that with a digital file you can do a search which is impossible in a paper file. 😄
However, a search is only as good as the name of your document, making it a key factor to be smart in how you name your documents.
Which takes us to the second key point to name your files consistently.
One of the reasons you likely wanted to create a paperless home office was to be able to efficiently and quickly find a document.
And another reason may be because you can access documents even when you aren’t at home.
For these reasons alone setting up categories that are logical and make sense to you should be well thought out.
The same is true for naming your files. Ultimately this will also be the same when you name each document (step 10).
The last part of this step is picking where you will store your digital files.
There are numerous options of cheap storage in the cloud. There is also free storage available.
How many documents you add to the storage determines how long a service would stay free. This is because it depends on how much storage you use (in most cases.)
I personally use Dropbox. There is a fee for using this service, and the amount depends on which plan you choose.
Google Drive is a common option that is free.
6 | Set Up A Digital Note-Taking System
I used to be an overboard user of sticky notes.
At any given time you could find dozens of sticky notes all over my desk, in my car, on the kitchen countertop, and anywhere else I had a thought and needed to get it written down before I forgot.
I didn’t get rid of sticky notes completely. However, I have cut their use by well over 90%!
My smart phone has become my digital note-taking system. It stores my ongoing grocery list, to-do list, quick thoughts I don’t want to forget, and everything in-between.
The added bonus is that I don’t have to remember my grocery list when I stop by the store on the way home, for example.
My iPad (any tablet will work) syncs with my iPhone, giving me a larger space to read a document.
7 | Digitalize Your Signature
Once you have transitioned to a paperless home office, almost all (it will never be 100%) of your correspondence and documents will be coming to you in digital format.
This also means you will be sending documents out in digital format. Thus, it is likely there will be a time when you need to use a digital signature. While many companies have their own method of collecting your signature, that is not always the case.
How to create your digital signature:
- Sign a blank piece of paper with a narow felt-tip pen (this ensures the signature is easy to read)
- Scan the paper (in essence, you are scanning your signature)
- Save it on your computer (don’t forget the digital file you put it in) 😀
When you need to sign a document, you have your digital signature ready to go!
If you have a tablet or smart phone there are numerous apps you can download to help you with create your digital signature.
8 | Create A Way To Read Books & Magazines In Digital Format
You will need a way to read digital documents once you move to paperless.
Don’t panic and put off moving to a paperless home office if you don’t have something available now. It is not something you will use daily and it is not entirely a necessity.
Examples of when you may use an e-reader would be to read digital books (getting rid of physical books can save a load of space), maps, etc.
If you are an Apple user another choice would be an iPad (this is the one I have and use daily.) I have the Kindle app downloaded on it for reading digital books, which I check out from my library.
There are times when I miss holding a good book in my hands and turning the pages as I read. If I ever get to nostalgic it is easy to go check out a physical book at the library.
For the most part I appreciate the fact that a digital book is so quick and simple to check out through my library on my iPad or computer.
I also enjoy the fact that I can start reading it within a few minutes!
9 | Start The Transition – Clean Out Your Paper Filing Cabinet
Once you have everything in your digital office set up you are ready to start transitioning from the paper filing system to the digital filing system.
You may still have a bit of junk mail and bills straggling in but that will diminish each week.
To complete this phase of having a paperless home office, get a separate place to dump your documents for the following:
- Documents you will throw in the trash
- Multiple pieces of paper that can be combined into one document
- Documents ready to be converted from paper to digital
Having an empty trash can is best for the first. A filing tray works great for the second and third.
[bctt tweet=”Make it your goal to touch each piece of paper that comes into your home office only once.” username=”drtawnaschmidt”]
As you go through your paper documents in your filing cabinet try not to just shuffle them around. The more times you touch a piece of paper the longer it takes to complete the process.
Depending on how much of a hoarder you have been with your paper filing system will determine how long this process will take.
Set aside a specific amount of time each day to work on it. Before you know it your filing cabinet will be empty and all your paper documents will be sorted, organized, and ready to transition to digital format.
10 | Finish The Transition – Turn Your Paper Documents Into Digital Documents
You are on the last leg of the process to have a paperless home office! *happy dance*
For this last step you will need to have a way to get your paper documents into digital format.
There are several ways this can be done:
- Multi-Functional Device (MFD)
- Desktop Scanner
- Scan To Cloud
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL DEVICE (MFD)
A multi-functional device is a scanner that is built-into another device like a copy machine, fax machine or printer. They are usually large and take up a lot of space, but have been popular over the years. This was especially true before the world was more digital than not.
If you have a small number of documents to scan (less than 50), a desk scanner will work fine.
If you have more than this another option would be better or you will be working on your paperless home office for more hours than you may want.
A desktop scanner is simply a flatbed scanner that does just this one thing: scans paper documents into digital format.
They come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.
If you have a really small number of documents to scan, a smartphone or tablet is sufficient.
There are numerous apps that will scan documents. My favorite is Adobe Scan. Camscanner and Scanbot 4 are other popular ones. You will find a long list if you do a google search or a search in your smartphone app store.
SCAN TO CLOUD
There are multiple services that enable you to scan your documents directly into the cloud. You can choose where you want to store the documents, often referred to as your cloud storage locker.
A service like Epson’s Scan To Cloud can seamlessly link your scanner to cloud storage.
Whichever method you choose to use for the transition from paper to digital, select one that is simple for your technology background. Also, select one that you will keep and feel comfortable using moving forward.
As you turn each paper document into a digital document, a name will need to be assigned to it. Choose a name that describes what the document is, but without being too long.
Final Words On How To Have A Paperless Home Office
These are the steps I personally followed to create my paperless home office.
It takes time and patience to get through the process from start to finish.
Don’t expect it to be done in a day or a week. Just remain focused and remind yourself why you wanted to create a paperless home office.
It will be worth it when you are finished. You will have a house without a paper trail and you will have your files with your where ever you go if you choose to store them in the cloud.
Have you made the effort to create a paperless home office?
Share any tips below to help the others when they start the process!