Looking for ways to save money and space? The best is to erase that paper trail! It’s easy to make your home better organized and paper-free. Just follow these simple steps!
Step 1: Get rid of all that clutter!
Did you know that the average person wastes ten minutes looking for each misplaced document?
Our homes should be for living, not for storage. The chaos of your home office probably spills over and into the kitchen junk drawer, the garage, basement, attic and anywhere else you shove papers to deal with another day. It’s also crowded with a printer, a scanner, a shredder, and maybe even an old fax machine. Managing a home is disorganized enough without having to find places for things, and then having to find that place you put that thing that's holding all your things. Going paperless is a good way to go through all those overstuffed filing cabinets, recycle what you don’t want and scan into the cloud what you do.
And then, stop the clutter before it starts right back up again! According to 41pounds.org, the production of junk mail destroys more than 100 million trees and wastes about 28 billion gallons of water each year; the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year. Almost half of it winds up unopened in a landfill. So why not sign up for paperless statements with your banks and billers, and go through the one-time process of canceling subscriptions you don’t read and opt out of mailing lists? Some big-name stores -- like Gap, Apple and Nordstroms -- have gone paperless with their receipts, so you don’t always need to collect the two to three receipts you normally do a day.
Going paperless means you have everything in one secure space and can free up all those shelves that are storing your obsolete office electronics, receipts, contracts and other paperwork, stocking them with things you actually want to look at every day!
Step 2: Keep it all in one place!
You also want to clean up your computer space. If you put all of your paperwork in the cloud, then you don’t have to worry about backing up hard drives, finding files, clearing space on your P.C. for more files, and then transferring everything from the old computer to the new one.
For that matter, what are you doing with all those old photo albums? We’ve all gone through the work of creating them, but now they are gathering dust on a shelf as the photos fade. We strongly recommend scanning all those memories. Then you can display them in an online scrapbook or on a digital picture frame, where you’d actually get to see those smiling faces every day. And then you can print your favorite photos, in the size you want, for a nominal cost at the supermarket.
Similarly, what are you doing saving all those copies of National Geographic or whatever else magazine you think you’re going to want to read one day? Get with the program! You can get all your news and fun online now, waiting for you on the screen of your smartphone, tablet, laptop or Macbook, from almost anywhere in the world. Then, do a good deed and donate them to your local library or school. (In general, libraries seriously rock.)
Perhaps the best part about putting all your life in the cloud is the search engine. You know you wish you could just type a word or two about that important document into a search box instead of spending an hour tearing your house apart in a frantic search for it. Bonus is that, when you find it, you can share anything you need to with anyone you need to in a blink and a click!
Step 3: Make legal contracts in a matter of minutes!
No longer do you have to hire a lawyer or accountant by the hour to draw up paperwork to get that extension put on your house or to rent out your old flat. You can use PandaDoc documents to base your deals on. Your tenants and contractors can even make comments within the document on anything that needs clarification or they want to dispute. Then, again, you don’t have to worry about printing out copies or uploading large legal files to your email, when you only just need to send them a link, and you’ll be notified immediately when they open it and sign on the dotted line.
Step 4: Keep a back-up!
As paperfree as we want to be, we still have things we need printed; but certified copies that are saved in the cloud can save you when you need them. Imagine you are traveling abroad and you get pickpocketed, losing all your important documentation. It’s much easier to get a new passport at your embassy or consulate if you have copies of each page. Most places will also take that copy as an I.D., if you need to have cash wired or to pay with credit card.
And let’s be serious, many of your documents you barely ever use, which means, of course, you can’t find them when you need them. For us in the States, this happens every four years when we need to renew our driver’s licenses. In New Jersey, each time, you need six points of identification plus an original copy of your marriage license if you’ve changed your name. Similarly, we memorize our social security numbers early on and then can’t find the card the rare time we need it. Whether out of the country or just inside your home office, having everything in one place is crucial, and the cloud is better than that lockbox you can't find the key for.
Step 5: Get your kids involved!
First, going paperless and teaching your kids about it means that you are giving them a positive example of how to save the environment and to save money. It’s also a great way to teach your kids responsibility in a modern way. With PandaDoc, you can create a really hip allowance and chores agreement that both sides sign off on. It becomes a collaborative learning lesson, agreeing on the rules of the house, giving both sides the power to refer back to those rules. Kids respond well to being treated like adults and are more likely to do those chores if they have a guarantee of reward.
Your kids’ school is probably already involved. In order to save money and to keep in touch with increasingly busy parents, schools are moving toward having all grading and communication between teachers and parents online. No more is there a need for your kid to bring a permission slip home and you sign it and he or she bring it back. Your messy (but cute) kid can’t lose it, if it was just in an email waiting for your electronic signature. It also means that they can’t be hiding anything from you -- you have a better insight into how they are doing in school, all there on your smartphone.
And for the younger kids, instead of just recycling that paper, you can repurpose it for funky and essentially free arts and crafts projects. TerraCycle is a great resource for ideas!
Step 6: Be responsible!
Let’s face it, wills and other legal paperwork are often awkward to talk about and lawyers are expensive, however, (knock on wood) if something happens, you and your family need to be prepared. Electronic signatures have legal weight in 27 countries. You can create a last will and testament online, with the multiple signatures from you and your witnesses all in one place, no matter where they live. This may seem silly, but we’ve all known someone who has been distracted in a time of grief looking for a document hidden away somewhere in his grandma’s home.
Benefits of Going Paperless at Home:
It's more Secure!
Eighty-five percent of identity theft cases are the result of offline transactions, lost checkbooks, misplaced bills, etc. Leaving everything you have printed out, even ripping it into a couple pieces and throwing it into the trash means that you are putting you and your family at risk for identity theft. Sure, you can shred those receipts, but then that’s just another machine to crowd your office. Your utility and credit cards bills and banking statements can all be online. You can then use your financial software to organize everything upfront, instead of keeping a box of receipts for another day.*
If you live in the U.S., you can opt out of all credit card offers here.
It saves you money!
Have you ever thought of how much money you spend on printers, scanners, shredders, and fax machines, along with the costly ink and paper to keep them full? According to The Guardian, printer ink is more expensive than champagne and human blood!
Plus, think of all the electricity used to leave these obsolete machines running! And let’s not forget how much space they gobble up! Going paperless doesn’t just make sense from an organizational or environmental standpoint -- it saves you hundreds of dollars and plenty of square feet each year!
Plus your time is money. Just because you may not get paid for your second shift as a parent, your time is just as valuable at home as it is in the workplace. Wouldn’t you rather be spending time with your kids or doing something you enjoy instead of looking for that paper you signed once and put somewhere so you wouldn’t lose it and then of course lost it? Putting everything in one place -- in the cloud -- will save you a ton of grief.
Ready to make your office paperless, too? Check out this piece and infographic!
*Note: The United States’ IRS and possibly other countries’ tax authorities do require original paper documents to support computerized records, so while most of your life can be paperfree, you’ll still have to print out your taxes. Also, be careful to save original copies of warranties, birth certificates and the like, but be sure to scan and save them too!
H&R Block has a great infographic to help you organize your tax and fiscal paperwork -- what to keep, what not to.