We’re kicking off today by talking about how to save space by going paperless. This post isn’t the end-all-be-all of going paperless (we’d need to write a whole lot more than one blog if it we wanted to create that) but if you haven’t considered going paperless before, this is a good jumping off post for you. If you want the real deal and all our tips & tricks for going paperless, check out our Kinda Paperless service, debuting this Fall at our Pop-up Shop in Downtown LA.
But before we start off talking about how to go paperless, here are few quick facts that help explain why we’re so gosh darn passionate about the subject:
- If all U.S. households received and paid their bills online, it would eliminate more than 800,000 tons of waste each year. (source: eBill Place)
- According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American burns 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but cannot find. (source: No Wire Hangers)
- One ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees. (source: The National Arbor Day Foundation)
So yes, my friends, in addition to saving space in your life, you’ll also save time and be good to our Mama Earth. What’s not to like here? Let’s dive in.
Stop the bleeding
The bleeding is your junk mail. Some organizers might just recommend to implement the rule, ‘never let the paper touch a surface.’ It’s a good rule, but it doesn’t solve the issue of waste or save you any time long term.
Thankfully, we live in the future and there are ways to solve this problem digitally in the form of apps. My favorite that I personally use is PaperKarma. PaperKarma is a free app for iPhone or Android and it’s pretty straight forward. Simply add in your name and address,and then as you get mail that you don’t want, take a photo of it with the app. Most of the time PaperKarma can recognize the sender from the photograph and they submit an unsubscribe request for you. 99% of the time it works like a charm. Pretty much the only thing it hasn’t worked for (yet) is Red Plum but I can’t tell you how much better my daily ritual of going to the mailbox has become since using it.
We’re huge fans of this at Bneato Bar, and some companies are now even charging those who don’t go paperless with their bills. Pick a time to list out where all your bills come from (cable, cell phone, car payments, electric, insurance, mortgage, etc.) and spend a few hours creating online accounts with the services and moving them all to paperless. My husband and I even have moved everything to Auto Pay and we just have a set time a month to go through everything to make sure it’s been paid and to ensure nothing too crazy is happening with billing or that there are no errors. It usually only takes about fifteen minutes and we never have to wonder or worry if something was paid on time. Fellow Bneato Pro, Melody, has a system with her calendar where she adds a reminder for every day that she has set a bill to Auto Pay and the amount to expect withdrawn from her checking, so she can keep an extra close eye on her budget. I love that idea.
Active vs. Inactive Files
Once you’ve purged the junk from your life, the first thing you want to set up is an Active File. Active simply mean that you need to take some sort of action from the piece of paper. It might be a bill to pay or an appointment reminder that you need to set up. If it’s not something you need to save for the future, I generally recommend putting the task immediately in your task list and setting a time that it needs to be done. Once you’ve done that, you can go ahead and recycle the paper.
If you do need to save the document, put it within an active file until you’ve handled it. Make sure it’s in a designated spot that’s out in the open so you won’t forget it. Hiding it within a drawer makes it highly unlikely that you’ll address it in a timely fashion. If you’re someone who cares about looks when it comes to your house (I know I do) you can find a lovely little DIY project that our founder Beth Zeigler worked on with HGTV designer Emily Henderson here.
Like with like
A common mistake while organizing is actually getting too specific. One of the Bneato Bar house rules is that ‘it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better.’ In this case it means, once you have your financial documents together in a designated group, you don’t have to go crazy and start sorting them by bank or even make sure they’re in perfect order by date. Having a system that specific can be a big challenge to keep up and if you live with a significant other, it could be hard for them to know and help you maintain your system. After going through your paper, you’ll see what your major categories are (banking, medical, memorabilia, assets, etc.) and the general time by year and be able to still easily find paperwork once they’ve been categorized.
Once you’ve organized your files, we recommend scanning them and having them permanently live in the digital world as PDFs. That way, your paper takes up no space in your life at all! If you’ve got a lot of paperwork to scan, there are centers you can take it to that will scan it for you. In the LA area, you can check out Paperless solutions or Copy Hub.
After your paperwork is scanned, there are a plethora of services to help you store it. Most people tend to like what they know and that means storing via Cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox. Simply create folders that mirror what you have in the physical world and save into the appropriate folder. The other amazing thing with this is finding a document becomes almost instant, as you can search the content of a PDF by using a few keywords.
There are other services specifically designed to store paperwork like FileThis, which even help with pulling and filing your documents without even scanning them. And of course, if storing sensitive information online makes you uncomfortable, consider storing directly onto your computer and backing the files up on an external hard drive. That way, your files are all stored locally and you have a backup in case something happens to your computer.
Shred & recycle
Once you’ve got your files safely stored digitally, go ahead and have a shredding party. Just make sure you actually shred your documents to protect sensitive information rather than throwing documents out as they are. If you have a ton of paperwork to dispose of, consider taking it all to a place that will safely shred for you. Goodwill Shredding will save tons of time if you’ve got a lot and there might be a local Staples or Grocery Store that has an Iron Mountain box where you can dispose of your documents safely there. Any option like that should recycle your documents appropriately, but if you’re doing it on your own, just make sure it all ends up in a blue or green bin and not the trash.
Like I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but following these steps should absolutely make your life with paper So Much Better. And as I mentioned before, if you want us to totally spill the beans and help you one-on-one check out our Kinda Paperless service, debuting this Fall at our Pop-up Shop in Downtown LA.
About this blog: Space. Finding more of it isn’t always easy. That’s why each Wednesday at Bneato Bar, we try our darndest to give you more space all while helping you K.I.T. (aka keep it together).