Becoming paperless

This is the second 'organisation challenge' I'm setting my friend to enhance his super powers, so for those who are following prepare for the next step in organising your life: becoming paperless.

Paperlessness (is that a word?) is a concept I was introduced to in my first year at university whilst studying business and management science. We looked at a company called 'Oticon' who manufactured hearing aids, but who aimed to keep their office a paperless environment. All memos were sent by email. All files were scanned then shredded, as was any mail that came into the office. As a beautiful testimony to their paperlessness they had a giant tube through the centre of the building where all the paper was blown around in a crystal dome style shredded glory.

I don't think you should do that. I do think you should scan and shred all documents that you are not legally required to keep (those ones can be boxed, numbered and inventoried on your computer), then store them not only on your computer, but somewhere sensible online*. Because once you have scanned your documents, here's the magic part - your PDF files become word searchable!

So now instead of trying to remember whether your car insurance is filed under 'car' or 'insurance' you can simply type in 'car' and your computer will search it our for you.

When your washing machine breaks down you simply type in 'hotpoint' (or whatever brand) and your warranty, receipt and service agreement all pop up.

When your tax credits renewal comes, you can even type in 'P.a.y.e' and set the search criteria for the dates you need, and you automatically have all the info and evidence required.

This will save you lots of time. It will also save you lots of space. Who wants a filing cabinet in their office when you could have a drinks cabinet? Joking. Sort of.

Most importantly, it's safe. if your house burnt down tomorrow, and you'd still have all those important documents stored online.

It also saves you time when applying for things. We did our mortgage application almost entirely by email. They asked for marriage certificate, passports and bank statement, and without leaving the email I was able to hit reply, attach the relevant files and press send. Easy Peasy.

This was the most time consuming bit of organising I did, and it requires a bit of discipline. Every time you receive a new document you have to scan and shred it, otherwise your paper clutter will build up again.

If it does build up again, as mine regularly does, just set aside one evening a month, put on a podcast and start scanning. It doesn't take much longer than filing and is totally worth it.

The Unclutterer has loads more information on going paperless - including what essentials you should not shred and which is the best type of scanner to buy.

Have fun getting paper free!

- Kj

*sensible places include (my favourite, but you have to pay), google docs (free but low tech) or Evernote (free within reason).


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