Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strategies for Less Paper

Some Links to Paperless Home Ideas:

What I've Gleaned

When they say "paperless" they don't mean altogether paperless, but rather, "less paper" -- we're not counting things like birth certificates, estate papers etc -- the type of things that go into your safe or bank box.

Set up a good organization system on your computer ahead of time. One tip is to place different types of things in different folders. Another is to put the date FIRST so things are naturally organized chronologically. Names should be informative.

Invest in an off-site cyber-depository for your documents
if you have lots of important stuff, so you don't lose it all if your computer dies unexpectedly. Same for your photos. There are free repositories online like Google Documents, Photobucket and Picasa. If you have very sensitive stuff you probably want to pay for a totally secure cyber-deposit. If you are getting rid of private stuff, get a shredder.

Start (and continue) with good habits for incoming stuff. If you have lots of papers it will take time to go through all the old ones, so in the meantime, you can be addressing the new stuff coming in.

My Paper Clutter

After going through several stacks I see that my incoming breaks into the following categories:

  1. Personal mail (snail mail and email)
  2. Things that the kids make, draw or write.
  3. Photos and other memorabilia like ticket stubs to notable events, sports awards, academic certificates etc.
  4. Record-keeping things like calendars, planners etc.
  5. Articles, recipes, and such things that I print out from online.
  6. School-y resources not yet consumed, like art prints, flashcards, worksheets, maps etc.
  7. Therapy and medical records and statements.... also other kinds of records like report cards.
  8. Temporary file things like appointment notices, bills, local events etc.
  9. Miscellaneous. At present I can't think of anything that doesn't fit in the categories above (my husband does the tax stuff and the estate stuff so I don't keep track of that). But I'll have this category for weird things that don't fall into the other categories.
It's not really as bad as I was thinking earlier in my despair at the huge poison-breathing dragon.

I've made some progress in the past few years towards less paper to shuffle:

  • Blogging has helped immensely because a lot of the record-keeping forms, journals and photo sequences that used to be on paper are now on the computer. Sort of like an online scrapbook.
  • I print out many fewer articles and emails. Instead I store them on the computer. If I want to bring them somewhere I print them out and toss them when I'm done. But I try to do that sparingly. We go through about a 5th of the computer paper that we once did.
  • I keep photos on the computer. Rarely do I print them.
  • The kids do more of their schoolwork on the computer. Plus, I take pictures of the notable things they do or make, so there's less need for memorabilia to get lost and mixed up around the house.
  • I have less workbooks and paper materials because we can usually find worksheets and games on the internet.
  • My calendar and planners are on the computer.
So I have much less paper to deal with than I used to, and a lot of what I have around is backlog from earlier years. Once again, my main difficulty besides confusion is the emotional backlash, but I'm hoping that scanning in old stuff and developing good habits for new stuff will help with that.

With all this laid out I have a better idea how to treat my mail basket. The temp stuff (appointment notices, calls to make) can stay in there until its time has passed. The permanent stuff (medical records, letters etc) can get scanned and then put into a separate box which I can go through maybe twice a year (January and June are good times for me to go through papers).

I'm not really interested in a home that's paper-free -- just in getting rid of the piles that give me a headachy feeling because I know how difficult it will be to go through them. My other goal is to be more efficient -- know where to find things when I need them.

Right now I have about 6-7 boxes of old papers. This is a big improvement from only last year when I had about 15 boxes. If I work at it a bit at a time (like a box or two per month) I could be done by next winter.

Paddy-the-hero said he would slay some dragons for me.

1 comment:

  1. My biggest problem with paper is my own fault. I just never seem to sort and put away the mail that comes in. It is entirely self-sabotaging on my part.

    I think you are in safe in Paddy-the-hero's hands.


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