Go Paperless In 6 Easy Steps And Still Feel Secure
I know someone who has file cabinets full of papers. Tax returns that exceeds ten years, receipts, paystubs, and so much more. When I tell my friend that she should put all those documents onto her computer and free up some space in her home, she looked at me as if I was a two-headed dragon.
I think most of us know someone like that. It’s scary for these individuals to get rid of paper they’re convinced they will need down the road, also believing they must have a hard copy or the original document. Unfortunately, that need never comes for these hoarders and they end up compounding paper on top of paper to prepare for what they conceive as a potential doom.
There is a reason hoarders hoard. For those seeing hard copies of their documents as the only option, it is unfortunate. To delve into their psyche would require another post. This post however is for those who believe in minimalism, even if it’s just a little. Minimalism doesn’t have to be the reason. Perhaps just a belief that more space can be created in their homes if there wasn’t a file cabinet and mountains of paper.
First, let me share a few statistics. Because one aim of Fullrliving is to share information with its readers about the environment and how they too can contribute to saving it.
Choose To Go Paperless And Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Most times we don’t realize how momentous a moment or a situation is until we see it for ourselves or see factual proof. It’s kind of similar to creating a budget and realizing you spend a lot more money on coffee than you realize. That’s the way it is with statistics and the environment, here is what I mean. Did you know that Just three years ago, the world consumes 421.88 million metric ton of paper? That’s ruffly seventy million trees that’s cut down each year to produce so much paper and paper products.
Here is another fact. Americans go through over 15 million toilet paper per year. Imagine that much toilet paper is a ribbon, do you think it could wrap around our world? Yeah! Try 40 times. Globally, we love paper. There are changes on the horizon though. An example is that most businesses these days are going digital in some aspect. However, they don’t choose digital for the environment; they choose it for the money they save, efficiency and the convenience. I suppose it’s okay that they based their decision on a bottom line. When it becomes as essential as the laws we must live by, I suppose that is when we’ll consume less paper and see our environment improve.
Businesses aside, we as individuals can do our part. We can take steps to reduce our carbon footprint, and one way we can do it is to use less paper. Now, I’m not saying you should conserve toilet paper. That’s almost funny to imagine. I am saying use less where you can, when you can.
Advantages Of Going Paperless
Before sharing the tools you need to go paperless, let me share the benefits. Other than the environment, which I mention extensively above, there are other benefits to consider.
Think of the time you spend searching for that receipt, or that copy of the income tax you filed five years ago. Searching for any document is time-consuming, especially if you have a mountain of papers to search through. You can find with a keystroke documents that are filed digitally.
I also mention that benefit above. I don’t need to elaborate on how much space paper, file cabinets and boxes take up. You also don’t have to believe in minimalism to want to see your living space free of clutter and organized.
There was a time when the credit card companies, the phone companies, and the electric companies, would never conceive of not sending you a paper bill. These days, they are offering incentives to their customers to choose digital billing, and payment. I can’t speak for all cell phone companies, but I can confidently say that AT&T offers a small discount for choosing to receive bills via e-mail and to paying electronically.
Another example is the car insurance companies. They don’t want you to send them a check. Sure, they will take your money in whatever form you send it, but their preference is to auto debit your checking account or credit card. My car insurance company (Geico) offers a sizable discount if you sign up for auto payment.
What if you are always printing confirmations, or receipts that were sent to you by e-mail? Can you imagine how much you would save on printer ink if you simply forward that receipt for digital storage? Sure, instant ink or whichever printer ink company you are using won’t be happy to lose you as a regular customer, but you would certainly be happy for the dollars you save.
Those are just three really specific examples. I am sure you could find ways you could save money beyond the above example.
The 6 Key Tools You Will Need To Go Paperless
1. A Computer
Even though there are still households that don’t have the privilege of owning a computer. Statistics say that from 2005 to 2019, 47.1% percent of household worldwide own one. Chance are, you are one of them, especially if you live in the U.S. where statistics also say 89% of Americans own one.
2. The Internet
In 2019, 4.1 billion people had access to the internet worldwide. In the U.S. 86.6 percent that same year. It’s pretty clear, a lot of us have access whether you are here in the United States or somewhere across the globe.
3. A Scanner
Not so long ago, you had to buy these devices if you plan to go paperless. It still more efficient using a standalone device, but smart phones have made it possible to not need one if you want to go digital. There are quite a few options to choose from but the one that comes to mind for me is Evernote Scannable, with your smart phone.
If you can afford to get a standalone device, then you should, especially if you have a lot to scan. If you can’t get one, you will find your smart phone and a scanning app works just as well. I have both. When I am home and in front of my computer, it’s convenient to just put the document through the scanner and file it. When I am on the road, and I buy something and a hard receipt is necessary, or if someone gives me a business card, my phone works beautifully to rid myself of the excess paper before I get home.
4. Document Capture Tool
I’m going to stick with Evernote as the tool you will need, but I should preface by saying you can use other document capture software or app. For me, Evernote does the job beautifully. I find it to be not only convenient, but powerful. Here is why I love it so much:
It’s ubiquitous – everything I scan to Evernote populates to all my devices. I could be in Texas, or Spain, If I need to see my bank statement from months ago, it’s right there.
I own a computer, a laptop, an iPad, and iPhone. When I leave home, at least one is always with me. I never have to give it a second thought if I’m on my way to my accountant and I have to show receipts from last month. It’s in the palm of my hand. It’s that simple.
You do need to choose your document capture tool wisely. And if you choose Evernote, and you decide to buy a standalone scanner, make sure the scanner you choose can scan to Evernote.
5. A Backup Process
Most people don’t think about this step, but it’s important to always make sure your documents are backed up. If you use Evernote, you are scanning to the cloud. However, you should still back up Evernote. You can backup to another cloud service such as iDrive. Never use just one option to secure your digital files.
If you decide to scan to your computer, as most people do, you especially need to back up your computer. You have a few options to consider. You can back up to the cloud. I love Dropbox, but there are many cloud storage options. Learn more about Dropbox here.
Another option is to purchase a portable hard drive and configure your computer to back up as often as possible, automatically. I should also say that even if you choose the portable hard drive option, still consider the cloud. Devices can fail. Your computer or a portable hard drive is no exception. If you decide you want to use a portable hard drive, I also recommend backing up to the cloud.
6. A Shredder
You converted all your documents to digital. Now what do you do with all those confidential papers you no longer need? You definitely shouldn’t throw them in a wastepaper basket or recycle bin. Your security will be at risk if you do. You need a good shredder. One that can shred paper, and plastic, and is capable of shredding at least five or more sheets at a time. This is very important, it should be a shredder that crosscut when it shreds.
Cross-shredding is the best way to make sure your private documents don’t get into the hands of anyone trying to use your private information maliciously. The shredder you choose will depend on factors that’s important to you. Read more about shredders and their capabilities on Lifewire, they currently have a post on the best shredders of 2021.
Your Personal Information Management Challenge
When the internet, smart phone, and email entered our lives not so long ago, we never thought we would have to deal with information overload and ineffective information management. Because of the advancement of technology, we can now choose how our information comes into our lives and how we manage it. The alternative is to choose to be like a hoarder and ask for paper documentation for everything.
To go paperless, or to go digital involves creating a system that gives immediate access to the information we need when we need it; regardless of where we are. If we choose to grow with the advancement of technology, we are embracing the opportunity to create a system that’s easily accessible and efficient. Don’t forget how this one process can contribute to our environment.
Going paperless doesn’t have to be hard, especially with the right tools. Start today to go paperless and lower your environmental footprint.