Going Paperless with a Scanner

Ah, to be paper free! Think about it for a minute: how much of the stuff in your home—and your storage unit, if you have one—is paper? Stacks of paper, bins of paper, color-coded file folders filled with paper.

I have a theory about why we all have so much paper: it’s easier to add one thing to a stack than to sort through it. So our “to save” and “to do” and “to file” paperwork often are merged together into stacks. Then, if you’re like me, you might go out and buy a really nice box or folder for the stack. And then another, and the stacking goes on.

It’s time to break the cycle. One way to dramatically cut down your paper clutter is by scanning your documents. The great news is that scanners have come a long way. Even a few years ago, scanners were unwieldy and the process of scanning was tedious. Now all of that has changed, just in time for you to clear the paper clutter once and for all.

Here are a few tips on scanning your way to less clutter:

Choose the best scanner for your needs.

The new breed of scanners is compact and quick. Not sure where to begin your search? There are lots of review sites that have done your homework for you. For example, BestReviews.com provides in-depth reviews on usability, features, security and cost of a range of scanners.

Since a scanner isn’t something you’ll use every day (no one is that organized!), you might want to consider sharing the cost with family or friends, and taking turns using the scanner.

Take it out of the box.

Procrastinators, you are not alone. The hardest part of setting up any new system is the first step. Get the scanner out and give it a try. Do not set aside a day to scan everything in sight. Instead, set yourself up for success by scanning a few things and working with the scanned documents.

Choose what you want to scan.

One approach is to scan everything and ask questions later. If you are already very organized, this might work. For most people, though, it saves a lot of time and effort to clear away as much paper clutter as possible before you begin scanning. Why scan something you won’t need later?

Start with the stack of papers that you have to step over, reach past or walk around every day. Get your recycling bin and shredder ready. Chances are, more than half of what’s in your most troubling stack of paperwork doesn’t even need to be scanned. Magazines, catalogs and even product manuals—these can easily be found online—go directly into the recycling bin.

If you have lots of mail, start with the junk and throw it right into the recycling. If it’s not addressed to you, personally, you probably don’t need it. Then there are bills—open these, save only one copy of each (reminders can be shredded), and recycle the envelopes. You need to deal with these, but you don’t need to scan them. You’ll have a receipt via your payment method. And if you haven’t gone paperless with your bank accounts, today is a good day to start!

What you will have left, from that once impossible stack, will likely include personal letters, information that pertains directly to you or your family (for example, paperwork related to health care) and junior’s artwork. Now those are scan-worthy.

Remember, as you face a mountain of clutter or just a file folder of papers, that you will never have to move those papers again. Just sort, scan and enjoy living with less paper clutter.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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