How to Live the Paperless Life

The paper clutter struggle is real. We deal with paper on a daily basis and many of us have been saving paper for decades. How do we get rid of the paper we have, and stop the constant barrage of paper coming into our lives?

Please keep in mind, this isn’t a little guide to the paperfree life. You will still need and/or want some paper, but once you begin to live the paperless life, paper won’t be clutter anymore.

How to Live the Paperless Life

Phase One: Get the paper out

Get rid of paper from the past. There are many ways to tackle paper clutter that’s been building up, but I suggest choosing one of the following:

Turn on your favorite music or feel good movie and move all of your paper into one room. Bring in the filing cabinets, the boxes of papers you’ve been saving just in case, the piles on your desk, from your nightstand, and the kitchen table. All of it. You might need snacks too because this may take a while.

First, set aside anything you need to keep legally, like tax forms or important documents.

Next, admit that you’ve been holding on to the rest because you wanted to. I’m not judging. I’ve been there. The question as you go through each piece of paper is, “do you still want to?” If the answer is no, put it in the “shred or recycle pile.” If the answer is yes, put it in the “keep” pile.

Remove the “shred or recycle pile” from sight and revisit your keep pile. Go through each piece in this pile again and ask “Do I want this and why?” If your why doesn’t make much sense to you, let it go.

With your final pile of paper you are keeping, scan what you can and put the rest away.

This approach takes more time, but is just as effective. Move all of your paper to one place and then commit to 15 minutes a day to work through the steps above.

Phase Two: Keep the paper out

Shoot your receipts. 
Snap and store your receipts and business cards with Shoeboxed. When I get a new receipt, I use the Shoeboxed app. I snap a pic of the receipt, save it to Shoeboxed, and toss the receipt. Shoeboxed syncs with my accounting program and saves the data for tax season.

Don’t bring it in the house.
When you get your mail, sort it outside by your recycling bin. Don’t bring anything in that you don’t need.

Stop printing things.
When I got rid of my house, office, desk and printer, I mostly just stopped printing things. Most of the things we print are unnecessary. Try a 30 day printing ban and see what happens.

Use Instagram.
If you are frustrated because you take so many pictures with your phone and never do anything with them, instead of printing them, share them on Instagram. It’s my favorite place to share images. If you share pictures of things that inspire your simple life, use the hashtags #bemorewithless and #simplicitystories. I often share these photos on my own Instagram stream and the hashtags help me find yours. You can see what I share here.

Say no more.
Use Catalog Choice and read How to Stop Junk Mail. Be selective when sharing your mailing address. I haven’t found a full proof way to stop the junk mail, but it does not see the inside of my home.

Go digital with banking and bills.
Sign up for e-statements with your banks and check with your utility companies about receiving bills via email.

Finally deal with those photographs.
Sort. Toss the duplicates, bad images, and pictures of things you don’t want,need or remember. Scan or display the rest. They aren’t doing any good stuffed in a box under the bed.

Trade your post-it notes for Evernote.
While I still make lists on paper, Evernote is a solid platform I use to write notes, save files, and sync everything up between my phone and computer.

Find one home to store your files.
Once you are living the paperless life, you probably won’t need filing cabinets anymore, but you do need a safe place to store your files. If you have items stored in different cloud applications and don’t really know where things are, consider one safe place. I save everything in Dropbox. It’s easy to use, I can use it on any device and share files without email.

Extract your best ideas and let them go. I burned two years of journals on January 1st and felt relieved when I sent my thoughts into the universe.

Celebrate your children.
Instead of saving every report card, and work of art they bring home from school, select a few pieces and display them on a “wall of fame” that rotates monthly, or create a meaningful collage. A digital photo book is a nice way to preserve those memories too.

Make room for love.
Parting with those old yearbooks, birthday cards, and love letters can be challenging. Save the thoughts, words and memories that are meaningful to you, and then let go of the past to make room for love in the present and future.

All paper isn’t clutter, but most of it is. When you do your big paper sort, the question you’ll likely be asking is, “why did I save this for so long?”

Welcome to the paperless life.