16 Tips for a Paperless Life

Piles of paper and files clutter up your desk and mind and can make the task of living a paperless life seem impossible. Implement one of the following tips to start going paperless before you add one more piece of paper to the stack.

If you are concerned that less paper means more screen time and digital connection, that hasn’t been my experience. We don’t actually use most of the paper we keep. Instead, it sits in filing cabinets, drawers and on countertops. We keep paper so we can act later, and just in case we need it. Then we don’t act and don’t need it.

16 Tips for a Paperless Life

1. Banking. Sign up for e-statements and do your banking online. Use local banks or credit unions that offer paper-free transactions.

2. Books and magazines. Read and recycle. When you are finished reading, bring them to your local library or pass along to a friend.

3. Mail. Open your mail outside. Only bring in what’s important. Most of it isn’t.

4. Printing. Turn your printer off and try a 30 day print-free challenge. It’s easier to live without than you think.

5. Catalogs. Use Catalog Choice and read How to Stop Junk Mail. Be selective when sharing your mailing address.

6. Journals. Extract your best ideas and let the rest go.

7. Personal identification and documents. Scan and store. You won’t get far with a scan of your passport, but having the scanned version will help if you lose the real one.

8. Children’s artwork, report cards and love notes. Check out these great ideas to celebrate your children’s creativity and honor their work without going overboard.

9. Lists, doodles, notes and post-its. Instead of posting your ideas and lists on the backs of envelopes and scattered sticky notes, use one notebook at a time for all of it, or try workflowy.com or another list app.

10. 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. (note to self)

11. Receipts. Use Shoeboxed to snap and store your receipts.

12. Financial and other important documents. Read How Long Should You Keep Records after Tax Day? and How Long should You Keep Your Documents?  If you still aren’t sure, consult with a local professional.

13. Medical records. Hospitals and doctor’s offices are going digital. You can too.

14. Office. The Top 5 Reasons to Take Your Office Paperless 

15. Bills. Check with utility companies and other people you pay on a monthly basis to see what the digital options are.

16. Sentimental. Parting with those old yearbooks 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 the future.

Remember that less is not nothing and paperless isn’t paper free. After you set aside what you are required to keep, decide what you really need and want to keep. Reduce the paper clutter in your life by putting these ideas into action. If you think it’s impossible, prove yourself wrong and experiment to decide what works best for your life and business.

Going paperless will take some extra scanning, shredding and storing. Living paperless will reduce stress and filing and free up time to take action on the new information and inspiration coming your way.


  1. says

    I don’t read a lot of magazines, but our library offers many digital versions of popular magazines through Zinio. If I feel like reading a magazine I just download it and read it on my tablet for free. My biggest challenge is photographs… I have boxes of the things, but sorting through and scanning them seems like an impossible task

    • says

      It’s not impossible, Sharon. Make it a weekend ritual (say, every Sunday afternoon) to work on it. Sort out just one box of photographs every Sunday, do that every weekend till you’re done. When finished you’ll probably have several stacks of photographs, sorted by year, topic or whatever.

      Scanning photographs isn’t intellectually challenging work, so continue your weekend ritual by spending just one hour working through a stack. Some days you’ll be glad when that hour is over, some days you’ll be ‘in the zone’ and you’ll realise you just spent three hours on it.

      And don’t forget to congratulate yourself every weekend for getting a bit closer to your goal. :-)

  2. Anne says

    Number 8 is undoubtedly my favorite due to the fact that my dear children have a difficult time letting go of their artwork. What a great idea to have them choose a few favorites each year to add to a yearbook of our family. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. says

    I hate paper bills delivered to my mail box, but I recently found out my satellite TV company had raised my fees without my knowledge through the paper bill they mailed me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed since my bill is paid automatically from my checking account.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Felix, most utility companies offer online statements so you can still review your bill and pay on your own time. I generally steer away from auto payments.

  4. says

    Our printserver keeps playing up so currently the only way to print is to go upstairs with the laptop and plug it in directly. Consquently as we are a lazy bunch we rarely bother and have we missed it? No.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Love that Gillie! (P.S. You aren’t lazy, you are just saving energy for the important stuff)

  5. Vada says

    What a timely post for me! I just threw out my yearbooks last weekend. At first I thought to save the pages that contained my photo, but then thought, why? While cleaning and sorting I also came across two very large storage bins containing my 25-year-old son’s elementary school artwork. I plan to go through them this weekend, photograph some (or maybe all), and then let them go. As for magazines, I am on a stop-spending kick for the year and am just a little ashamed to admit that I went to the magazine rack at Target a few times to look through Country Living (one of the few my library doesn’t get).

  6. Marla says

    Our printer died years ago and, as an experiment, we didn’t replace it to see if we missed it. Not at all! Occasionally, something does need to be printed; however, walking to the library (less than a mile) and paying per page does not create a habit.

    Thank you for some more ideas to expand upon this concept.

  7. says

    Courtney, i really appreciate your blog and no doubt this article is very stunning. This article maes me pause for a while and read and i really enjoy reading this article becasue it is very informative.

  8. Kate Bell says

    Courtney thanks again for an awesome list that is very clear. I am just beginning to really attempt to not only stop the inflow of paper but to deal with the stacks of it that are all over the house. My husband has willingly taken on the chore of shredding the backlog of items that must be taken care of that way…I find it way too boring and too noisy. Thanks for your continued support and helpful ideas.

  9. says

    I hate paying for printer cartridges, and so I haven’t used my printer in nearly two years. Like Marla, I just hop over to my library if I REALLY need to print something!