How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

crawling out from under the clutter 100 things at a time

8,600 things gone, only 1,400 things to go

I trod the slippery slope of decluttering someone else’s things last week and found myself in the unusual position of putting it all back today.

I blame my upbringing. As kids, my sister and I were taught two things: 1) work is sacred and 2) you don’t touch other people’s stuff. So when Squirrel took offence to my decluttering his file cabinet last week, I tried to shrug it off, but my conscience kept chattering at me.

It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…

Funny this little voice had nothing to say when I raided his basket collections, toiletries or T-shirts. But this was a filing cabinet – full of files! No foodstuffs or footwear to be found. And they were files that represented a lot of time and work to Squirrel.

(Did I mention that Squirrel’s profession is selling high density storage systems? I’m only just seeing the irony in this.)

I asked myself one question: “How would I feel if someone decluttered my writing?” And that’s when I found myself in Squirrel’s office recluttering.

As I put the files back, I could see they were probably not files that would be referenced frequently. And by that I mean, I doubt Squirrel will look at any of them ever again. He’s spent the last week marvelling at the miracle of the iCloud and sighing heavily when he has to explain it to me for the second and third time. If you could store files on the moon, he’d be the first to get that dialled in.

So, it’s obviously not getting rid of the paper that bothers Squirrel but perhaps the time it represents. I get it. I throw fits every time I lose an email I spent more than 5 minutes on. However, I took the liberty of sourcing some advice for us. About half of the files he saves are printed quotes, easily retrievable from the desktop, the iCloud, the moon. To his credit, Squirrel follows all these “paperless” rules except one:

Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.

I doubt Squirrel would find it necessary to name a quote, which leaves the other half of the paper he saves – completed jobs. These files contain, drawings, dimensions, bills, parts lists, even some chicken-scratched details only he can understand – definitely worthy of a file name. By following the naming rule, Squirrel could cut down his paper storage by half and I could easily declutter the nameless files without any guilt. Sure hope he’s as excited about this as I am!

And just in case you think I’m going soft – some things around here are still totally unacceptable:

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

What I tossed today: 80+ computer and TV cords and cables, skis & boots, snowboard boots, potty, curling iron, bike seat (all listed (some already sold) on craigslist.)

REPOSTED from http://www.lifehack.org entitled “How to Go Paperless: Bury the Paper Before it Buries You (November 8, 2007)

The paperless office concept has been around since the 1960s or ‘70s, much like the flying car. For many people, this has been little more than a myth. How can we get rid of the paper while our offices are filled with photocopiers and fax machines and the postal carriers and couriers keep bringing in reams of the stuff daily? What about the need to keep receipts for accounting and tax purposes? And what about the contracts and other legal documents? It is hard, but getting easier to do every day.

Well, the short answer is that in a normal office environment today, we can’t really do it 100%, certainly not in one simple step without burning down the building. But there are some simple steps that we can take toward the goal of not having to constantly manage piles of paper at home or the office. A few decisive steps applied over enough time can dramatically reduce if not eliminate the paper.
The nature of your office and work has a great deal to do with which type of paper you can reduce or eliminate the most easily.
Before going through the specific steps, we need to consider there being two kinds of paper documents: those we need to retain for the longer term (let’s call them records) and those that are transient in nature (call them working files). Different approaches work for these two basic kinds of papers or documents. The nature of your office and work has a great deal to do with which type of paper you can reduce or eliminate the most easily. A legal, accounting or medical office will likely have a harder time making its records paperless than an ad agency or political campaign office would. Decide which of the paper reduction steps you take and in what order you take them based on what you do and the importance of the various records and working files.

Ten steps toward converting your office to a paperless one:
1. Begin with the end in mind. Be clear on your objectives so that you can target your conversion most effectively. For example, if efficiency is a more important objective than environmental, don’t try cutting your paper volume in half by recycling paper through the copiers to print on the backside. Double-sided copying easily jams the machine and often confuses whoever gets handed stuff printed on both sides. We found increasing the efficiency of the records management system much more important than reducing the number of working papers. By targeting the records management, the working papers reductions naturally followed.
2. Decide on a date for a switch from paper-based to paperless for everything going forward. Chose a date far enough ahead that everyone can work toward. Not everything needs to be switched at one time. Don’t worry about converting old records until you have time to get around to doing something about converting them. Many of them can probably be kept without any changes and discarded once they get to a certain age.
3. Establish an electronic records retention system and get comfortable using it before becoming committed to it. We didn’t go out and get an expensive or complicated system installed then make a hard conversion. What we did early on was to create a filenaming system that automatically sorts itself chronologically in most file directories. Just like the filename for this article which begins 20071106_1600… This is simply the metric system of year, month, day and time to the nearest minute or hour based on a 24 hour clock. If we save a version of this file on one person’s laptop then email it to the office, it gets filed automatically by whomever receives it. Revisions are easily handled by simply superimposing a new date/time at the beginning of the filename. We started doing this long before the switch date.
4. Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.
5. Retain a paper file as the primary record for anything before the switch and the electronic record as the primary record for anything after the switch date. This is not a complicated thing. In our office, like most offices, there is often more than one copy of the important things around. We got into the habit of knowing where the record was then tossing out or deleting duplicates once done with them, especially for the paper duplicates. We get comfortable knowing that anything prior to January 1, 2005 worth having a record of has a paper version someplace and everything afterward can be found on a server.
6. Inform your clients and suppliers of your paperless orientation. Come out of the closet and let everyone know because most people find it great. This does not mean you should beat up a client who wants you to send hardcopy proofs or a signed original instead of an electronic version. We tend to give clients whatever they want. However, we do beat up our suppliers. Our lawyers were some of the toughest holdouts but they eventually learned how to send everything electronically and scan documents that had to have signatures on them.
7. Keep your technology and systems simple and compatible with what most people use. The great news is that PCs and MACs use file systems that no longer conflict with each other. There are still problems with using different types of graphics and multi-media formats but these are diminishing. If we stick to the basic formats, most people can deal with them. Be careful about using fringy formats, especially for records that need to be retained long term.
8. Check and upgrade your older files from time to time to make sure they remain usable. CDs or tapes are a problem. They deteriorate and some of the earlier formats are no longer supported. We keep our records in live formats. Maintaining a backup server is no harder or more expensive than keeping an inventory of off-line storage media. Paper records deteriorate too if printed on acid paper or stored in a bad environment.
9. Adopt an “If in doubt, throw it out” policy. We tend to be a bit quicker than most to toss out stuff we are not sure of. The odds are that since we only tend to ever look at maybe 1% of the records we store, there is a high probability the stuff we are deciding whether or not to keep is not worth keeping.
10. Recognize and reward those who help meet the objectives. Whether someone becomes able to electronically edit or deliver documents on the fly or is finally replacing an old Remington manual typewriter with a computer, take the effort to show how this produces positive impacts, whether on the bottom line or the environment.

These were some basic steps we used and recommend that can help you make the shift. We reduced our paper consumption about 95% over the past five years. If you have already made shifts toward a paperless office and have some other ideas, please let us know by posting a comment. Or let us know if you had any problems in trying to create a paperless office.

crawling out from under the clutter 100 things at a time

8,600 things gone, only 1,400 things to go

I trod the slippery slope of decluttering someone else’s things last week and found myself in the unusual position of putting it all back today.

I blame my upbringing. As kids, my sister and I were taught two things: 1) work is sacred and 2) you don’t touch other people’s stuff. So when Squirrel took offence to my decluttering his file cabinet last week, I tried to shrug it off, but my conscience kept chattering at me.

It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…

Funny this little voice had nothing to say when I raided his basket collections, toiletries or T-shirts. But this was a filing cabinet – full of files! No foodstuffs or footwear to be found. And they were files that represented a lot of time and work to Squirrel.

(Did I mention that Squirrel’s profession is selling high density storage systems? I’m only just seeing the irony in this.)

I asked myself one question: “How would I feel if someone decluttered my writing?” And that’s when I found myself in Squirrel’s office recluttering.

As I put the files back, I could see they were probably not files that would be referenced frequently. And by that I mean, I doubt Squirrel will look at any of them ever again. He’s spent the last week marvelling at the miracle of the iCloud and sighing heavily when he has to explain it to me for the second and third time. If you could store files on the moon, he’d be the first to get that dialled in.

So, it’s obviously not getting rid of the paper that bothers Squirrel but perhaps the time it represents. I get it. I throw fits every time I lose an email I spent more than 5 minutes on. However, I took the liberty of sourcing some advice for us. About half of the files he saves are printed quotes, easily retrievable from the desktop, the iCloud, the moon. To his credit, Squirrel follows all these “paperless” rules except one:

Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.

I doubt Squirrel would find it necessary to name a quote, which leaves the other half of the paper he saves – completed jobs. These files contain, drawings, dimensions, bills, parts lists, even some chicken-scratched details only he can understand – definitely worthy of a file name. By following the naming rule, Squirrel could cut down his paper storage by half and I could easily declutter the nameless files without any guilt. Sure hope he’s as excited about this as I am!

And just in case you think I’m going soft – some things around here are still totally unacceptable:

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

What I tossed today: 80+ computer and TV cords and cables, skis & boots, snowboard boots, potty, curling iron, bike seat (all listed (some already sold) on craigslist.)

What is a Paperless Office?

A paperless office, also called a paper-free office, is a work environment which uses minimal physical paper and instead uses primarily digital documents. A paperless employee is a worker who has eliminated or greatly reduced the use of paper in the workplace. The process of converting paper files into electronic files is known as digitization.

The idea of an entirely paperless office has existed since personal computers became the basis of the modern workplace. Despite the prevalence of electronic documents and email, most organizations still rely on paper documents. There are many benefits to going paperless, from saving resources to boosting security. Yet from handouts at meetings and HR onboarding documents to receipts, many business processes still revolve around paper.

Benefits of Going Paperless

Saves Time

Time spent filing, organizing, and searching for paper documents is time that could be spent on more productive tasks. Digitized documents are stored in a central repository, which is basically a well-organized digital filing cabinet where all of your documents live.

Using a digital document management system, you’ll get to harness the same powerful search abilities that you’re used to using on Google. This means employees can find files at the click of a button, much more quickly than the laborious, manual process of searching for a specific file in a buried folder. Employees are able to use this extra time on revenue-generating projects.

Saves Space

Paper takes up a lot of space – as do filing cabinets and space to store those filing cabinets. Books and bookshelves are bulky, too. What’s worse, paper keeps piling up, oftentimes accumulating more quickly than it can be sorted and organized. This is particularly true of industries that have long mandatory retention periods for paperwork like the financial industry.

Digitizing files allows you to store all documents either on an on-premises server or in the cloud. Digital file folders in a repository require much less space than a physical records archive.

Saves Money

Going digital improves process efficiency, saving you money. Paperless offices can process a much larger volume of paperwork compared to traditional offices in the same amount of time.

Further, digitization reduces money spent on paper, printers, ink, postage, office space for files and employee time to manage paperwork. The savings on employee time become especially valuable in regards to regulatory audits and repetitive, high-volume tasks like expense reimbursements.

Eases Transfer of Information

Document management software offers a simple process for saving documents. The software easily compiles digital documents using scanners, mobile capture using a camera on a phone or tablet or importing any file type (.docx, .pdf, image files). Many commonly used applications, like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, integrate with document management systems and have native plugins which allow you to file your document into your content management system with just one click.

Promotes the Environment

Manufacturing paper products produce greenhouse gases, causing deforestation and global warming. Recycling can offset some of the environmental impact, but not by much. Most paper eventually ends up in a landfill. Further, ink and toners contain volatile compounds and non-renewable substances which are damaging to the environment. It is much more sustainable to simply reduce paper use altogether by switching to a paperless office.

Boosts Security

Physical documents are hard to track – reams of paper can get lost, misfiled or destroyed without anyone noticing. It can also be difficult to monitor the access, printing and copying of sensitive files. Document management software has advanced security capabilities that can tackle these challenges. System administrators can set-up granular access rights, which assign permissions at the document level (e.g. settings based on the type of document), user level (e.g. settings based on person’s job function), or system level (e.g. overarching security for all data in the system).

The security benefits of a paperless workplace go beyond access rights. Implementing document management software also allows organizations to leverage electronic signatures, redact confidential information, create audit trails and more.

Digitizing Paper-Based Processes

Technology has so seamlessly replaced paper processes that it’s difficult to remember how things used to be done. In nearly all cases, the evolution from paper-based items to their electronic counterparts is profoundly more efficient.

Paper Documents

Digital Documents

Mail & Faxes

Email

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Internet

Media Websites & eBooks

  • Immediate access to content
  • Message not constrained by space
  • Real-time updates and amendments and 24-hour news cycle
  • Compact e-reader holds multiple books and magazines

Printed Maps

  • No way to factor in traffic, road closures and other barriers
  • Gets worn out, cumbersome to use while driving
  • Becomes out-of-date

Waze, Google Maps & Navigation Devices

Contacts Synced

The Path to Digital Transformation

Deciding to make the move from paper to paperless is part of a larger process called digital transformation.

Laserfiche has identified five key steps to completely digitize your workplace:

  1. Digitize: convert all documents from paper to digital
  2. Organize: categorize documents in a central electronic filing cabinet
  3. Automate: digitize business processes using forms and workflow
  4. Streamline: take a high-level view of business processes to identify bottlenecks and opportunities for more efficiency
  5. Transform: use advanced analytics to turn data into insights on how to make your company even more efficient

Document management software is a crucial tool to this road to digital transformation. Beyond the immediate benefits of going paperless, digitizing is the first step to transforming your workplace and ultimately driving business forward.

crawling out from under the clutter 100 things at a time

8,600 things gone, only 1,400 things to go

I trod the slippery slope of decluttering someone else’s things last week and found myself in the unusual position of putting it all back today.

I blame my upbringing. As kids, my sister and I were taught two things: 1) work is sacred and 2) you don’t touch other people’s stuff. So when Squirrel took offence to my decluttering his file cabinet last week, I tried to shrug it off, but my conscience kept chattering at me.

It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…

Funny this little voice had nothing to say when I raided his basket collections, toiletries or T-shirts. But this was a filing cabinet – full of files! No foodstuffs or footwear to be found. And they were files that represented a lot of time and work to Squirrel.

(Did I mention that Squirrel’s profession is selling high density storage systems? I’m only just seeing the irony in this.)

I asked myself one question: “How would I feel if someone decluttered my writing?” And that’s when I found myself in Squirrel’s office recluttering.

As I put the files back, I could see they were probably not files that would be referenced frequently. And by that I mean, I doubt Squirrel will look at any of them ever again. He’s spent the last week marvelling at the miracle of the iCloud and sighing heavily when he has to explain it to me for the second and third time. If you could store files on the moon, he’d be the first to get that dialled in.

So, it’s obviously not getting rid of the paper that bothers Squirrel but perhaps the time it represents. I get it. I throw fits every time I lose an email I spent more than 5 minutes on. However, I took the liberty of sourcing some advice for us. About half of the files he saves are printed quotes, easily retrievable from the desktop, the iCloud, the moon. To his credit, Squirrel follows all these “paperless” rules except one:

Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.

I doubt Squirrel would find it necessary to name a quote, which leaves the other half of the paper he saves – completed jobs. These files contain, drawings, dimensions, bills, parts lists, even some chicken-scratched details only he can understand – definitely worthy of a file name. By following the naming rule, Squirrel could cut down his paper storage by half and I could easily declutter the nameless files without any guilt. Sure hope he’s as excited about this as I am!

And just in case you think I’m going soft – some things around here are still totally unacceptable:

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

What I tossed today: 80+ computer and TV cords and cables, skis & boots, snowboard boots, potty, curling iron, bike seat (all listed (some already sold) on craigslist.)

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year according to Reduce.org. Multiply that by the number of employees you have, and you can see how going paperless could save your business money. Of course, doing business using much less paper is easier said than done. Anyone working in the office of a lawyer, accountant, or health care company can tell you: the paperless office is still for many elusive, buried under ever increasing stacks of paper. But with careful planning, the dream of the paperless office can be a reality. This step-by-step guide will present you with strategies for weaning your office off paper, one step at a time.

1. Assess how likely it is that you will be able to go paperless.

Going paperless can immediately affect your company’s bottom line. We all know that “time is money”, but it is still less expensive than real estate. An expanding business can fit more workers into space once occupied by filing cabinets and record rooms. Plus, electronic records are easier to search and retrieve, meaning that if you can digitize more of your paperwork, you can probably operate more efficiently.

That’s the promise anyway. In reality, an operation that hopes to go paperless will face some obvious challenges. Despite the advantages of an e-overhaul, a resistant staff won’t see the use of changing the way a business operates midstream. Stephanie Jones, marketing director for eBridge Solutions, a Tampa company that specializes in document management, breaks down the initial questions that need to be addressed before the transition to a paperless office can be effectively made.

“One of the biggest challenges is figuring out what to do with your existing paper,” she says. “Is it critical for you to have it stored digitally—do you face record retention requirements, for example? Or could you just start going paperless from a certain day forward? Getting your employees to buy into the process and help decide where and when to get rid of the paperwork is key to your success.”

Does your business have a core of younger, tech-savvy workers? If so, you may be well-positioned to go paperless.

2. Set a deadline.

Choose a firm date beyond which you will no longer use paper records, and stick to it. Expect resistance from some of your employees. It is hard to change old habits so you will need to be patient and offer training. A “Go Live” date set at 6 to 9 months from the beginning of the project will motivate the early-adopters among the staff and give a comprehensible structure to the transition.

3. Hire an outside firm and buy new equipment.

Marshall Maglothin, owner of Blue Oak Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia, is one business owner who has made the successful transition to the paperless office. He recommends you hire a document imaging system provider to help you go paperless. “All of your current employees already have full-time jobs; this project will thus decrease productivity, and could potentially increase stress—and possibly turnover,” he notes. Plus, employees who don’t know how to scan and store files are more likely to make mistakes and delay your progress toward going paperless. Finally, Maglothin says there is a Machiavellian reason to outsource the planning and execution of your paperless campaign. Having an outside firm “gives you someone to blame who then goes away,” he says.

To kick-start your prep research, check out this introduction to document imaging systems on BuyerZone.com. This site also provides overviews, comparison, and price quotes for the major consulting firms.

The first item you should consider purchasing is a document imaging system because someone needs to scan all your records, set up the databases, and train the staff. A wide range of info-tech services has emerged to meet the demands of the digital transition, and these companies are essential to a smooth and relatively painless transition.

4. Replace your invoices.

One of the major concerns for office managers and executives are the accounting and legal complications of a massive record overhaul. In order to fund such projects, the invoicing and payment record must be the first to be secured. Enter the electronic invoicing system: these services, such as Freshbooks, will convert your billing and invoicing systems into a secure electronic database. The ideal system should be fast, accurate, professionally designed, and most importantly, easy to use. A list of suggested references and other high-tech data systems for moving to a paperless office can be found at Mashable.com.

5. Store key documents.

Identify what type of paper record is essential for scanning, and call your document-imaging provider for the scanning. Maglothin’s experience with the transition provides a clear strategy for dealing with the back-log. “Do not scan in existing documents prior to go-live unless absolutely necessary – simply maintain your current paper aging process. At “go-live” then only scan as needed and discard. Within 9 to 12 months, most paper prior to “go-live” can be moved to long-term storage.”

6. Identify your “super-users.”

The scope of the transition to a paperless office can be daunting. A company-wide training project would be unwieldy, costly, and most likely ineffective. This is where the “super-user” comes in to play. Within each department, the project managers should identify the tech-fluent employees who will be able to adopt the new systems with ease, and help create a training cascade that will reach even the most resistant users. The “super-user” is the staff member who reads on an e-reader, corresponds from their iPhone, and prefers to deal with data on-screen rather then on paper. The “super-user” is, in many ways, your most important asset.

7. Pat yourself on the back.

By reducing paper and waste at the office, you’ve just done your part to save the environment. Going paperless should also help you boost your bottom line. Make sure you tout your efforts to reduce waste in your marketing and PR campaigns, and celebrate your successes with employees. Encourage them to share any ideas they have on how to be even more efficient.

The Paperless Office: Additional Resources

crawling out from under the clutter 100 things at a time

8,600 things gone, only 1,400 things to go

I trod the slippery slope of decluttering someone else’s things last week and found myself in the unusual position of putting it all back today.

I blame my upbringing. As kids, my sister and I were taught two things: 1) work is sacred and 2) you don’t touch other people’s stuff. So when Squirrel took offence to my decluttering his file cabinet last week, I tried to shrug it off, but my conscience kept chattering at me.

It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…

Funny this little voice had nothing to say when I raided his basket collections, toiletries or T-shirts. But this was a filing cabinet – full of files! No foodstuffs or footwear to be found. And they were files that represented a lot of time and work to Squirrel.

(Did I mention that Squirrel’s profession is selling high density storage systems? I’m only just seeing the irony in this.)

I asked myself one question: “How would I feel if someone decluttered my writing?” And that’s when I found myself in Squirrel’s office recluttering.

As I put the files back, I could see they were probably not files that would be referenced frequently. And by that I mean, I doubt Squirrel will look at any of them ever again. He’s spent the last week marvelling at the miracle of the iCloud and sighing heavily when he has to explain it to me for the second and third time. If you could store files on the moon, he’d be the first to get that dialled in.

So, it’s obviously not getting rid of the paper that bothers Squirrel but perhaps the time it represents. I get it. I throw fits every time I lose an email I spent more than 5 minutes on. However, I took the liberty of sourcing some advice for us. About half of the files he saves are printed quotes, easily retrievable from the desktop, the iCloud, the moon. To his credit, Squirrel follows all these “paperless” rules except one:

Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.

I doubt Squirrel would find it necessary to name a quote, which leaves the other half of the paper he saves – completed jobs. These files contain, drawings, dimensions, bills, parts lists, even some chicken-scratched details only he can understand – definitely worthy of a file name. By following the naming rule, Squirrel could cut down his paper storage by half and I could easily declutter the nameless files without any guilt. Sure hope he’s as excited about this as I am!

And just in case you think I’m going soft – some things around here are still totally unacceptable:

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

What I tossed today: 80+ computer and TV cords and cables, skis & boots, snowboard boots, potty, curling iron, bike seat (all listed (some already sold) on craigslist.)

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

Peace out, paper! Along with pagers and LaserDisc players, paper bills and statements are (practically) in the past. In a world where Facebook photo albums are more prevalent than Polaroids, companies are now mimicking the digital model. Paperless statements are predicted to reach 8.6 billion by 2017, according to an Infotrends study.

So what if you prefer an old-fashioned hardback book to an e-reader? Or a pen and paper over a Word doc and laptop? We get it — the change isn’t easy for paper people. Here are a few reasons to convince even the biggest loose-leaf lovers:

• Because your personal information will be safer.

Almost 85% of identity-theft cases are due to paper trails, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. This includes mailed transactions, stolen bills, statements, and lost checkbooks. Electronic accounts provide real-time updates, so you can discover account fraud faster.

• Because a digital database is easier to manage than a mess of papers.

Bury the paper before it buries you! And nix the shredder because everything you currently get on paper is available online. Access your ID card, eligibility, claims, and more. Plus, reading screens IS harder than reading paper, so you can still print what you need when you need it.

• Because the environment will love you for it.

Subscribers who sign up for online statements contribute to the conservation of 151 million pounds of paper. How’s that for an easy way to go green?!

• Because opening mail should be exciting.

Getting a claims summary from your insurance company is as exhilarating as receiving a pre-qualified credit card offer. Save snail mail for the good stuff — like hand-written cards, party invites, and celebrity gossip magazines.

Ready to take the paperless plunge? Use this guide to get started. Whether you use our mobile app or your computer, everything is accessible paper-free.

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Since 1954, Delta Dental has been working to improve oral health and hygiene by emphasizing preventative care, because we believe that everyone deserves to enjoy a healthy … Read More.

Are your kitchen counters drowning in junk mail and kids’ art? Learn how to stop paper clutter before it starts with three easy and inexpensive methods.

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

What could possibly elevate your anxiety more than a two-foot-tall pile of naked Barbie dolls in your living room, or the remains of a Lego project gone awry in front of your stove?

A pile of mail, homework, and kids’ artwork you need to declutter before it topples over and buries you alive.

If you’re like me, papers enter your kitchen and reproduce like bunnies, causing random scraps of children’s “art” to bury important stuff that requires attention. (Whoops! Totally missed that party invitation!)

The trouble is, decluttering is often overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin.

You may have tried a few fairly obvious ways to stop paper clutter from entering your home or causing chaos when it does, such as:

  • Switching to paperless billing whenever possible
  • Scanning important papers into Evernote to save and organize digital copies
  • Using an app to curate kids’ artwork (a total bust – it took way too much time)

A “paperless home” is a nice goal, but it’s a very lofty one for most people – especially those of us with kids.

You can reduce paper clutter by signing up for paperless billing and removing yourself from junk mail lists, but still end up with a pile of school papers on your kitchen counter every day.

Our lack of system didn’t work, so now we use a few simple methods to deal with papers before they become a problem. These three inexpensive systems have considerably reduced the paper clutter in our home.

How to Stop Paper Clutter and Stay Organized

This post contains affiliate links that connect you to relevant products. If you click and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. For more information, please see my disclosures.

1. Create “Cubbies” for Kids

If your children are in daycare or at school, they understand a cubby system (or locker system if they’re big kids!). It’s a place to put their books, papers, lunchbox, etc. when they arrive at school, and if it works well for teachers everywhere, it can work at home, too.

The goal is for kids to immediately empty and hang up their backpacks, and put any papers/artwork/treasures in their cubbies.

Attach simple wire magazine holders to the wall with clear Command hooks to create an inexpensive catch-all.

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

You may still find the magazine holder in Target stores, but this one is a great alternative.

2. Immediately Sort Papers in a Desktop File Box

It’s best to toss catalogs and junk mail into the recycling bin right away, but there are certain types of papers that you need to keep.

Mail or school papers that require immediate attention are indeed left on our kitchen counter, and I do my best to address them every evening. Other papers are filed into this desktop file box that I keep on our command center:

  • Deal With: Actionable papers that do not require immediate attention but require a decision.
  • Kids folders: Class lists and school information that are frequently referenced.
  • To File: Papers that do not require action but need should be kept and stored in your main filing cabinet.
  • Receipts: Receipts for major purchases and those that are needed for tax purposes. Throw away all other receipts.
  • Coupons: I’m terrible about using coupons, so my goal is to put them in this folder and check the folder before I leave to go shopping.

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

3. File Kids’ Artwork and Special Mementos by Grade

Do you have a hard time parting with sentimental clutter? Create a folder for each grade to sort and keep those little masterpieces.

A single folder for each grade forces you to only hang on to what fits in the folder.

Get ahead of the game and create folders for future grades.

How to go paperless bury the paper before it buries you

Just Say “No!” to Paper Clutter! (free resource sheet)

Stop junk mail before it enters your mailbox, digitally organize papers, and preserve the most important kids’ artwork!

Get a free printable resource sheet with smart ways to reduce paper clutter. You’ll also receive access to a whole library of free printables for subscribers. After you confirm your subscription, you’ll receive an email with a link to the password-protected printables library.