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Reduce Clutter with Digital Files

Updated on October 3, 2015

Step by Step to go Paperless

Your interest in having a Paperless Home Office brought you here. Hopefully you have or will at some point in the future, read my two previous hubs as well. They are pre-requisites for the best results. The first one gives you the basics and will put you in the right mindset to move forward. The second one explains the beginning process in a little more detail as well as giving you some of the reasons why I ask you to do things in a certain order. You will also get a glimpse of a few pieces of equipment that you will need as we go along.

If you have been with me from the start there are several steps that should be behind you by now. Papers from all over your house should be sorted into the appropriate plastic shoe box. You should have already organized the contents of at least three to four boxes that represent furture months.

Review Your Progress

  • Organize all papers according to their use and not by the name listed on them.
  • All backup such as receipts, checks (with their backup), ATM withdrawal and deposit slips should be attached to the corresponding bank statement. The same goes for any other statement such as investments regarding buy and sell orders.
  • Separate and (carefully) dispose of all statement pages that have no useful information on them.
  • Staple or clip each statement with all backup (receipts, statements, etc.) together.
  • Keep all sorted papers in their designated shoe box.
  • Remember - Do not dispose of anything until we go over what is important to keep.
  • Anything requiring an action to be taken such a bill, and payment, an appointment or a phone call - take care of all action items immediately.

Flatbed or Document or Both

Scanning is your next step. This is an exciting step because soon you will feel the joy of becoming paperless each time you process a piece of paper and dispose of it. However, there are decisions to be made about the right equipment and software.

I have owned and successfully used several different scanner models. My first one was a flatbed - only now it is part of an all-in-one printer. I do not believe that the price is as important as the speed. If you have a lot to scan the speed will be more important feature. Time is money and believe me - a slow scanner can discourage you before the job is complete.

A flatbed scanner is appropriate for any sort of paper. The glass top typically measures approximately 9 inches x 12 inches. Any paper or group of papers that fit within the edges of the glass will be readable in the final image. A document scanner typically scans full sheets of paper that can measure up to 8.5 inches x 12 inches and some will accommodate up to 8.5 inches x 14 inches. A document scanner is typically faster than a flatbed scanner but may not be as versatile.

Best Software makes PDF Files

PaperPort software will work with most scanners. Although software may come packaged with a scanner you do not have to use it. If the necessary drivers are bundled with their proprietary software you can typically download the drivers from the internet. I use this software and have been happy with it for years. As I said before - I use software that scans directly to PDF files.

Once your equipment and software has been chosen and installed on your computer - you are ready for the next step towards becoming paperless.

External File Backup

An external backup drive is a piece of equipment that you may use now but I find that many people never use one. Regardless of what files you keep on your computer - they need to be saved on a separate device. It is not if your computer will crash it is when your computer crashes - you will lose everything - photos, documents, music and videos - everything will be gone.

There are many external backup drives available. An SD Memory card may be the least expensive and can be purchased in many different storage sizes. A USB Drive is also inexpensive and can also be purchased in many different storage sizes. My favorite external backup drives are from Clickfree because they are so easy to use and some models even backup your computer's hard drive, all of the software and the data.

Naming Digital Files - Next Step

Once you have a scanner, scanner software and an external backup drive I will teach you the best way to name your digital files. Digital files need to be searchable and the names should make common sense. Don't worry - digital file names are changeable with just a few clicks - you will be able to do it - I promise.

Do you scan paper to reduce clutter?

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    • Debbie Cook profile image

      Debbie Cook 4 years ago from USA

      Backups are the key to using digital files instead if paper. I backup to the cloud, I use a backup drive for an overall backup and I use a flash drive to backup files such as my Quickbooks. It sounds very time consuming but it really isn't. The cloud backup happens automatically so if time is short you still have a good backup to rely on.

    • profile image

      Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

      Hi Debbie Cook, I also like scanning documents to reduce paper clutter. Digital files are easier to manage, though one runs the risk of losing all the data to viruses and computer malware and spyware. However, backing up the files using external memory and cloud computing can solve such issues.