Project: Reduce Paper Piles

I’ll admit it. I’m a prolific piler of papers. I might also be a hoarder when it comes to saving things “just in case” because for a single woman with zero offspring I still have way too much paper. I remind myself that I have 2 vehicles, a house and a business, but whatever.

Since my ultimate goal right now is to get as close to paperless as humanly possible I am launching a new personal challenge to reduce the paper in my life. Permanently.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Attempt to reduce items of paper by 500 a month until manageable

2. Refine my current paper intake system to reduce piles

3. Start where I am right now, without waiting for ALL the paper to be gathered or the perfect system in place

4. Each piece of paper counts as 1, whether it’s an instruction manual or a ticket stub

5. Paper will be recycled and, if needed, shredded

6. Papers that must be kept will be scanned and saved, then backed up on the external hard drive

7. Journals count but first priority are the piles and files

8. Deal with each paper in front of you right now, don’t delay it for later

For now the office is going to be ground zero for organizing – too often I move everything to the living room for more space and then end up moving it back in slightly smaller stacks.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll keep count yet but I want to just get started. In addition to statements, notifications in the mail, receipts, business paperwork and notes, I am also going to look at operation manuals, cards, magazines, coupons, old stories and journals.

As often as possible I’ll do a Friday update with a running total on this post. Let’s see if I can hit 500 papers in 2 weeks!

June 5, 2015: 140 papers eliminated

Going Paperless

While it may not be feasible to be 100% paperless, lately I’ve been focused on downsizing how much paper is stored in my garage and office. At last count there were 11 banker’s boxes of paper in the garage and a large tub to sort through in my office.

papers to scan 2When the water heater went out in March the resulting flood ruined some of the extra banker’s boxes that I was waiting to use and those got tossed.  After clearing out some stuff in the garage, I pulled the first of the boxes out to sort in the living room.

papers to scan 1Here’s what I found in the first box and how I dealt with it:

1. School transcripts, report cards and test scores were scanned and saved. I’m hoping to find some waterproof and safe boxes for sentimental papers, maybe scrapbook paper types. Most of these have my SSN on them so I will password protect these scanned docs as well.

2. Old utility bills and any statement older than 2010 gets shredded. I filled up the shred box and do enough to fill up the reservoir before the shredder overheats.

3. Medical reports concerning the car accident in 2008 are scanned then shredded. I also scanned my prescription records since I’ve had to re-report those when signing up for health insurance before.

4. Medical records from my surgery in 2006 will be scanned and then shredded – all of these docs have my name, social and address as well as the details of my surgeries and complications.

When reviewing lots of resources online I came up with 3 groups of papers and everything goes into these categories:

Group 1 What files do I have to keep?

  • tax records for 7 years
  • education records, transcripts and diplomas
  • title and current insurance policy for my car
  • house loan payments, tax records and insurance information
  • tax deductible receipts for the current year
  • my birth certificate, social security card and passport
  • annual investment statements including 401(k) and IRA

Group 2 What other files should I keep?

  • receipts for appliances and items under warranty
  • immunization and registration paperwork for my dogs

Group 3 Files I keep digital copies of:

  • current bank statements
  • current utility statements and bills
  • owner’s manuals (will scan eventually)

The best online resource I came across was this one from the US Govt.

But most of my papers were not filed into boxes, they’re in folders and baskets and stacks all over the place. As I am working in the office and coming across stacks I am attempting to deal with them as I go.

Anything “clean” like new notebooks or printer paper goes into the office closet for storage. Right now this includes lined and graph paper, labels and dividers, printer paper in all colors, business cards, post-its and cards.

Old content from courses or coaching programs is being recycled. Some things get scanned as samples, while the workbooks that I want to keep are being hole-punched for a binder. The larger binders or spiral bound content is getting tossed because let’s be honest, I’m never going to read a 200 page bound workbook. Ever.

Business cards are all going into a box and when my brain is tired at the end of the day I’ll pull out a dozen or so and make sure they’re in my database. No rush.

I also found a bunch of my “architectural” drawings and I use that term loosely because they’re mostly sketches on graph paper I made 15-20 years ago. Some were nice enough to scan (memories yo) and the rest were recycled. No, I didn’t shred them. If someone want a drawing from an 8 yo that includes a Killer Whale fish tank in a house, go for it. Btw, 8 yo Kelly, worst idea ever!

Lastly, most of my papers were notes, sketches and lists and that content typically goes right into my business project management list or my personal wiki for stuff I need to do.

A lot of this is spilling over into cleaning up my digital files too – bookmarks, personal files, even blogs. I figured I would start posting on this now because it always seems disingenuous to me when someone posts a “we’re done” project without really going into the process along the way. So there’s that.