4 Ways To Handle Paper-Free Paperwork Like A Pro

crumpled paper waste paper basket

It’s easier than ever to reduce your paper clutter with these tips and techniques. Maybe you can even go paper-free!


I have an interesting relationship with paper.

On the one hand, I have several notebooks for several purposes: one where I write good quotes from books I read, another one that serves as my nightly journal, and a small Moleskine I keep in my purse for sudden bursts of inspiration or times of boredom away from home.

I also have a paper planner–no matter how many times I’ve tried computer-based task managers (Things and OmniFocus), I never seem to stick to them. For planning my week and day’s tasks, there’s nothing better for me than a good old paper agenda.

Reduction plan

But I use devices for plenty of things that used to require paper: paying bills, reading books and magazines, keeping records. I still do some of these things with good old wood pulp, but more and more you can receive bills by email, read e-versions of books and articles, and formulate a paper reduction plan, the better.

Despite the effort to reduce our use of paper and save some trees for the animals that live in them (and for, you know, breathing), there’s still plenty of paperwork that accumulates on our desks and kitchen tables and counters everywhere. How to manage that multi-headed monster? Here are some ideas.

1. Have a dedicated paper space

Instead of leaving your paperwork all around the house, choose ONE place where you put it and where you deal with it. I can be the kitchen table or your office. It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s all in one place.

To help further, you can buy paper trays to classify your mail and papers by priority. There are plenty of pretty, design-conscious paper trays.

If your paper organization method is attractive, maybe you’ll do it more often!

paper filing

2. Set priorities

When sorting the mail, start with your priorities. You can throw away any junk mail and advertising in the recycling bin right away, relieving you of half your paperwork already.

Personal mail can usually wait, while bills and other important matters need prompt action.

One good trick is to deal with paperwork once, when it’s in your hand. Open a bill the day you plan on paying it. Fill out a form the day you plan on sending it away. The worst thing for paper clutter is to open things and then leave them lying around. How many people have forgotten to pay important bills that way?

3. Go digital

Although it’s important to keep the original, paper version of many pieces of paper (birth certificates, important contracts, etc.), plenty of the paperwork we keep around “just in case” can probably just be digitized.

And you don’t even need a scanner anymore: you can take photos of documents and keep them in a note-taking app like Evernote. (I love Evernote.) But most printers now include scanners, so you can do that too. Whatever you’re comfortable with.

Those apps and programs are great because they’re secure, easy to use, multi-platform (computer, tablet and phone) and work in the cloud. You can access them anywhere with any device that has an internet connection.

Basically, you can carry all your paperwork with you wherever you may need it, which is a lot better than cases and cases of random, un-filed papers lying in your garage.

4. Request paper-free options

Most companies and service providers now offer paper-free report and billing options. I get my bank statements, cell phone bills, etc., all by email now. It’s a lot more practical for me, and much better for the environment.

If your provider doesn’t offer a paper-free option, ask for it. Maybe you’re not the only one, and maybe you’re the one request that will make the difference between “not enough interest” and “sure, let’s do it”.

Paper-free is awesome

I purge my paperwork about once every 3 months. So much stuff accumulates so quickly! But I’m trying to be better this year by filing or digitizing away paperwork as soon as it’s dealt with.

How about you? How do you manage the ever-renewing beast of paperwork? Let us know in the comments!

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