When I was a child, one of the worst places you could take me to was [gulp] THE BANK. I remember being dragged by either parent into this huge, cold place and being forced to wait on a line for 20, 30, 40 minutes or more for one seemingly fruitless task; getting their savings account passbook updated. In hindsight, I learned alot about money and banking but at the time, I considered a trip to the bank to be cruel and unusual punishment.
While banking convenience has improved exponentially, some of us are still clinging onto paper statements, receipts, checks, and documents the way our parents clung to those passbooks. Add to that pile important household/business papers and we quickly end up with drawers and boxes full of “important stuff” we’ll never look at again.
To help organize yourself and reduce your dependency on paper, consider setting up a dedicated folder on a cloud-based drive such as Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive (I’ll get to the reasons why I recommend cloud storage in a minute). First start by creating a “Personal Documents” folder. Within that folder create a sub-folder for each of your needs. For example, create sub-folders such as House, Car, Medical, Income Taxes, Bills, Insurance, Receipts, etc. You can also create sub-folders within each sub-folder to really keep things organized.
Why cloud storage? Safety: Computers can fail and most of us neglect to have a consistent disk backup plan in place. Security: The companies that host these cloud drives are better at securing and encrypting our files than we are. Reliability: In the event of an emergency or disaster you can rest assured knowing your personal documents will be safe. Convenience: With your files in the cloud, you can get to them wherever and whenever you need them whether at home, on the street or travelling the world.
The traditional way of going paperless involved a bulky scanner. Scanners are great but most of us fail to realize that we are carrying fantastic scanners in our pockets. Smartphone scanning has become extremely reliable and can often produce equal if not superior scans to a desktop scanner thanks to the high-resolution cameras built into our phones. They’ve become so trusted that you can now snap a picture of a check using your smartphone and deposit it into your bank account using your bank’s mobile app. It sounds scary but it’s quite simple and once you do it a few times, you will never want to visit a branch again.
There are lots of great scanning apps in your app store such as Scanner Pro and TurboScan. The convenience will save you tons of time, energy, much needed space and even a few trees. Most apps will let you save your scans as PDF documents or .jpg images and some will even convert the contents to a document you can edit. Get into the habit of scanning those important documents and saving them to the correct folder on your cloud drive. Once you are confident your document is safe and sound, you can then shred it and recycle it to save a few trees. But have no fear, you can always print one of your scanned documents if you need a hardcopy.
Speaking of saving trees, as you receive bills and statements in the mail, you can log into the sender’s website and request the “paperless” option. Typically, you will be notified by email once a bill is available. You can then log into their website to view your bill and if you really need it, you can download a copy into your cloud folders for safe keeping.
Having a logical set of folders is key to this whole process working efficiently and will give you the ability to find what you’re looking for in seconds.