Going paperless

According to the New York Times article “Pushing Paper Out the Door,” a paperless future is coming quicker than a lot of us may think. From online bill paying to ticketless airline travel, paper is no longer needed for day-to-day activities.

“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”

Hmm, the last time I saw a telephone book, it was left on my front porch in a plastic bag by the good folks at Verizon. I never used it, and it quickly found its way to the recycling bin. The article goes on to highlight an Unclutterer fave, the Fujitsu ScanSnap, which was highlighted in Erin’s Paper Clutter Begone series.

…at home, where printers are slow, noisy and devour expensive ink cartridges, people are more cautious about hitting the “print” button. What little paper comes into the home — receipts, bills, invitations — can be scanned and then shredded. Filing cabinets can be emptied, the data kept, the paper gone.

The article also goes on to offer ways to get rid of those shoeboxes of photos that all of us have taking up space in back of our closets. Scanning services are an option, but you can tackle this at home with a garbage bag and a scanner.

For more on getting paper clutter under control take a look at Erin’s Paper Clutter Begone series:

  • Part 1 – Fujitsu ScanSnap
  • Part 2 – Filing system software
  • Part 3 – Filing systems for your file cabinet
  • Part 4 – Shredders

23 Comments for “Going paperless”

  1. posted by angorian on

    Getting rid of “originals” is a very dangerous game. What about warranties that require original receipts? What happens when that computer crashes and you lose all your data?? Unless people get much more serious about backups, this is a Very Bad Idea ™. And even that can be dangerous as CDs/DVDs degrade much faster than paper and computer technology becomes obsolete a lot faster.

  2. posted by Avlor on

    I actually love the idea. I do keep a few papers like receipts for big ticket items. But I’m doing what I can to go as paperless as possible. I’m a big believer in backups and backup everything important in at least 2 ways, one of which is off site. I don’t do the CD/DVD thing – I feel its too easy to loose data with small children that are hard on DVDs (hey it looks like a frisbee – let play!). I’m also a believer in encryption of important data in this day and age where identity theft is so common.

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @angorian — If you read the whole of the paper begone series, you’ll see that we don’t recommend getting rid of every piece of paper. Plus, in the second post of our fireproof safe series, we talk about off-site storage options for digital backup.

  4. posted by zephyr sloan on

    going paperless is something that we all will have to get accustomed to whether we like it or not. nowadays every transaction, important or not, is taking place over the internet these days. paper shredders have also eased the process of going paperless.

  5. posted by Rashid on

    Did anyone read the article on the electricity use for all this electronic data we are storing?


    Just goes to show there is another side of going paperless! I myself only use paper when necessary, such as printing off school reports. All my notes, etc are all done on my computer. I scan anything my profs give to me and recycle the paper. I have 3 hard drive, i’m a big energy waster!

    But… I don’t have much clutter since virtually everything I have, from receipts to music, is on my computer. Encrypted, naturally!

    With a digital life, you have to take appropriate precautions!


  6. posted by Chris Gallaty on

    Has anyone played with this guy: http://www.neatreceipts.com/ Looks like a much smaller foot print. I’ve had it (or and equiv) on my wish list for a while.

  7. posted by Jess on

    The lovely folks at the Apple Store give you the option of having a pdf emailed to you in place of a paper receipt, This is great but as I opted to not use one of their plastic bags I felt like a thief walking out of the store with my purchase.

  8. posted by Aisha on

    sigh. going paperless is really not an option in a land where power failures are a regular part of life, not everyone has access to computers, and even digital signatures are not accepted as authorization…

  9. posted by Craig on

    I love our library crammed full of real books.

    Anyone who would scan books and then pile them into a shed should be sent to a galaxy far, far away.

    We are shredding old outdated documents and statements, but that’s as far as we’re going. Our shredder is now downstairs, under our kitchen table, close to the trash can.

    But we are not giving up our books. Not now, not ever. Giving up your books is akin to giving up your soul.

    I am not doing that.

  10. posted by Avlor on

    @ Craig
    Isn’t there a big difference between paperless and bookless? Books are treasures and are given space in my home. Papers are clutter and take up too much space in my home. Yes some are going digital with books – but not everyone will.

  11. posted by Katie on

    My favorite books get to live in the house. Airport reading lives in the ebook reader. Everything else lives at the library! (Or… that’s the idea, anyway. It might take a year or two to implement.)

    Hard copies of contact info for utilities companies, home repair services, etc., are really important to have around if you live in a spot with a chance of natural disaster. We keep one hard copy phonebook next to our one non-portable landline phone, and we have contact info for all the utilities services handy in our housebook. There’s nothing worse than being completely without information in a situation where you need some.

  12. posted by Doc on

    We will see a paperless office the day we see a paperless bathroom. As for my phone book, the one ten feet behind me doesn’t get used a lot (but it does get used when the internet goes down, gets confused, or, in the case of a doctor my wife was looking for yesterday, doesn’t even come close to being useful). The phonebook in the car, however, gets used a lot and I rather enjoy it when I can beat the geek in the back seat with an iPhone. I love technology when it works. But it works for me not the other way around. Besides, low tech/no tech always works.

  13. posted by McSwain on

    Paperless would be nice, but I don’t think it’s around the corner. In fact, it seems that there is even MORE paper than there used to be, as people use technology to create even MORE documents.

    I worked for a city that touted a new bookkeeping program as being “paperless.” Then they made us print a bajillion copies of even more things than we had before. Paperless. Yeah, right.

    I will throw a party the day the piles of paper disappear from my house.

  14. posted by Valerie on

    I am not sure what world these people live in, but it’s not mine. I have more paper, receipts, junk mail, phone books, magazines, newspapers, pictures, and books than ever! And all of my work (I work at home) has to be printed and kept for 5 years! Yikes!!! That’s thousands of hard copy order copies each year I have to save. I can’t see that is getting better – it’s getting worse for our household – we are drowning in paper.

  15. posted by Doc on

    I learned from someone who makes his living through direct mail that the printing industry originally saw computers as a threat that would decrease demand for print services as things went paperless but that, ironically, the single biggest consumer of print services is now printing of computer documentation. Paperless indeed!

  16. posted by Sandy on

    @Chris G – I have Neat Receipts and love it. We have a separate scanner, but NR makes it so much simpler!

  17. posted by Shimon on

    I would like to suggest a different approach of becoming paperless for windows users.

    42Tags – is an easy to use application for scanning your document collection and managing it using one or more tags making retrieval instant, and it only costs 20$, see a demo video here http://www.42tags.com/video.htm

    This is much preferred way than storing on folders, and the treating multi page is easy.

    Of course backup is very important! And in 42Tags’ case you need to backup only one folder.

  18. posted by Monica Ricci on

    I think the benefit of the paperless options we have these days is the OPTIONS part of it. In 2008, you can still be completely paper-based if you want to. Yet, you can be virtually paperLESS if you want to. Or anywhere in between the two. We now have OPTIONS we never had before, which is wonderful, albeit gives you more to have to figure out.

    I’m a hybrid. I like some information delivered and stored electronically, but I still rely heavily on paper, and in fact, have the equivalent of three file drawers of paper in my office. (much of which could likely be purged at this point)

    My mantra is, and will continue to be, “Do whatever works best for you and evaluate periodically.”


  19. posted by Monica Ricci on

    Oh, I forgot to mention… I have heard terrific things about ScanSnap from my colleagues (haven’t used it myself). Oh, and the last phone book I saw was in my driveway, just before I backed over it this morning. I SOOOO wish that the phone company would give you the option of NOT getting the phonebook. Ours goes right into the recycling bin. Imagine if people could opt out of the paper phonebook, how many trees would be saved!


  20. posted by Paperless Pete on

    I feel very free now that I got rid of all my paper. My wife still doesn’t believe in online bill payment though.

  21. posted by Samantha on

    I’ve been using Yep! on my mac for scanning – easy to tag documents, fast, and so easy to retrieve. Well worth the effort!

  22. posted by GoingPaperless on

    Would highly recommend http://www.Shoeboxed.com for going paperless. Faster, Less Effort, Better Result than a Scanner

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