Have you ever felt stressed by seeing scattered papers laying all over your desks, tabletops, cabinets, and maybe even all over your floors?
Because I definitely have.
The physical clutter manifested itself into mental clutter and stress.
Paper kept accumulating and I kept getting stressed over losing things. Over time, this cycle would just repeat itself over and over again.
That is, until I decided to go paperless.
In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to the concept of paperless living and how you can go paperless starting today!
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What is Paperless Living?
Paperless living is about minimizing the amount of paper you use in your life or even eliminating it altogether.
In the replacement of using paper, you can turn to technology to help store files and complete tasks that would normally require paper.
It’s an effective solution to living a life with less clutter, stress, and headaches.
Before we start, here are some documents you should keep on paper.
**Just a disclaimer, I am not an expert on this! Please do your research beforehand, but here is just a general guideline.
- Any type of legal documents (Birth certificate, social security card, passport, etc.)
- Anything with a government stamp or seal
- Important certificates
- Wills and other confidential, single copy paperwork
If you’re hesitant about discarding any type of original paper document, please do your research before taking any sort of action.
Now, let’s get into how you can start your paperless life today!
1. Throw away paper you know you definitely do not need
All those old catalogs, junk mail, random handouts to have all over your space…now would be a good time to recycle, discard, or donate whatever you definitely do not need.
Here is a list of potential things you can start with today:
- Old Books
- Magazine/Mailing Subscriptions
- Random Flyers
- Old Stationery
- Notebooks & Sketchbooks
- Random Looseleaf papers
If there’s anything with confidential information, just be sure to shred or tear those documents up for precautionary measures!
2. For memorabilia, scan whatever you want to keep
The hardest part about going paperless for many people, including me, is discarding things with a lot of sentimental value.
Things such as letters, old photos, drawings, awards, and more.
A good solution this is by scanning in the things you hold dear and near to you.
You can use a high-quality scanner if you have one, but if not, you can also scan documents and files on your phone or iPad.
If you do want to use a high-quality scanner but do not own one, you can check if your library has any. I used the scanner at my university to scan artwork and had great success with that.
If you have GoodNotes on your phone or iPad, you can also scan documents on there using your iPad camera.
After scanning all your required documents, I recommend finding a reliable place to store things, which brings me to my next point…
3. Decide where and how you’re going to store and organize files
With the new, scanned files, it’s now time to decide where you’ll store those files.
With just your laptop or computer storage alone, you’ll likely need more space to comfortably store files.
Here are some recommendations I have:
- Use an external hard drive!
I’m currently using a 2TB Seagate external hard drive to help store larger files. There are different storage options for your needs. I also was told the 4TB LaCie external hard drive and the Western Digital 2TB External hard drive are great according to my designer friends (us designers need to store a lot of huge files).
- Use a USB Stick!
Depending on how much storage you need, there are different options for you. I recommend the 256 GB Samsung Bar Plus USB flash drive, as that is what I use! There are different storage options for your needs.
- Consider storing files in the cloud, such as Dropbox, iCloud, or Google drive.
This is a great method if you want to access your files anywhere and anytime.
It’s also important to determine how you’ll organize them.
Now you found storage, find a way to organize the files that will allow you to quickly access any files with no headaches.
I recommend you to create a few pillar categories. And within these folders, there can be subcategories where your files can live.
For example, a pillar category can be Important documents, and within that folder, there can be categories such as taxes, identification, education proof, receipts, etc.
4. Make decluttering into a habit and create efficient systems
Now that you decluttered and discarded all the paper you don’t need, you need to figure out how to deal with future incoming papers.
Establish a system that’ll allow you to efficiently sort and discard all the paper in your life to make paperless living effortless.
For example, you can set up recycle bins in multiple areas in your home, scan documents daily to prevent paper accumulation, organize your digital folders daily, etc.!
Find a system that works for you. You can always change or modify it along the way.
5. Going Digital
Now for my favorite step — going digital.
A lot of the activities we do nowadays require some type of paper. Reading, journaling, planning, note-taking, drawing, etc.
Luckily, a lot of these activities can be done digitally. Let me break it down for you!
If you’re an avid reader like I am, it might be hard to imagine how you can go paperless.
But here are a few options to help you!
If you like to listen to your books, then there are many audiobook options available to you. A good, free option for audiobooks is an app called Libby.
All it requires from you is a library card. Download it from the app store or the play store and you can check out books like you would at a library.
It’s cost-efficient and 100% paperless!
- Borrow books from your local library
Just because you’re going paperless, it doesn’t mean you can’t ever use paper again. It’s all about being intentional with how you use it.
Making use of your public library is a great way to save money, clutter, and paper. You’re not buying anything and will eventually return the book for someone else to use.
- Kindle or an iPad
You can get a kindle or an iPad for reading. If you only want a device for reading, getting a kindle is a possible option.
However, I recommend you to get an iPad (if you don’t have one already) as there are other amazing digital uses to it.
There are many designated reading apps you can download, such as the Kindle app or Libby!
Planning, Journaling, Note-taking
As an avid paper journaler and planner, one of the hardest things to let go were my paper bullet journals.
However, you can efficiently journal, take notes, and plan digitally without all the clutter, but still keeping that analog, traditional touch.
Being able to plan my day and ultimately my life is extremely important to me.
I found that digital planning has not only efficiently replaced paper planning, but it is so much more convenient and effective.
It’s convenient, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly. You can read more about my reasoning in my blog post, why I switched to digital planning.
You don’t need much to digitally plan, journal, and/or take notes. Here are all the supplies you’ll need.
- An iPad that is compatible with an apple pencil.
If you want to read more about which ones you should get, read my blog post, Best iPad to get for digital note-taking and planning.
- A digital note-taking app of your choice
I recommend GoodNotes5, but if you want to look more into different apps, I wrote a blog post, Best Digital Planning app for digital note-taking and planning.
- A digital planner, notebook, or journal.
Whatever you’re interested in pursuing! If you want a high-quality, minimalist all-in-one planner for note-taking, planning, and journaling, check out the Clarity Planner in my shop!
If you already have an iPad and an apple pencil and are looking for a minimalist digital planner, digital notebook, digital stationery, or digital inserts, head over to my shop to browse around! 🙂
It’s ok if you’re not perfect
There’s no perfect way to go paperless. It is a personal journey, and it’s totally fine to do whatever works best for you. You don’t have to eliminate paper use 100%! I still use paper from time to time when required.
As long as you’re being intentional and mindful throughout it all, that’s all that matters.
Other paperless resources and blog posts!
Here are some resources that might help you along the way:
Digital Minimalism – How to Use Technology Intentionally and Mindfully
Key GoodNotes Features to Know for Digital Planning and Journaling
Best iPad to get for Note-taking and Digital Planning 2020 (and which ones to avoid)
Best iPad Digital Planning App for Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide
Free Digital Notebook
If you want to try digital planning, note-taking, or journaling, but don’t want to fully invest in a planner just yet, we have you covered!
We designed a free, hyperlinked, minimalist digital notebook that you can use to plan, write notes, and journal!