An extreme makeover: how to digitize your home office

Do you have lots of paper clutter in your home office? Is it your dream to have a paperless office?

I can make your dream come true. But what I'm about to suggest is not for the faint of heart.

If you're one of those people who get creative juice flowing from the smell of your leather-bound journal, love the cold and crisp touch of new, unopened books against your palm and can never imagine a life without your stylish Rhodia and a fountain pen, please stop reading now. I don't want to waste your time.

This blog post is for someone who wants to make a drastic change in their paper-consuming habits. Changes usually come with some pain and frustration; and, for some, it will be worth it. 

Are you still with me? 

Well then.

Here is the fact: if you have a computer and a smartphone, you can eliminate 95% of your paper clutter from your home office. 

So, without further ado, let's look at the areas in your home office that can be made paper-free, shall we? 

how to go paperless in your home office (get rid of paper clutter!)

1. What to do with bills

  • Arrange to receive your utility, property tax and other bills via email.
  • Pay your bills online or via phone. 

You can get rid of...

  1. letter tray/folder,
  2. paper bills and envelopes from your utility company, etc.,
  3. time spent to recycle the old bills and used envelopes,
  4. envelopes and stamps to send out payment cheques, 
  5. time and money spent to shop for the envelopes and stamps,
  6. cheques,
  7. time and money spent to order the cheques from your bank, and
  8. time to mail out the payments. 

2. What to do with receipts

  • Stop using cash and start using credit/debit card for all of your daily shopping. 
  • Don't receive a receipt unless there is a chance you might want to return the item later, or if it is for a big purchase that comes with a limited warranty. (Definitely use credit cards to buy things like these--often your credit card company will extend the warranty.)
  • Credit/debit card spending can be tracked on your online banking account; provided that you buy similar category of items from a store on the same shopping trip, you can track the household spending by looking at these records. 

You can get rid of...

  1. paper receipts, 
  2. a notebook used to track household spending, 
  3. container/space to store receipts and the notebook. 
  4. time spent to shop for the notebook,
  5. time spent to recycle used notebook, and
  6. time and effort to get to the ATM to withdraw cash.

3. What to do with notepads, memo pads and stickies

  • Learn to take notes on your computer or with your smartphone.
  • Provided you enabled automatic backup on your PC/smartphone, your memos and notes will be saved as you type. 

You can get rid of... 

  1. notepads, memo pads, stickies and other various paper products,
  2. pens, pencils and highlighters,
  3. pen/pencil holder,
  4. paper clips,
  5. erasers,
  6. whiteouts,
  7. clipboards,
  8. pins and corkboard OR magnets and metal board,
  9. staples, and
  10. (maybe) scotch tape.

4. What to do with business cards, important letters and other documents that need to be stored

  • Take pictures of the documents with your smartphone and store them in the cloud. 
  • You will probably need to keep a hard copy of legal documents but I'm not sure. Please ask your lawyer. 

You can get rid of...

  1. various sizes and types of paper clutter usually scattered all over the office, and
  2. space occupied by the various paper clutter.

5. What to do with the wall calendar

  • Use the calendar on your computer/smartphone.
  • If you want to have a family calendar with everyone's activity entered, create an online family calendar--updates will be synced between different devices/people.

You can get rid of...

  1. the wall calendar,
  2. time spent to shop for the wall calendar,
  3. the  thumbtack hole on your wall,
  4. frustration and fumbling to check next month's event,
  5. frustration at the pen not working due to the shiny surface of the calendar, and
  6. time spent recycling last year's calendar.

6. What to do with various user manuals

  • Do you keep user manuals for your fridge, vacuum cleaner, coffee maker, printer, etc.? Don't.
  • You can get all of the necessary information online. Or you can keep a digital copy on your hard drive or in the cloud of your choice. 

You can get rid of...

  1. hard-copy user manuals,
  2. space to store user manuals, and 
  3. time spent searching for relevant info in the hard-copy manual. Googling would be faster. (Also, online manuals are usually more up-to-date and include more info than the hard copy manual.)

7. What to do with magazines

  • Is it necessary to keep and keep buying all of your magazines? Unless you need it for your work, perhaps you can borrow some from your local library?
  • Most magazines offer an online version nowadays. Maybe it's time to make the switch. 

You can get rid of... 

  1. old magazines,
  2. money spent on buying magazines, (Provided you will start borrowing from the local library. I think online subscriptions usually cost less than paper versions but I haven't checked it.)
  3. space to store magazines, and
  4. time and effort spent to recycle the magazines.

8. What to do with books

  • Do Konmari and get rid of books that you no longer need
  • Consider replacing hard copies with ebooks. (Or hire your kids to scan each page of your hard copy books.)
  • Learn to read on an electronic device such as Kindle or your smartphone.

You can get rid of...

  1. physical books,
  2. bookshelves,
  3. space allocated for bookshelves,
  4. dust, and 
  5. inability to flip a page with a greasy finger. 

9. What to do with the printer

  • Print out only when it is absolutely necessary. 
  • Try going on a printing diet for a while; after a month, assess if you need to keep the printer or not. 
  • Learn to work with digital documents. If you can read blogs and write emails on your computer, you should be able to edit/read documents on your computer without printing them out. Adjust the brightness setting on your computer/smartphone if your eyes get tired from staring at the bright screen. 

You can get rid of...

  1. (possibly) printers,
  2. (possibly) printer paper,
  3. (possibly) printer ink cartridge,
  4. a file cabinet,
  5. document/file folders in various shapes and capacity,
  6. binders, 
  7. paper cuts,
  8. time spent looking for and organising documents manually, and
  9. time spent recycling/shredding old documents.

Alright, are you still there? Did you skip most of the items because they sound a bit crazy? 

I get that, and you're welcome to take my suggestions or leave them. I'm just sharing what works for me; I'm not trying to make people join the cult.

Anyway, do you have additional suggestions for digitized office? Did I miss anything?