A guest blog by Bneato team member Lauren Mang.
I’ve been working with Beth at Bneato for a little while now, and have attended not one but three of her No Mess No Stress Paper Bootcamps (I highly recommend you attend one in your area). It was at my first bootcamp that I learned the term ‘paperless.’ Beth had brought her Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M Document Scanner for Mac to the bootcamp in case anyone wanted to start the process of going paperless by scanning their documents on her super efficient machine (50 pages per minute; front/back and in color). She also brought two shredders so we could walk out without any extra ‘stuff.’
Now, I’ve been pretty organized my whole life, but even I learned my paperwork system was not efficient. Once I streamlined my files, Beth came over to see if I had any questions. She saw I was holding onto a file of documents (which included dog training lessons, tips/tricks and fun facts for dogs). She asked me if I planned to use them and I immediately responded, ‘Well, some day.’ As soon as the words came out I knew I had uttered the dreaded words: ‘some day’ indicates clutter and it is something you should rid yourself of. However, in my case, I was going to use those documents the next time I got a dog, as they had worked so well for my current dog. But I didn’t want to hold on to all that excess paper so Beth said we could scan them and then I could shred them. Immediately, I was hooked.
The next time we had a bootcamp I had just completed a Last Will & Testament which I was then able to scan/shred and even email to my choice of executer. It felt so freeing and was so easy! Since it’s January, I decided it was time to go through my file cabinet – which had been organized only a few months before – and clear out any papers I didn’t need. I shredded statements for my auto lease, credit card statements that were paid off, and my Time Warner statements, among others. It was then that I realized I was holding on to a lot of paper that I didn’t need, but wasn’t necessarily ready to let go of – like my offer letter for my dream job that I landed in 2008, only to get laid off thanks to the recession in 2009. And then, of course, there were the documents that I did need: medical/dental documents, real estate related documents, vet bills/statements, etc. But did I need paper copies of these?
I asked Beth if I could use her scanner once again (I do plan on investing in my own as soon as Staples comes out with a 25% off coupon that will apply), and of course she obliged. She even recommended I read an e-book called Paperless by David Sparks. He recommends the Fujitsu scanner, among others, and gives great tips on how to digitally file your paperless documents. I spent 2 hours scanning documents that I organized into folders on my computer. Naturally, I keep things backed up on three different back up drives (two external and the Time Machine), but I’d rather the files be digital than in paper form. You can also back up to the cloud, or to Dropbox. The next step was shredding all those documents – at least one ream of paper, if not a ream and a half.
During the most recent bootcamp, I caught a tip that Beth had given out many times before, but this time it clicked: instead of saving assembly instructions and product manuals, why not find them online and bookmark them, download a PDF from the manufacturer’s website, or scan any items that you can’t locate online and save to your computer? I had a giant file of these that I didn’t want lying around. Now, I’ll admit, it took several hours to locate information on approximately 25 of my manuals/instructions, and for another handful I had to scan them in myself, but it was worth the time!
About the time I was going through the paperless process (and literally feeling lighter because of it) I was offered a job up in the San Francisco Bay Area which would mean a move north – and a quick one at that. I was so thankful I had already unloaded what would’ve been at least one large box that I would’ve had to schlep to my new digs. And what’s better, the shredded documents have acted as great packing material for my dishes and other fragile items!
Going paperless probably seems like a very daunting and time consuming idea. We tend not to trust technology as it has failed us before, but if we back up, do things right, and invest the time to get our system organized, it will make our lives lighter and easier. Buh-bye files/manuals, I’m living the paperless life now!