Reducing the paper at home saves money, lowers your trash load, conserves environmental resources, and teaches good stewardship. All of this adds to more sanity, an essential component to a healthy family.
Aside from in the kitchen, here are 19 ways to reduce the paper clutter in your home.
19 Tips for Making Your Home Paperless
1. Create a workable system for your receipts. If you’re on a cash budget and keep track of every expense, take care of your receipts frequently. Set aside weekly time to enter the expenses from your receipts (we do this using Pear Budget), and then toss most of them into the recycling bin.
2. There are actually very few purchases for which you need the original receipt. For those receipts with useful information but aren’t important enough to keep, look into a simple program that easily scans the originals and tracks the vital information. We’ve enjoyed our compact Neat Receipts, but you can also use a scanner. Then shred and recycle the receipt.
3. That said, there are a few receipts you should keep. Do this neatly with a simple filing system. There’s no reason to have anything bulky or expensive — we use a simple canvas file box that fits on our bookshelves. Then label files by receipt type, such as “electronics,” “appliances,” or “home maintenance.”
4. Invest in a decent shredder, and use it often.
Keep it in an easy to reach place, so that you won’t let the paper pile up. Get in the habit of shredding most anything featuring your name and any pertinent information. This means even those “pre-approved” credit card offers need to visit the shredder.
5. Remove your name from mailing lists and opt out of credit card offers. It doesn’t stop them all from coming, but it certainly helps.
6. Pay your bills online. Then request these companies to stop sending you paper bills.
7. Keep your filing system simple. Don’t over-complicate it – simply store certificates of warranty, copies of your tax returns, birth certificates, and other vital papers in one safe location. We use the same canvas file box where we keep the receipts mentioned in number 3. (By the way, the IRS suggests keeping tax returns for three years.)
8. Shred things you just don’t need, such as paycheck stubs, bill statements, or expired records (like for insurance) that are older than one year.
9. Rely more on your digital tools to store information. Keep your calendar digital, store your recipes and other Internet finds on Delicious, and process your financial bookkeeping with a simple software tool like Pear Budget.
10. Reconsider that newspaper subscription. You can find more news online for free than you could possibly digest in 24 hours.
11. Make the local library your best friend. Before you clutter your bookshelves with books you’ll only read once (or never read at all), check it out at the library. You can always buy it later if you decide you want your own copy.
12. Regularly back up your computer, at least once a month. This propels you towards a paperless lifestyle because it adds a safety net if you’re skiddish about tossing the paper.
13. Create a workable system for keeping your children’s artwork. In short, keep only your favorites, and only a few from each stage. You can repurpose or photograph the rest.
14. Frequently purge your magazine stash. Create an “idea notebook” for saving certain pages, photos, and articles, then recycle the remainder of the periodical. If you have the ink, scan and print that which you want to keep, and then donate the magazine to your local library or used bookstore.
15. Organize your digital photos chronologically or by event, and store them on well-labeled CDs. Only print those you want to give as gifts or frame as art.
16. Be brave and toss all those semi-sentimental documents that don’t truly mean much to you. Christmas cards from ten years ago, high school notes, and your scribbles from Intro to Psychology 101 can all go. If you’re on the fence about anything, snap a digital photo of the document. But I promise you, you won’t miss it. It actually feels good to let the past go.
17. Regularly purge your book collection. If you haven’t read a book in a year, or if you don’t think you’ll read it again, see what you can get for it at your local bookstore. The one exception I take to this are quality children’s books — I save these for our kiddos’ different stages, for guests, and for future generations. My mom saved all my childhood books, and I’m so glad she did.
This and That
18. Purge your coupon stash frequently, as you work on your menu plan and grocery list. This way, you’ll be more apt to use them instead of forgetting about their existence and letting them expire.
19. Keep wrappers and needless packages from entering your home in the first place. Don’t buy individual-sized snacks, cook more from scratch than from boxed foods, and resist buying more than you really need. Use the bulk bins at stores, and carry your goods home in reusable bags.
I’m sure there are more ideas out there. What can you add to this list to help create a more paperless home?