Ever wonder who the “smartie” was that said computers were the way to a paperless office? Does it seem that computers have created MORE paper in our lives than less? I say that it should be called "paper-LESS" not "paper-FREE." With a few simple steps, you can have less paper and free up space in your home or office!
In order to convert the paper into electronic documents, you need a scanner, a computer with scan software and a PDF (portable document format) creator program installed. If you have a multi-function printer, you already have the scanner and the scan software. Some scanners come with PDF software, too. Otherwise, there are free or low-cost programs that you can download and install onto your machine.
Scan and Store
Create the electronic version of your paper document by placing it in your scanner. Open the scan software on the computer and hit the scan button. Once scanning is complete, choose to save the document as a PDF and voila! You’ve just turned your paper document into an electronic version of it! (Note: These steps vary depending upon the software used.)
Keep It Organized
Realize that computers store documents just as we do in our file cabinets and folders. Before you start scanning all of your insurance policies, tax papers, receipts and everything else in sight, be sure to have a plan in place for how you'll RETRIEVE the documents when you need them!
Like any filing system, have folders with names and categories that make sense to you so you can find them later. Label scanned documents as you would if you were labeling a file folder. For example, if you were scanning insurance policies, create computer folders named: auto (or car) insurance, health (or medical) insurance, homeowners insurance, business insurance, etc. Then, when you scan a policy, name it “07-08 Auto Policy” and save it in the Auto Insurance folder. Later when you are looking for that document, simply open the Auto Insurance folder and the item is easily found.
Before You Toss
When deciding which paperwork can be tossed or shredded after it has been scanned, be sure to verify with attorney, accountants, insurance agents, etc about what is safe to dispose. They may advise you that some originals must be kept. However, since they are now digital, they can easily be viewed on the computer. You can now store them somewhere outside of your immediate space.
Back It Up
Storing information on the computer without backup is like thinking that YOUR house will never catch on fire! Be sure to have a backup system in place for your computer filing system!