Going Paperless

As mentioned in my previous blog, my wife and I recently went through pretty much every area (now including the garage) of our three bedroom, one bath, twelve hundred square feet home, including all of our closets, and got rid of everything we felt that we could let go. We got rid of three dressers, two book cases a table from my office (I had two), tons of clothes, and about 10 grocery bags full of toys, books, blankets, towels and other miscellaneous items.

But one area I was not prepared to tackle before was all of my paperwork I have been filing away for many years. But finally, having gone through all of my files in my home office last few days, it became clear to me that no area of my life should be off limits when it comes to closely examining the situation and see if I can improve, organize and make it more efficient.

Whether it's the bank statements, bills in the mail or just about any transaction these days, there are reminders everywhere, to consider going paperless. With all the receipts, invoices, bank statements, and other papers continuing to encroach my living space, I decided to consider seriously about going paperless.

Going paperless can certainly have its benefits for your home or for your work life. Paper not only costs money in terms of buying the paper, ink and postage; it can also clutter up your life while taking up your valuable space. Using less paper also means you are making your own contribution for the better environment.

I have gone paperless for few things already but it has been an upward struggle to make any dramatic changes, especially when it comes to certain bills which I still get it in the mail and I also save receipts and other papers up to five years for tax purposes.

I am also a stickler for paying my bills on time and I like the fact that I can actually see the bills being delivered in the mail reminding me that they are due. Consequently, I always felt that paperless options would make me forget or overlook my bills and I would end up paying penalties for late payments.

I have decided that going paperless doesn’t have to be all or nothing but a journey...

It did take me quite a few hours to go through all of my files but I was pretty thrilled to see just how much I was able to consolidate. I took four boxes of files out of my closet and after going through it, I was able to reduce them into just two. Honestly, it is never easy to part with something that has been part of your life for a long time. But again, I had to ask the same question I pose in my previous blog, "Do these things honestly add value, meaning and usefulness to our life?"

One thing I am learning from this process is that I do need to let go of some of my fears.

Part of the reason why I have a tendency to hold on to certain papers longer than I should is because of my fears, especially in dealing with accounts that had been settled regarding my past debt. It could be car payments or credit card debts of any variety of IOU accounts where I have been making payments. I have this fear, even after my accounts had been settled a long ago, that my creditor will somehow come after me with some issues. To remedy this fear,  I try my best to keep all the necessary proof in hand, just in case, in order to protect myself. I know that there are some rational reasons for wanting to keep receipts and other important documents to prove a case but I have a tendency to over do it.  And it has allowed me to keep, for instance, all the paperwork from a settled account that is longer than ten years old.... I'm still thinking that there's a chance that the creditor will come back to hassle me regarding this particular debt.... Maybe part of the reason why you are holding onto your things is fear...

I am also finding out that there are some great options if you decide to go paperless, including software programs like Paperless by Mariner Software or products like Neat Scanners that can scan your documents so you can store them in your computer. I am open to any good advise if you have any. One thing I am learning is to stem the tide of papers before they enter into my home and office....

“Look at where and how paper is coming in to your possession, and see what you can eliminate. You’d be surprised at how much paper we just ‘deal with’ that we don’t even need or want.”

Going online and downloading all of my bank statements was a great start in getting rid of all the duplicate statements I kept in my file. I also opted for all of my bank accounts and mortgage statements to go paperless; this will stop the new statements from coming into my home and office.

 Tackling this chore appeared some what daunting at first, but once I was able to start and was willing to take the time to sort through the problems, I was on a roll.  Every time I get to purge, I gain a little extra space in my home.  For organizing my files I was able to gain at least a couple of extra square footage in my closet and I intend to keep it that way.  The real satisfaction though comes when I get this realization that my life is that much more organized, efficient... and the side benefit is learning more about myself along the way.

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