Clutter buster: Digital Storage Part 1 (Paper)

Last year, Monkey and I made a move to a tiny little beach house in Florida.  While the location was great, it most definitely required us to simplify our lifestyle and learn some valuable lessons about space.

When going from a 2500 square foot home to a 900 square foot home, even if temporary, I have been hard pressed to find storage space in every available nook and cranny, so that we don’t find ourselves reported to the Hoarders show by a well-meaning friend.

We also decided to overhaul our consumption habits and be a little greener than we previously had been.  In marrying these two ideals, I began to think about digital storage.

Digital storage enables me to not have to make hard decisions about what’s valuable and what isn’t, and instead enjoy a huge collection of things in a teeny-tiny footprint.  While we’ve shifted into the digital age for music and sometimes even movies, there are so many other ways to utilize technology to store a massive amount of information.  Today I’m going to talk about paper.

Hoarders

Hoarders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paper. Oh, paper – how I loathe thee.   I can’t seem to ever find myself on top of the paper monster.  Paper flows into my house at an alarming rate – between Monkey bringing home 3-15 pieces of paper each week from school (with her schoolwork, annoucements, projects, etc. on them), mail coming in daily, magazines, catalogs, books, notepads, etc..  There is a LOT of paper in my house.  But slowly I am working to move it all into the digital era.

For Kiddos – A flatbed scanner is a great tool for those of you with kiddos.  One of the kind that has the pages feed through a scanner is fine for the most part, but sometimes Monkey brings me home a project that she has glued things to and they don’t fare very well in a feed-style scanner.  So, a flatbed scanner would be the best bet here.

I had to take this one on the fly, in between moves, so I took a quick picture of it with my camera. This is one of the few that I kept the original – and framed it to put in the house, so it was okay that there’s a shadow from my arm. 🙂

I started with folders named “Kindergarten”, “Vacation Bible School”, “First Grade”, “Second Grade” “Third Grade” etc.  Inside each of these folders, I’ve got “Math” “Science” “English” “Art” etc.  As she brings home papers each day, they go into an in-box on my desk, and once a week or so, I go through, scan them into my computer, plunk them into their designated folders, and then toss the paper itself.  Now I have everything she’s done in school and it takes up no space in the house at all!

Tip:  For projects that are larger (Posters, dioramas, etc.) that will not work very well with a scanner, take a picture (or many!) of the project, and even better – of your child WITH the project.  Then you have a record of their beautiful creation(s), a photograph capturing how sweet and small they were when they created it, and you can then either toss the project, or pawn it off on a grandparent.   Either way – it’s not clutter anymore.

For Bills – Virtually all of my bills are no longer mailed to me, and instead emailed to me from the respective company.  My electricity bill, water bill, cell phone bill, etc. – They are all sent to me electronically and paid electronically as well.   You can check with your companies and see about opting into that service.  However, there are a couple of places that do not offer electronic billing statements, and for them – to the scanner they go, too!

For these, to store, I have a folder labeled “Finances” and then yearly, monthly folders inside.  In each folder, I keep a copy of the electronic statement (usually downloadable via the email that is sent to you, or from the website of each company), as well as the scanned copies of the bills I cannot get electronically.   Inside each monthly folder, I also keep a word file where I track the payments that I made that month.  For this there are simply lines that look like this:

Cable Company |  8/02/12 |  $29.95 | Confirmation:  318468384 

Electricity Company |  8/02/12 |  $132.18 | Verification Number: 646872

When each months’ bills come in, I simply start a new folder for that month and begin the process again.  If I ever have a problem and have to make a phone call, I have all of the information available to me and ready to give to the customer service representative.  Inside the Financial Folder, I also keep a file that lists all of my account numbers, passwords, etc. so that I can readily access that information and not have to dig to find something on the fly.

For Books – I know there’s an ongoing debate on Digital books vs. real books, and some very strong opinions on both sides of the fence.   I’m not going to attempt to argue for one over another, I’m just going to give you a run-down of how we do it in Minx World.

I love my devices.  Between  my Kindle and my iPad (with both the iBooks and Kindle apps), I love how much technology is stored at my fingertips at any given moment.  (I even have the apps on my iPod touch, so it can literally be in my pocket!)  I store a lot of books on these devices.  However, I also love books in general, and I like having them about.  They’re beautiful, they’re fun to decorate with, and sometimes there’s just nothing better than flipping through the pages of an actual book.  So, we do both.

For reference books, like The Breastfeeding Book, I like to have a digital copy.  I am a Breastfeeding educator, and within my circle of friend and associates, I often field Breastfeeding questions.  When helping a mother, I like to have this book (as well as many others) around to reference if I need additional information not off the top of my head, and it makes far more sense (to me) to have it in my purse, than to have to return a phone call when I’m back at home and can pull out a book that I need to reference.

For fiction, fun-to-read books, I’ve moved into digital format, because I typically would buy those books in paperback form, knowing that they were a once-or-twice read, and I didn’t want to spend the money on the hardback versions.  Now that I have access to digital books – these are also on my list of digital information, because paperback books just become clutter in my household, so once I am done reading a digital book, it just disappears into the cloud of archived books.  I can still pull it back onto my devices if I want to read it again, and I’m not shuffling paperback books off to charity or the library every few months.

For Magazines – I’ve gone digital, hehe.  Magazines are an indulgence that have contributed to a massive amount of paper in and out of my house for years.  I read a few per month.  Most of the magazines that I read have digital subscriptions available, and are simply downloaded to my devices each month when a new issue is out, but there are a few holdouts.  For these, I treat them the same as I do catalogs.

As I’m flipping through a magazine or catalog, looking at pictures for inspiration or reading articles, if I stumble upon pictures that I love, I slip it into my scanner and plunk it into a folder that fits its theme.

This got a bit lengthy, so I’ll cut it off here, but hopefully that helps plant some ideas in your head that can help you conquer the Paper Monster.  Later this week, I’ll talk about other digital information storage.

How about you?  What are some of your solutions to paper?

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UndertheTableandDreaming

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