Going paperless

Going paperless

I’m not a Minimalist yet. I’m nowhere near being a Minimalist. I’m just an average person with an average amount of stuff, who is trying to live a more meaningful life with less. That includes less waste, and as a result, I’m trying to go as paperless as possible.

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I bought a scanner – A Brother DS-620 to be precise. I also put a lot of thought into getting it and waited for 3 weeks before I eventually committed. I’m making a conscious decision to do this with everything now to eliminate impulse-purchases. That wayI don’t waste money or space on stuff I don’t need or use.

I decided I wanted to go paperless when I realised that a majority of my trash is paper-based.

So much of what I have to throw away and hold onto is totally unnecessary – like high school diplomas in case I ever need to prove I did A-Levels (in 14 years this has never happened, but I still have the paper ‘just in case’)

This stuff is junk. It doesn’t add value to my life. My bank statements remind me of all the money I wasted on crap over the years, of conflicts over money in a previous relationship, and whole heap of other bad decisions. My old payslips remind me of jobs I hated, and all my doctors letters remind me of all the times I’ve been injured or sick. On top of all that, paperwork is just not fun. The likelihood I will ever need these things is slim to none but I’m told I need to keep them ‘just in case’ I need to send something to an HR department, or a letting agent or the HMRC. Which has never happened in the last fifteen years (since I started working).

My mother absolutely freaked out when she saw my old bank statements and school records in the ‘to shred’ pile. If someone external needs this information, there is no reason they can’t get it another way.

What is the worst case scenario?

Let’s pretend my house burns down, and with it, all my folders containing my university diploma, my bank statements and my NHS correspondence. The next day I’m asked to prove my degree, my income and my health record and all my documents are charcoal.

Has the world actually ended because I don’t have these papers? No.

If people want to check I went to university, they can call up the alumni department, If HMRC cares enough about my income it can talk to my bank. If HR needs to know about the time I took off half my cornea with my phone (yes that happened – I would not recommend it), then I can get my doctor to email them a copy of my hospital records.

I can also have all these things stored digitally, and with cloud technology I can have access from almost anywhere in the world, without needing to pick up the phone and bug someone else.

And I can get rid of all those stupid bits of paper clogging up my life and my shelves. I can organise them by year, so when one year falls off the 7 year ‘on hold’ period, I can just press ‘delete’ on a folder, rather than having to manually go through everything and shred it and have it end up in landfill, because my local counsel is a dick and won’t accept shredded paper in recycling* (!?!?!?!?!).

As a graphic designer, I have thought several times that it would be much easier to bring sketches into illustrator if I had a scanner, rather than awkwardly messing around with my phone or a camera. Having the equipment to go paperless means I can digitise all the marketing material I’ve hoarded for ‘inspiration’ and get rid of another two folders of ‘stuff I rarely use’. It also means that I can photograph my work so it looks pretty, scan it in for record keeping, and get rid of the originals. If I really need physical copies for something, I have the design files – I can just go to a printer and get it done.

I know minimalism is about reducing the number of things you own, but I personally don’t believe it should be to the exclusion of getting other things that make your life easier and better.

By going paperless, I’m getting rid of 7 thick folders of paper and who knows how much future garbage in exchange for a small piece of tech, and providing my parents with two big black sacks of compost for their garden. My bad financial decisions can help grow some delicious tomatoes I can make bruschetta with, rather than staring out at me from their shelf – a constant reminder that I’ve been an idiot more than once.

I spent a chunk of cash on a scanner, and I don’t regret a penny of it.

The Brother DS-620 is a ‘portable’ scanner. Which blew my mind, because I’d only ever encountered big flat-bed scanners before, and ones that were built into printers. This thing is the length of my forearm, an inch and a half tall and about 2 inches wide. It is tiny.

It is powered by a micro USB, so I don’t need to keep a bunch of other cables. It scans things really fast, it feeds the paper through it automatically and it’s quiet. I had a great few evenings with a cup of tea watching TED talks on youtube; including this TedX talk about fast fashion (which is really interesting and I highly recommend giving it a watch_ while this little beauty makes short work of digitising all my boring filing.

The only negative thing I have to say about the scanner is that the interface is a throwback to Windows 95. It’s not pretty and the text is not very clear on my Macbook pro’s retina screen either. But the scanner itself has a nice clean design and does the job which is the important bit.

Moving house in the future will be so much easier now I have less to cart around. I’ve got rid of a load of ‘storage solutions’ I no longer needed. I  even donated a narrow bookcase to my mum for all her cookery books.

Leave me a comment letting me know if you’re thinking about going paperless! If you’ve gone paperless, how did you find it? Did you regret anything you threw out, or run into problems from not having physical copies of things?

* If you have a garden you’re in luck because you can soak paper in water and use it for composting.

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