My Dumb Embarrassing Expense: Paper Clutter
It's not my biggest expense by far, but I consider it one of my more embarrassing ones. Every month, I pay to rent a storage unit, even though I live in a 2,000+ square foot house with only two other people. And even worse, it's filled with something I really shouldn't be paying to store: paperwork.
Self-employed for many years (along with a stint investing in real estate), I've accumulated boxes of files, including tax returns, bank statements, records from research and more stuff I haven't had the time or energy to sort through. I am certain I am not alone. I know from talking with other women that many of them too are struggling with unnecessary paper clutter, and eliminating it can feel absolutely overwhelming.
Recently I've begun tackling the task of eliminating these boxes of papers, and hopefully the monthly fee I am paying to store them. (Though I believe the psychological drain of all that stuff to deal with is by far more painful than the money I spend.)
I set a goal two years ago to go digital and eliminate paper clutter, and while I made some progress, I wouldn't call it significant. But one of my bucket list goals is to work from the road, and with my daughter headed toward college in the not-too-distant future, I am ready to make serious progress toward that goal.
Time is my biggest obstacle, and that may be yours too. I'm juggling a full-time job, household chores and my job as a mom. So I am trying to bite off a little at a time and tackle it on two fronts. First, I am trying to reduce the paperwork I keep as it comes in the door, and secondly, I am trying to clear out the backlog of papers I've saved.
The key is to get rid of things I don't need, and then turn the rest into digital files.
Scan Baby Scan
A couple of years ago I was given a Doxie scanner
to try. It's portable, easy to set up, and the price is definitely right. It's a handy little tool for scanning items before they wind up in another file (and eventually, a box). It's definitely faster and easier than the scanner on my printer. It allows me to scan into my Evernote account, where I will have access to that information from any device. (I sprung for a premium Evernote account, and my one year subscription costs me roughly the same as one month of my storage unit.)
But for the big catch up jobs I needed something that can handle big batches of paper, so when the folks at Neat sent me a NeatConnect to try, I was more than ready to put it to the test. It set up quickly and the first time I scanned a year's worth of bank statements in one quick batch, I felt a little giddy. Maybe I really can eliminate all those boxes! It is super speedy, and allows me to scan multiple sheets of paper front and back. Like the Doxie, I set it up to scan into my Evernote accounts so everything is in one place.
A few years ago, I read a life-changing book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
by Robert Maurer Ph.D. where he talks about starting habits with very small steps. (Floss one tooth, or exercise for one minute then work your way up.) I am applying that to this effort. One small step is that each piece of paper that comes into my home gets scanned, recycled or shredded within the month so I don’t accumulate any new paperwork. In addition, I am setting aside a few minutes each week to scan older paperwork I need to save.
Getting rid of clutter feels truly freeing, and I refuse to let piles of paperwork get in my way financially or otherwise. How about you? How are you dealing with paper clutter?