Tech Dads United

Going Paperless at Home

April 18, 2018
Brett Eldridge
How To, Paperless, Organisation, Home Office, Google, Tips, Space Saving

Why Go Paperless at Home?

I went paperless at home a few years ago. Here are my main reasons why I did it, and why you should go paperless.
Paperless Office How To
Space Saving: Like many people, I had a massive 3 draw filing cabinet, full. And now I just have a single folder. I sold the filing cabinet, and made space.

Everything is Backed Up: When everything is digital, it is easy to create a backup. Either on another computer or in the cloud. If you ever have a house fire, or flood, your photos and documents are all safe.

Information Always Available: If you back up to the cloud, all of your data is available any time. EG. I go to my accountant, he asks for a receipt or document, I have it right there. EG. I go to a friends house, and they want to see a photo of a renovation I did 5 years ago, I have it.

What You Need

The first thing you are going to need, is a scanner. I recommend looking at the scanning resolution, because when you scan in your photos, you would want the end result to be high quality. I use the Canon Pixma MG7560. Pretty cheap, with a pretty good scanning resolution.

The second thing you need, is Time, and plenty of it. Initially, this job is going to take a lot of time. But don’t be overwhelmed, just keep it organised, and chip away at it. As long as you are scanning in documents, faster than you are collecting documents, you will eventually be paperless.

Getting Ready to Go Paperless

Before you start scanning, you need to think about a file and folder structure on your computer, that will suit you. Keeping your documents organised, is critically important. You need to make sure you take your time with this.

Have a look over your physical documents, and the ones you have on your computer already. You need to think of a way to store them in folders that will allow you to find them easily. Don’t just put everything in a single folder.

Before you start scanning, you should also organise any existing documents and photos already on your computer.

Example File Structure

As an example, I will tell you about my file and folder structure.

Photos: I used the windows folder as a primary folder for photos. Inside of the photos folder, I made a folder for each year. ‘2018’, ‘2017’, ‘2016’ and so on, until I didn’t have many photos, and my last folder was just ‘2008 and Earlier’. Inside each of those folders, I made a folder for each occasion that I had photos for. ‘Bretts Birthday’, ‘Holiday at Hamilton Island’, ‘Christmas’ and so on. Then, the photos were placed in the corresponding folder. You can read more here: How to Sort & Store Digital Photos

Documents: 90% of my physical documents were Tax documents, so I started with them. Inside of the windows folder called ‘My Documents’, I created a folder called ‘Tax’. Inside that folder, I made a folder for each year. ‘2018’, ‘2017’, ‘2016’ and so on. This is handy because Tax records need to be kept for a certain amount of years, then you can just delete the entire folder. Inside each of the year folders, I created 3 folders, ‘Brett’, ‘Talia’ and ‘Joint’. Because we have documents for each of us, and joint documents that belong to both like our rental property documents. Inside each of our personal folders, I created a folder called ‘Receipts’ and one called ‘Documents’. The receipts were where I put the claimed expense receipts, and documents was where I put the Government documents, health cover documents and anything else pertaining to that year. The joint folder is used for our rental properties. We put our real estate statements and any maintenance invoices in there.
File Structure for Paperless Office

Look For Existing Digital Files

You should see if you are keeping generic documents that are already in digital form. EG. I noticed I was keeping manuals for things I had bought. Now, some of these were old, so they just got thrown, but others I wanted to keep. Instead of scanning these, I just looked online for the digital version. I had a 100% success rate. Every single manual I had, was available on the manufacturers website. Because items get upgraded, and manuals often get deleted, I downloaded the manual, and saved it in a folder called ‘Manuals’. So if the manufacturer ever removed it, I still had it. It also saved me searching for them each time I needed to read them.

I also looked in my online accounts for tax invoices, to save me scanning. I found my internet receipts, phone receipts, rates receipts and others. I downloaded these straight into the correct folder, and threw away the paper copy.

Start Converting to Paperless

With the file structure ready to go, and your old files sorted, start scanning. Just do one file at a time, go steady. When you scan something, you will most likely be given some options. EG. Scan as PDF or Image, or Color or Black and White. I scan photos as Images at high resolution. And I scan documents as PDF. I always scan documents as black and white, unless I have a very specific reason to save in color. Black and white looks clearer, and saves hard drive space.

Modify your folder structure as you go if you find documents you didn’t realise you had. But always keep your folders and files organised. If you find a folder has a lot of files in it, maybe think a sub category, and create a new layer of folders. EG. My holiday has 150 photos. Instead of them all just being in one folder, maybe my holiday was in a few different towns, so inside the holiday folder, you add a folder for each town you visited.

I Went To Extremes

If you don't want to throw something don't. But I did. My enthusiasm for paperless trumps my sentimentalism. I scanned all of my Birthday Cards, Christmas Cards and Valentines Day Cards. You might think I am heartless, but I personally don't think the memory is in the physical, but more in the moment. And I can recall that moment by looking at my cards digitally, just as much as I recalled them by looking in the card box. This is just a personal choice though. All up to you.

Saving it All to the Cloud

I really don't like the word 'Cloud' when it comes to technology. It just confuses people. The cloud is simply another computer/server that's not in your house (basically).

The reason I suggest a 'Cloud' backup, is because if something ever happened like a house fire, you still have everything. Just need to buy a new computer and login.

Most 'Cloud' servers and services are offered by big companies. EG, Google, Apple, Microsoft. When you get a cloud service, you are really just renting a little bit of space on their server to store your documents. I use Google, because the first 16G are Free, and I like their backup program: Backup & Sync as part of Google Drive. You can use any other company, but I will explain Google here.

Google Backup & Sync + Google Drive

Google Drive is not just space on the Google server, but a little bit of software to help you backup and access files. Google Drive hass an app, that allows you to access your files saved on their server on any device. Google drive is also available as a web browser. Read more about Google Drive.

Google Backup and Sync is a program you install on your computer, that synchronises your data from your computer onto the Google Server.

When you install Google Backup and Sync, it installs a folder on your computer called 'Google Drive'. This folder is in sync with the Google server. If you place a file or folder in this folder on your computer, it will upload to the Google Drive on the Google Server. If you delete a file from this folder, it will delete from the server. On top of this, if you open the Google Drive app on your phone, and create a file, next time you open your computer, it will be in this folder. Basically, all of your devices and computer will be in sync, and if you do anything on any device it will be reflected everywhere.

Along with the 'Google Drive' folder, you can choose to simply 'Backup'. To do this, you simply go to settings, and choose which folders you want to backup. You can still access all of these files on your devices at any time.
Going Paperless with Google Backup & Sync

Final Words

Don't be overwhelmed by the task of going paperless. You will get there. Just make sure you take your time with the folder structure, it is super important.

You will have a few documents left, and that's ok. I still have to store my birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport and so on.

I encourage everyone to do this as soon as possible. You want all your memories to be safe and disaster proof.

Products in this Post

Canon Pixma MG7560 Printer
The all-in-one home printer is the convenient multifunction combo that connects via smartphone or tablet through Wi-Fi or NFC
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Google Backup & Sync
Google Backup & Sync helps you backup all of your digital files.
Product Info