Clear the (Paper) Clutter
As full-time RV travelers, we have a lot of challenges that stationary people don’t have to think about. For instance: paper.
I’m not even just talking about dealing with mail (there are services which can help with that). I’m talking more about dealing with the MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF PAPER that can accumulate whether we’re in a house or in an RV.
Think about it. Bills, flyers, magazines, junk mail, letters, postcards, statements, credit card offers, grocery lists, receipts, notes we write ourselves, notes other people write to us, etc. etc.
So. Much. Paper.
An RV is tiny. Super tiny! We just DON’T have the space to deal with the piles of paper that a larger house can absorb.
And really, why even KEEP all that paper?
It’s wasted space when we could just go PAPERLESS instead!
Going paperless means:
- Cutting out sources of paper and narrowing it down to the minimum.
- Staying on top of the clutter by scanning and digitizing what you can.
- Organizing the digital files as well as whatever paper remains.
It’s so much easier to find what you need when it’s a file on your computer instead of a flat piece of paper hiding somewhere in your cupboard. Going from paper to data is simple and easy and you’ll be glad you did it.
If you’re about to go full-time traveling, already on the road, or just dreaming of adventure: go paperless.
** Please note that this is NOT for scanning precious family photos, legal documents, or other stuff like that. THAT guide will be coming later on this month. This is just for scanning CLUTTER.
The paperless process
1. Analyze incoming paper sources.
The best way to go paperless is to first cut it off at the source. You can scan all you want, but if you’re scanning paper that COULD’VE been digital from the start then you’re wasting a lot of time and energy.
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Do a paper source analysis. Where does most of your paper come from? What piles up the most in your physical space?
For me, my major paper sources are:
- Receipts from stores and restaurants.
- Junk mail.
- Pamphlets and brochures.
Other sources might be: bills and monthly statements, magazines, pay stubs.
Once you’ve made your source list, figure out how to trim it down.
Banks and credit cards and other places which send monthly statements most likely have a paperless option. Some will even give you a discount to go paperless.
Magazines have online subscriptions you can get instead– or check out your library for free access from an app like RB Digital.
Get a lot of catalogs? Cancel them through a site like Catalog Choice and shop online instead. Catalog Choice will also help with junk mail!
Receipts can often be rejected right at the checkout counter (“Want a receipt?” “No, thanks!”) and some stores have options to email a receipt instead.
My own biggest downfall is pamphlets and brochures. I collect them because I want the info and because later I use them for mixed media collages. However, there is no reason to keep as MANY as I do, and so I’m trying to get into the habit of just taking pictures of the brochure and putting them into a specific Evernote notebook. Any I keep for art goes into a special box.
2. Organize what you’re keeping.
Now that you’ve cut off most of your paper intake, it’s time to create a plan to tackle the rest.
Before you start scanning, figure out how you need to organize your files. You’re going to have to find them again, and if you create a system beforehand you can immediately sort your files into it.
I use a simple system that I outline in the workbook. You can do whatever works for you, but if you need a starting point, here you go.
Also, accidents happen. Stuff gets deleted, servers crash, data plans get canceled. How are you going to back up your files so they don’t get lost?
Personally, I use Google Drive to organize and store my digital files. The great thing about Google Drive is that it makes any text in an image searchable, which makes it super easy to find a particular file again as I can just use a keyword or phrase.
All Google users get 15 GB FREE storage, but if you need more or want to use Google Drive products in your business, try G Suite. It’s literally the same thing as Google Drive, but with extra business features like a professional email and more storage.
3. Scan and store electronically.
This is adaptable to what you prefer for your workflow, but I myself need something that a) scans in color, b) scans double-sided, and c) has an automatic feed. I don’t want to spend hours scanning my receipts, so I need something that’ll speed things up while still giving me a good scanned image.
Flatbed scanners are nice, but they’re a) expensive and b) impractical for an RV. Instead, I recommend this portable scanner from Brother.
It’s tiny, portable, and can handle up to 8.5”x32″ sized paper. It scans both sides at once (saves time!), in color (yay!), and weighs less than a pound (huzzah!). It’s powered through the USB connected to your computer, so you don’t even have to waste any of your RV’s battery.
If you’d prefer a wireless scanner, there’s even one of those, too.
I’ve used Brother products for the last few years and love the quality and how they last for years. Definitely recommend picking this one up, especially if you want to take it with you on the road.
4. Shred and toss.
Identity theft is no joke, and there’s nothing thieves like to target more than a big bag of paper. Once you scan your documents, you need to shred or otherwise destroy them before throwing them away.
I personally prefer shredding, but a shredder is a silly thing to have in an RV so I’m using this pen instead. It completely blacks out any personal info, making it impossible to read.
Another option is to take paper you want shredded to somewhere that can do it for you, like Office Depot.
Whatever you decide to do, I recommend you put all the paper that you want to dispose of in ONE location. Dedicate a box or a bag to just that paper and deal with it on a regularly scheduled shredding day.
5. Create good habits.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to create a paper-free workflow. Get into the habit of regularly scanning, shredding (/pen-marking), and throwing away. Don’t let the paper clutter pile up and ruin all the hard work that you did earlier.
Dedicate a few minutes each day, or even just once a week, to deal with the paper clutter. Do whatever works for you, just make sure to keep doing it.
- All incoming paper either gets immediately scanned, thrown away, or organized.
- Not every paper will be able to be scanned or shredded. Like: documents such as your SSN card or passport obviously shouldn’t be scanned OR shredded or stored. Put that stuff in a lockbox and/or a file organizer like this one.
- Stuff to be shredded goes into a shred box. Stuff to be scanned goes into a scan box. Trash goes into the trash!
- Schedule a day during the week to go through your boxes and get them cleared out.
No more paper clutter
When you live in a house, you don’t really have to think about all the paper that piles up. It comes in the mail or through the front door, and eventually you’ll get around to dealing with it. You just CAN’T do that in an RV: you don’t have the space, the time, or the necessity for all that paper.
Going paperless is a wonderful alternative to having to cart around piles and piles of paper. By dealing with it from the source, scanning it into an organized file system, and responsibly shredding or destroying it, your life on the road will be enormously improved.
No more paper clutter!0