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How to Go Paperless (or as close as possible)

Ahhhh. I can breathe. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately–because it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My house feels bigger. I love looking in the closets & cabinets. It is organized & downsized. Essentials have stayed & after a harsh edit, non-essentials, including excess furniture, are gone.

It. Feels. Great.

I first decided that this process needed to happen a few weeks ago when there were several major Texas fires–one just several miles from my home. What would I grab? What do I need? Where is it all? Turns out, I wouldn’t need a lot, because we are mostly paperless. But recently, we took it to a whole new level. & I thought I’d help you see how we did it–because it freed up a lot of floor space & mental clutter. Both worth their weight in gold.

Here is all the paper that is left in my house:

& Here is how I did it:

So you can read through my algorithm & get a pretty good idea how it all went. I made four piles: KEEP, RECYCLE, SHRED, DONATE. The major decisions all came down to “what to keep.” I am a purger–so for me this is a pretty easy question to answer. But in talking to my friends, I have learned that I am the minority. It is a big problem for a lot of you to let go. So here is how I made my decisions, in a little more detail. If it had any information I wanted to keep, asked myself:




The above questions applied to the following categories:

Financial: Such as bank statements, pay stubs, taxes, legal documents, etc. We do almost all of our financial business through USAA & a private investment firm–both very e-friendly. I have access to ALL of those monthly statements online. They can be downloaded–and they will be–into nice tidy little folders on my hard drive. Gone are the files & files of paper statements. Financial stuff was a huge chunk of our paper.

Legal: Some legal documents I did not feel comfortable with shredding. I retained all of those, but scanned them for good measure. They are limited to the essentials like birth certificates, marriage certificates, LLC paperwork, etc.

Academic: Some of these files I couldn’t part with either. I kept college transcripts, board scores, etc.

Professional: Much of my work history is already in digital format, but some of it–letters of recommendation, sales track records, offer letters, etc. were retained for my own safekeeping. I kept a couple business cards from each position I had ever held and that it about it. Everything else was shredded. & for those of you with experience with the drug rep profession know how much is sent our way on a weekly basis. Whew. Glad to be free of all of it!

Medical: So far, all of our medical histories are still on paper. I hope to someday scan all of this information into the computer, but for now, vax records & basic medical records are filed away.

Personal: This is where the bulk of my purging took place. I had so much stuff–cards from my wedding, pamphlets from my honeymoon adventures, articles from professors in college & random articles that I found interesting & just couldn’t let go of. & that brought forth a whole different set of questions:



From graduation booklets to wedding cards to ticket stubs from dates with my husband ten years ago–I let it all go. Much of it was glossy, mass produced & meaningless. But some of it had notes. Very personal notes. From grandparents who had passed on, to love letters between two seventeen year olds. Some of it I couldn’t bear the though of getting rid of–and I’d bet my kiddos would love to go through someday. But most of it–was junk. To the recycle bin it went.

Other information, like interesting articles and business cards and stuff from my wedding I went ahead and scanned into evernote. (Here’s how I use evernote to organize my life) All of the articles I was holding onto were easily googled & clipped into notebooks. I have a rolodex in my evernote where I keep all of my scanned business cards, so I can access them anytime, anywhere.

No more of these in my house…

& my future challenge lies in organizing my media. I am currently loading all of my old CDs into iTunes. We have recycled DVDs because we can access them all through Netflix. Do any of you have ideas about how to move forward without purchasing any DVDs in the future? This has to be possible. I’d love to begin a collection of Disney movies, but why bother with the DVDs if we’ll only be watching them on the iPad or TV anyway? Do any of you use Apple TV? I’d love your thoughts.


& onto pictures…oh pictures. I have whittled my picture collection down to just three little boxes, but I am thinking of investing in a quick photo scanner so I can be done with them ALL. I’d love to have them all as digital files so I don’t risk losing them & can back them up. I’m currently drooling over the NeatDesk for Mac, but it’s a little steep of a price point for me. I have a CanoScan 4400F Flatbed scanner right now. & I have no desire to use it to scan hundreds of pictures. I also have a bunch of negatives to scan. Got a great solution for mac? I am all ears.

Source: via miss shawna on Pinterest


& a quick note on BACKING UP. I cannot express how strongly I feel about doing this, not just for professionals, but for any family who uses a computer to run their household. I recently had a hard drive fail, but I had everything backed up–so no big deal. I am on the paranoid side, so I have TWO backups of everything. One is my Time Capsule (hooked to both of our computers & it automatically backs-up as we work) and I also have an additional off-site backup through Therefore, if there ever is a catastrophe & I lose my entire office–everything digital can be recovered thanks to the off-site backup. It’s only $50/yr for unlimited storage. Well worth the piece of mind!

I know this is a lot of stuff to throw at you on a Monday–but hopefully you made it to the end. If you’ve got any more questions, shoot them my way in the comments section. Got any tips? I’d love those too!

Now, time to make my closet as pretty as my office…

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  • Chelsea McCown - AWESOME!!! I’ve done some work towards this, but I would love to do more!! This is a great strategy!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly B. - The NeatWorks Scanner is awesome! We have one in my office at work, and it’s a dream to use. I didn’t think about using it to scan pics….that’s a great idea! :-)ReplyCancel

  • The Up North Writer Mama - I really need to attack our “paper clutter.” I have sooo much to go through! Even if I don’t quite make the leap to making everything digital, I can definitely pare down what we keep. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Shalley - What great ideas! I’m going to channel all things Shawna when I put my office together. I HATE bills and meaningless paperwork. :) Question about negatives…I have TONS, especially from childhood! What are you doing with those {specifics please}. I need to buckle down and REALLY clean out my digital hard drives before I go to backing up. Love the Backblaze reference. THANKS, friend!ReplyCancel

  • Crystal - Perfect!! I was just visiting your blog to look up some info on Evernote as I’m about to get it and input all recipes, meal plans, etc.! I have some help coming this week to clean our living room (which includes all office stuff), so this is great inspiration to really tackle it and minimize everything. You’ve got some serious organizational skills. :) thanks for sharing!!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Salinas - Hey Shawna, Thanks for the post! This helped to answer a lot of questions I’ve had about how I want to organize documents. Our of curiosity, how do you handle all of Tommy’s medical papers and journal articles? I’ve been slowly scanning and storing my own paperwork but still have an ENTIRE closest of Nate’s paperwork. I really don’t want to take it with me when we move and I’m not sure Evernote will be able to handle all of his stuff. Any thoughts?ReplyCancel

  • Sunray - Hey Shawna, as a photographer, I would imagin you have hundreds of gigs worth of RAW images or maybe even terabytes worth. Do you also back those up on Backblaze? Do you keep external hard drives hooked on to you computer all the time and let Backblaze do it’s thing? Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Sunray - Hey Shawna! As a photographer, I would imagine you have hundreds of gigs worth of RAW images…or maybe even terabytes. Do you also back those up on Backblaze? Do you keep external hard drives connected to your computer at all time so that Backblaze would back those up, too? Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - You’ve inspired me to go paperless.. esp since I will be moving within the next year! Great article!!ReplyCancel

  • Erica - We have the Apple TV (we call it the magic box) and it’s awesome! We primarily use it for streaming Netflix and anything that’s on iTunes is easily accessible. I have found that renting movies on it is a little silly because it takes so long for the movies to download (like an hour). So what I have done in the past is rented a movie on my computer in iTunes (same price) and then have it download there because it doesn’t take as long and then connect to iTunes through the magic box and viola!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan - We have Apple tv and love it! Even Jacob knows how to use it easily. Also, it is very user friendly and you can use your iPhone as a remote, how cool is that?!ReplyCancel

  • emily - This is SO great! I really needed to read this right now. Thanks for the inspiration – I use evernote, but not faithfully, and we have an apple TV just for streaming netflix for my daughter. I hardly ever think of backing up either, which is very irresponsible considering my photos and portfolio (my life basically) is all here. My husband just told me I had Time Machine I could use – how did I not know this!? Thanks for making me think!!ReplyCancel

  • Who me? Organized? « Paperseed - […] kick lately. I had just begun with some preliminary things (like my desk) when I came across a Go Paperless post at Styleberry Blog. The timing was perfect as motivation to keep […]ReplyCancel

  • catherine - Since you can’t save pictures off your blog, can you email me a pdf copy (or some other form) of the “algorithm” you used? I’d like to post this on my wall as I whittle through everything as we get ready to move in the next year. I am too emotional over little things and really need visual inspiration to keep on the right track.


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