Full disclosure: I just stumbled on THE MOST BRILLIANT SOLUTION EVER yesterday afternoon. It may, in fact, end up not being as brilliant as initially believed. But I doubt it. Prepare yourself for awesome, is what I’m saying.
I despise paper clutter.
Actually, I despise piles of paper even when they are perfectly organized. And yet, stacks and files and mounds of paper have always seemed to be an inevitable part of life, both in an office and at home.
Recently, I decided to actively seek out a solution to the paper as I’m going to be moving into an RV in a few weeks and will have very limited space in which to live and work - space I’d rather dedicate to dishes and food and the one pair of black boots I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of.
My immediate thought was to get my hands on a scanner and go 100% digital. However, scanners are both large and rather expensive. I then began lusting over a NeatReceipts Mobile Scanner - but good Lord those things are expensive! After a few failed attempts to purchase similar products for less money on eBay, I resolved to find another solution.
I turned to my trusty iPhone, confident that there would, in fact, be an app for that.
And there was! Loads of them!
I settled on the Genius Scan + for $2.99 because it can easily scan multiple pages, saves images as PDFs, and easily uploads to multiple storage system. There is also a free version available that worked very well. I upgraded so that I could have easy integration with my storage systems.
And that’s step 2 of THE MOST BRILLIANT SOLUTION EVER - a storage system.
Once I had a digital version of all of my papers, I had to figure out what I was going to do with them. Would I need a separate hard drive to store all of my receipts from business meals? How would I sort and organize and safely store tax returns for the last 6 years? My solution actually included two different systems.
I’ve written about Evernote before and how I use it for keeping track of ideas. Now I’m using it to keep all of my receipts in an easily searchable, off my computer, constantly backed-up place. Basically, I created a notebook called “receipts” and I use Genius Scan to scan my receipts, upload them directly to evernote, and tag them with a category keyword like “travel” or “medical”. My receipts are now in one place and I can easily do a search by tag OR text, because Evernote can actually READ the text in my images.
While I like Evernote for small documents and notes, it wasn’t going to be a sufficient replacement for my large filing cabinet. Because I am committed to going 100% digital instead of creating a hybrid system, I looked for a way to easily organize large files I don’t use often. Dropbox was perfect for me. It actually doesn’t store the files - they stay on my hard drive - but it easily syncs files among different computers and helped me create a very organized system for files I don’t access often but need to be able to find when I do need them. Also, I no longer have to email myself large files. I can scan them, upload them to dropbox, and they are automatically put in the right place on my computer (and any other computer I might link to my network - like my husband’s laptop!) Added bonus? I can access my files from anywhere, even if I don’t have my computer with me.
Dropbox, for me, serves as an organizational tool, transfer system, and backup system for files I used to keep in a filing cabinet.
How well is THE MOST BRILLIANT SOLUTION EVER working?
Yesterday I scanned all of my receipts for the 2010 tax year into one PDF and uploaded it to my computer via Dropbox. The entire process took about 30 minutes. I then scanned and uploaded all of the 2011 receipts I’d been storing in a shoebox into Evernote, where they were quickly tagged and organized. That process took about 10 minutes.
I’m thrilled with the results and can’t wait to be completely free of all of my paper.
Have you made the switch to digital filing? Do you plan to at any point?