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Going paperless is something I have thought about off and on for a few years.

The piles of printed training materials and handwritten notes just seem to grow and grow and grow.

A few months ago, I had a big turning point in my life and realized that I wanted to get rid of a lot of my stuff and prepare to have a freedom lifestyle.

I have been shredding and recycling, scanning, and typing ever since.

However, this isn’t an easy task.

The world has already lost 80% of its forests and we’re continually losing them at a rate of 375 km2 per day!

The World Counts

1. The Rules of going paper free

There are some things that you need to keep.

Taxes from the past 7 years, items of sentimental value, hard copies of things such as contracts, receipts for upcoming taxes, and so on.

Although sometimes things like photographs can be scanned and kept digitally anyways, that’s up to you.

Some people also scan their receipts and perhaps you could also scan the hard copies and taxes but that’s up to legal rules where you live and what you are comfortable with.

NOTE: Remember to shred anything you don’t need any more that has personal information – either yours or someone else’s.

At the current rate of deforestation, 5-10% of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade.

The World Counts

2. The tools

There are a few tools I use for going paper-free:

Evernote (affiliate link) is a popular tool for those going paper free. When I first started looking into this concept I found a ton of people who have already used Evernote to successfully complete the paper free goal.

You can find YouTube videos, articles, guides, and more all dedicated to going paperless with Evernote (affiliate link).

Here are some references:

I recommend upgrading to the business version of Evernote (affiliate link) instead of sticking with the free, so you can access it on all your devices and have greater capabilities.

Once you have the tools that you need you can get to sorting your papers.

NOTE: You should also consider a system backup option such as iDrive to ensure that even if your system crashes or a file doesn’t save properly in Evernote or your digital file system, that it isn’t lost.

Lessening of paper usage was predicted due to the electronic revolution. It didn’t happen. Demand for paper is expected to double before 2030.

The World Counts

3. The method

So how does it work?

Make piles.

I have a pile of notes to type up, a pile of stuff to scan and shred, and a pile of printed PDFs to see if I have them in my computer still then I can just recycle them.

Your piles will differ based on the type of papers you have around.

You will likely find that you have kept papers that can just go straight into recycling and that will feel awesome as you get rid of them.

I suggest that you pick the pile that’s easiest to complete first so you can clear out some stuff and feel great about it!

Others may choose to start with the hardest pile to get it over with.

The process will entirely depend on you.

In Evernote (affiliate link) you can tag and title your documents and find them via the search tool. Yes, even PDFs are searchable by the text that’s in them.

You can organize both in Evernote (affiliate link) and your digital file system (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or your native file system but that’s not backed up) in much the same way on the surface.

You create a file for the type of documents you want to save, in Evernote (affiliate link), this would be a notebook.

Then you create subfolders but in Evernote (affiliate link), you just create notes in the notebook you created or notebooks within stacks and then notes in the notebooks.

In your digital file system, you can only search based on the title of the document whereas in Evernote (affiliate link) you can search based on text in the note as well as tags that you assign to the note.

I’m sure you can see how these systems each have their benefits.

You can find templates for Evernote (affiliate link) or files such as word documents to help make the process easier to continue using as well.

Why it’s so hard (for me)

Going paperless will be easier for some than others, naturally.

I tend to be more visual. I’ve even gone so far as to have a wall calendar.

I also prefer to write out notes and reminders by hand, so I can check them off or cross them out as I go. This does have challenges though, so I’ve taken to writing things out by hand then typing them up.

The switch to less paper really comes down to changing our habits above all else. The tools are there and constantly improving and often available for free.

What exceptions I make

I tried very hard to create a bullet journal in Evernote (affiliate link) and this is absolutely do-able, but not for me.

I really needed to write things down by hand, so I caved and went back to a physical bullet journal for to-do lists and reminders.

I do create a monthly calendar in my bullet journal but I’m also trying to use Google calendar more and more for reminders, particularly for things that are recurring like bills and birthdays (I’m so bad at remembering those!).

Can you go paperless?

You can go paperless but find the way that works for you.

We all learn and retain information in our own way so why would that be any different with your everyday life?!

If writing something by hand works best for you then look at using recycled or scrap paper and typing it up for easier reference in Evernote (affiliate link) once the paper is full.

If you prefer a tool like OneNote instead of Evernote, then find what works for you.

For to do lists you may prefer tools such as Trello (I love this for blog post ideas and processes), Asana (more business oriented), Wunderlist, or even a checklist in Evernote (affiliate link).

For a comparison of Evernote, Trello and Asana you can read my blog post Evernote, Trello, and Asana – which one is for you?

There are a lot of tools out there so if Evernote (affiliate link) doesn’t work for you, you will find something that does.

Think of how much lighter you will feel when you have less paper collecting dust and taking up space and all of your thoughts and information at your fingertips?!

Paper pollution is another effect of paper waste and it’s a serious problem. It is estimated that by 2020, paper mills will be producing 500,000,000 tons of paper and paperboard each year! We obviously need this product and a reduction of use is not in the horizon. Pulp and paper is the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, water and soil. Chlorine-based bleaches are used during production which results in toxic materials being released into our water, air and soil. When paper rots, it emits methane gas which is 25 times more toxic than CO2.

The World Counts

Not convincing enough?

Every tree makes enough oxygen for 3 people to breath but to print the Sunday edition of the New York Times it takes 75,000 trees.

The demand for paper was expected to decrease with the rise of technology but unfortunately, it’s still growing.

If we can even reduce our daily paper usage a little bit then we can save a tree and slow deforestation.

Do you have a paperless tip? Let me know in the comments.

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