As part of lifehacker.com’s Ultimate Clutter Cleanout, writer Kevin Purdy has shared a terrific article: Top 10 Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life, 2010 edition. This article is like catnip to a a digital de-clutter wannabe such as myself. I love all of the great ideas on how to deal with and decrease digital clutter. Actually, the whole series has enough useful information to keep me going for the foreseeable future.
The item on this list that I already use on a daily basis is Dropbox. It is a free (up to 2 GB) cloud back-up system or, as lifehacker puts it, “that hard drive in the sky.” I use it to store my important files and photographs. It’s super easy to use. After installing the program, I put a Dropbox folder on my desktop. Then, any time I want to save a file, I save it into a folder in my Dropbox.
But here’s the kicker: I try to have as few folders as possible in Dropbox. And the folder I use the most is called “Reference.”
The Reference folder is the key to my paperless office system. Basically, the Reference folder contains 26 folders, each with a single letter of the alphabet. Within each lettered folder, I store things just as I would in a physical file cabinet. For example, ‘R’ contains sub-folders labeled “receipts,” “recipes,” “restaurants,” and “resume.”
When I’ve scanned or written a document, I just save it to the proper folder, and voilá, instant organization!
I am happy to give credit for this genius paperless filing system to Arjun Muralidharan, who wrote a guest post about it at Productivity 501. You can read more about his system here.
Dropbox works seamlessly with my password manager, 1Password. This means, for example, that I can log onto a site on my laptop computer, and 1Password and Dropbox with immediately sync with my desk computer, making it simple to sign into that site from home without needing to remember my log-in information.
The final component of my paperless office is a snappy little scanner named, aptly enough, the ScanSnap S1500M. I have had other scanners and I can easily say this is the quickest, most efficient scanner I have ever used. I can add a stack of papers, and it rapidly scans both sides, and then asks in which folders I want to store the files. It’s very user-friendly and intuitive.
Of course, it is environmentally sound and security-savvy to shred and recycle the documents after they’ve been scanned. I recommend using a cross-shredder to thoroughly chop up the paper so that it is adequately shredded. We’ve been using this one for several years and have been quite pleased with it.
So, there you have it, the one-two-three of a paperless office:
- Dropbox for digital storage in the cloud; (and 1a, 1Password for password management);
- using a “Reference” folder to organize files; and
- a speedy scanner to save articles and receipts (and 3a, a cross-shredder prior to recycling your scanned papers).
Disclaimer: I know that lately I seem to have been talking about a gadgets, and, hey, isn’t this blog about living simply? Yes, indeed it is. But sometimes there are up-front costs associated with a new endeavor, and simplification is no exception. The monetary outlay will more than be made up for in space-saving, paper-decreasing, cost-saving benefits over the long haul.
Your turn: how do you organize your paperless office?