Monday, January 17, 2011

32 January Challenge: Project Paper {step 5}

So how did "Project Paper" go this weekend?  Many of you had planned on using some time to start sifting and sorting and filing!  I thought of you and cheered you on from here!  Many of you emailed me to share with me how incredible and freeing it felt to shred those documents and create loads of new space and clutterless counters.  Say it together, "WAHOO!"

So far we have done some Research, Kept and Recycled, Created a Filing System, Organized Receipts and Created a Daily Routine to Maintain

Still, I had a few skeptics asking me how in the world I am able to keep all my files in one itty bitty bin.  Well, that is step 5 in this "Project Paper" challenge.

The answer is really easy.  I have begun to go paperless.

1.  Eliminate Paper Bank Statements.  I called my two banks in which I hold my checking and savings accounts, and asked about their policies when it comes to pulling old statements.  Both banks assured me they could pull my statements up to a couple years back, at no charge to me!  Plus, I can access my banking information online, which I have been utilizing for years.  That means to me, no more need to receive those bulky bank statements each month.  All banks are different, but you can find out how to opt out of paper statements by giving them a quick call or browsing their websites.

2.  Pay Bills Online.  I choose to pay all my bills online.  Again, there are a lot of systems out there to help you do this.  I choose to log into each one of my accounts through their website to pay, I know some banks offer an easier solution to this as well.  Since I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to these things, I like to log into the physical account to view my statements, see any account activity and schedule my payments.  While logged into my accounts {utilities, credit cards, cell phone, etc...}, I opted in for paperless statements.  For every single one that offers it.  I have a checklist of accounts that I need to check and pay each month, and I also receive email notifications when statements are available for viewing.  And I can easily go back and pull any statement online faster than I ever have been able to by digging through paper files.  Some billing companies offer perks for going paperless, or may even charge you if you choose not too.... something to consider.

3.  Store electronically.  I haven't quite gone this far yet, but it is an option to know about.  Here is a great article with step by step links for getting electronic and cutter more paper clutter around the house.  With the use of scanners, computer software and external hard-drives, you may never need to keep another piece of paper again!  You just have to decide if it's worth the time investment, this is what has held me back from doing it at this point.

It's amazing the power and storage that one little machine can pack right?  That's why technology can be our bff... only not as hug-able.

That's it!  That's all I got.  The concept is pretty easy really, but it's such a vital part in how I can easily keep paper under control.  Less paper coming in means less piles on the counter or papers to stick in a file, and paying bills online means less check writing and stamp usage and envelope licking.... ew.  Plus, it saves a tree right?  That's reason enough!

Many of you have dropped hints that going paperless was also your success story in maintaining your filing systems.  So what other tips do you have for individuals who haven't gotten around to going paperless yet?

I decided a little challenge would be fun! This month we are getting all those papers in order!  Wanna join?  Take pictures and blog about your awesomeness as you go!  I am hoping to do a giant, "We did it!" celebratory post where we can all link up our paper filing success stories at the end of the month!


  1. I would love to go paperless, but I don't really trust myself to remember to pay my bills on time if I did. Even with getting an email notification, I may look at it but if I didn't have time right at that moment, I would forget later. Plus, I have had to have copies of my bills a few times and if I went paperless, that means I'd have to print things which means I'd be using my own money to print (ink & paper costs) but at the same time I want to be environmentally friendly and to have a clutter free home... it's one of those situations that I really need to figure out which is the best solution for me, but haven't yet. How do you keep on top of the paperless bills, etc?

  2. I have a hard time going paperless. When I got married, my husband loved being paperless and kept track of everything on an Excel sheet. It drove me nuts, so we tried the non-paperless route and did things the old way and it drove him nuts. So, we're back to being paperless and sit down together to take care of bills. He enters everything on an Excel worksheet he's created to track our bills and budget...while I'm still trying to figure it out. I do love though, how we can just log in to our bank account and verify what payments were sent and where we are on our spending, etc.

  3. Great article! I've loved this Project Paper series you're doing. I desperately need help in this area.

    For all those out there that want to store things electronically but are a little skeptical about losing things, I'd highly recommend Mozy ( It automatically backs up your entire computer daily, weekly, monthly, etc. (based on your settings). It backs it up to an outside server so even if your computer got stolen or anything like that then you know all your files are not lost.

    Just another thought! Thanks again!!

  4. We've gone semi-paperless. I pay everything online, however I prefer to have the paper bill in front of me when I go to pay. It's my way of reminding myself what needs paid, and to actually sit down and pay the bills. When I'm done, I store them in my little file box marked "Paid Bills/Shred." It's either mail that come with personal info that I don't want to go through the trash, statements, or the paper bills that are already paid. To keep it from piling up, I go through it quarterly. Shred what is trash, and sometimes I find something that I probably should keep, so I scan it and save it electronically. I find it to be a good balance between doing it the old fashion way and being paperless (and keeping down on the paper clutter that can accumulate SO fast)!

  5. Like ter@waaoms mentioned, I too don't trust myself to go paperless when it comes to remembering to pay bills on time. The emails I may never remember to go back to. I need to see the individual transactions, how much electricity used etc.. I do have my bank statements paperless. What I do with my bills is I have a bill box with 31 slots. When the bill comes in the mail I throw the envelope it comes in and any ads that come with it away and drop just the bill itself into the slot on the day it's due. Twice a month (since I get paid every 2 weeks) I log in my bills. Say I get paid on the 15th, I log into billpayer through my bank all of the bills in slots 1-14. I set them all to be paid out 1 day after my direct deposit hits the account. This system has worked for me for years and I figured if it's not broke don't fix it :-)

  6. Well we did tackle the file cabinet this weekend! It doesn't look nearly as pretty as yours, but we did it!

    We're about half and half on paper/paperless... I can't imagine if it was all paper! Eek!

  7. I recently found your blog (from, and I've really enjoyed it! You've definitely inspired me to start organizing and labeling everything, and my kitchen is already looking better!

    For anyone thinking about going paperless and storing all files on the computer, I'd definitely suggest backing up your computer to an external hard drive at least once a week. If they're really important files (like a home business, etc), I would also suggest backing it up to another external drive stored at a separate location every few months. My husband has done a lot of work as a computer contractor, and there are so many clients who could have saved themselves a lot of worry and stress if they'd backed up their computer more regularly!

  8. Oops! I meant to say when I get paid on the 15th, I pay all bills due the 16-30th. Not 1-14 LOL

  9. Just wanted to add a little note regarding online bank statements, they were readily available online. My bank had the same policy, which was great (I loved my bank) ... but then the bank was bought. No big deal, until I needed 18 months worth of bank statements for all accounts due to an unexpected legal battle ... the "new" bank would only provide the ones created since they took over, they charged me $200+ to get the older ones from the bank they bought. Just something to be aware of.

  10. Love me some paperless billing! It decreases the mailbox influx by half! Which is just plain amazing! =) I also like that my filing cabinet is portable AND has a lid... I don't like to see the contents unless I need something =)

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  11. I am making progress! This actually kicked my butt into gear to start working on the office reno. We spent all weekend on it and it's starting to look amazing (see the blizog for details! Thanks so much!

  12. Great post!
    Evernote is the heart my of my paperless office (I work 3 jobs, go to school full time, support my husband in law school, and manage both directing and acting projects - I have a lot of paper beyond the 'normal amount') I rely on my document-feeding scanner, Mac, and Evernote.
    - With my document feeder, I easily scan every paper in my inbox - I sort into groups 'School', 'Work', etc. and then scan those groups together.
    - With my Mac, Image Capture makes everything a tidy/easy PDF
    - With Evernote, I'm able to just add the PDFs and they are made into searchable OCR docs that I can easily find later. Hardly any filing!
    I love this method and now my files are even safe from fire/theft as they are sync'd with the online Evernote and backed up to a hard drive using Time Machine.

  13. Wow @Kate the Great! Sounds like you have an organized SUPER SYSTEM! That's what I need! :) Thanks for sharing!

  14. Jen,
    I'm a new reader who has fallen head over heels for your blog, and this procrastinator is quickly becoming addicted to getting stuff done!! :)

    I did organize my filing cabinet this weekend, and have two paper grocery sacks stuffed full of papers to shred! Yippee!

    I do have a couple questions tho, that I came across while getting my organization on. Where do you store info that comes with new accounts (bank contracts, cable/internet contracts, etc)? And what about warranties and manuals for appliances? What about papers that are important, but you'll only ever have one of? :) I'm torn about whether I should make a file for these things in my current filing system, or if I should maybe have a box in my storage room with these miscellaneous files that will rarely be accessed?

    Thanks so much, and I look forward to each months challenge in 2011!! One a month is just perfect for me in this busy season of my life, and you make it all so pleasurable :)

  15. We hit the paper hard this weekend [for some reason that sounds kind of 'wrong' ha!], we shredded and filed until we had nothing left to, well, shred and file. It feels great to have everything in order now and it also will make things easier when we receive new paper/mail to be filed, now that we have a set system up, we won't get to overwhelmed! :)

  16. Working on my filing cabinet this week. Great ideas all the way around :-) Even though I still chose to get paper bills (I like the reminder they give me) I shred them as soon as they are paid - anything that is saved online (because I pay them all online) I do not keep in my paper files. As someone who used to work at a bank for years in customer service, they can produce any statement or record of your account back to the beginning of your account as long as it is still current. Once it is closed, it becomes 'historical" after a certain number of years (differs by bank) and than after 7 years, it is gone. Just an fyi :-)

  17. I LOVE your blog! I'm newer to it, but I find myself looking forward to your posts each day! And I'm "enjoying" this paper challenge - your ideas have been so helpful. I feel like I'm off to a great start as far as paperwork goes for 2011....and at the end of the day, I smile because my kitchen counters are clutter-free :) Thank you for all that you share!!!!

  18. Great blog! Just found it recently. I started to do more and more electronically over the last couple of years. All of our paperwork fits into 1 desk file drawer. I REFUSE to go over that limit; and every January I clean it out.

    As a poster above said; we use outside backup. we use carbonite. I'm a scrapbooker, so I like the thought of outside backup for our photos.

  19. I agree, Jen! I think the less paper the better. I'm trying to eliminate as much as possible, also!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  20. As someone already mentioned, going paperless works really well until another bank purchases the one you use and implements new regulations and/or fees or...a person becomes involved in a legal dispute. Of course no one ever plans on being involved in a legal dispute...until it happens.

    My mother-in-law shared the method she uses to keep bank statements organized and tidy with me several years ago. It works great and takes a minute amount of time to keep up. Keep statements tidy by placing in a three-ring-binder. They can either be three-hole-punched or placed in page protectors. One binder can easily hold several years worth of statements. It is WONDERFUL having all of the statements in one place; so much better than hunting through the house wondering which storage tote that thing is in. Our bank statements come already hole-punched. All we have to do is grab the binder and put the statement in. Easy as pie.

    I have been able to use this same method with other papers needing saved with equal success. Paper report folders could easily be used if three-ring-binders weren't available. Both the binders or report folders are also easily customizable to up the pretty factor. Bookwork is always more enjoyable if a person gets to use attractive items.

    Thank you for being brave enough to tackle the dreaded paper monster. I have been greatly encouraged to continue in my organizational quest.

  21. I am pretty much paperless.

    When I get email notifications of bills, I leave the bill marked unread until I get a chance to mark it in my Outlook calendar and I make sure I enter the amount to pay on the date it is due, and I add a reminder notification 3 days in advance if I need to manually pay the bill or on the day of the bill if it automatically comes out of my bank account or is charged directly to my credit card. I do also write it down on a one-page calendar that I keep in a binder. I might eventually get rid of that, but right now, I have all the bills that I pay in a given month written on the top of the calendar and each time I receive a bill, I write it on the calendar and cross off the bill from the top so I know if I'm ever missing anything.

    Then, when I get confirmation emails/pages that I can print out, instead, I print it to a PDF file using PDF995, which is a program I downloaded free from It will print it to a PDF File, and I save it on my USB drive where I have things stored by year and type (confirmation, notification or paystubs). Then I am done. If I ever need to go back, it's right there on my flash drive.

    Thanks for all your inspiration! I have a lot more organizing to do, but you definitely give me some good ideas.

  22. Stopping by to say hello. Im loving your colorful approach to your paper organizing project. Way to go Jen!!

    A Bowl Full of Lemons

  23. I started going through my filing cabinet last night, in hopes to move only to a small portable hanging storage file for my bills and things. I'm so embarassed to admit that I found bank statements from 2004 (!).....I quickly put them into the fire and burnt them. Who knew I was such a paper packrat!!! =/

  24. Hi Kayla!

    Here are a couple of answers to your previous questions, hopefully I am not too late!

    Where do you store info that comes with new accounts (bank contracts, cable/internet contracts, etc)? I have one document box for all the pamphlets and booklets that come with new accounts and such. It's just like the tax box I have shown in the post, they stack on top of one another in our closet.

    And what about warranties and manuals for appliances? Those are in our storage room in a magazine box from Ikea {}, since we have never gone for them, I felt OK keeping them tucked away for that just in case purpose.

    What about papers that are important, but you'll only ever have one of? :) I'm torn about whether I should make a file for these things in my current filing system, or if I should maybe have a box in my storage room with these miscellaneous files that will rarely be accessed? I actually have a file labeled personal, which may potentially solve that problem? Otherwise, I try and place the document in the category that it best fits. You could also create a folder on your PC {that you back up of course}, and scan the misc. documents in their and recycle them. New York Times states that document images are just as compliant and relevant these days than the paper copy.

    Hope that helps!


  25. Hi, I'm new to your blog, but I wanted to jump in and say that it is VERY important to back up your computer. We regularly back up to an external hard drive in our apartment in case of damage to or failure of our computers, and we swap it out with one in our safe deposit box (offsite and secure) in case of fire/water/tornado/burglary. That is a critical step.
    Two, scanning our course notes, newspaper clippings, and articles of interest make them searchable, which means they're more usable, provides a back-up, and prevents us from ever having to move them again.
    And three - I borrowed a scanner from a friend because I don't feel good about spending $200-$400 on a good scanner. Ask around - I bet you can cull some of your older files even if that isn't your standard filing method right now. :)

  26. I think I missed something. The old files you keep in the storage room, what do you keep those in and are they filed by year or subject?

  27. @Jasmine,

    My archived files are kept in a large document box, and filed by year.


  28. Thank you! Starting this tonight. I am glad I found your blog, I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time here this year while we get organized. Or you could just come here and help me....

  29. Thank you so much for sharing...we have gone paperless and I have started using some of these methods for making things easier and more organized. I still have to go through all of those years of previous paperwork and shred them though. I love how you make these ideas FUN!
    Thank You,

  30. I get all my bills electronically and pay them electronically as well. I have them set up to be paid automatically on the due date. So when I get the notice in my e-mail, I go into my electronic ledger and enter the payment with the due date. Later when I check my bank account online and verify the payment, I mark it as paid. No worries about remembering to pay on time!

  31. I saw this recently on TV (Yeah, I know, don't believe everything you see on TV), it's called the NeatDesk. Go to and check it out. Seriously, it's cool. You can store ALL your documents electronically, each and every one. I am seriously considering getting one. :)

  32. Ok... well i just remembered its about $400. Oops! But it's still cool!!


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