9 Tools for a Paperless Life

by / ⠀Startup Advice / January 4, 2012

Too. Much. Paper.

If one of your resolutions is moving your life to a more peaceful, less cluttered, and paperless existence, I’m right there with you.  While we’re working hard on moving our online marketing firm to a completely paperless business, I’m also busy making my life paperless as well.

Before downloading and registering for every paperless app and service out there, sit down and determine where the biggest culprits in your life reside; where is most of the paper (and the overwhelm from paper) coming from?

When I did this for myself, I found that I was really bogged down by paper inefficiency in the following areas:

  • Mail—catalogs, statements for multiple accounts and bills
  • Receipts—things I’ve purchased & might want to return, business expenses, and more
  • Printed paper and documents from my computer
  • Magazine pull outs and articles
  • Business cards and brochures from conferences and people I’ve met

I found the following tools 9 tools to be the best for an initial paperless toolbox.

1. Evernote

Evernote is one of the best online tools I’ve found to quickly file articles, pictures, and really anything I ever want to remember.  Plus, you can tag the web clippings or can just run a search which will “employ the Evernote elephants” to search through the text.  I’ve found this to be best for remembering anything that I find online—from cool travel locations to business articles to dress photos.  Also, scan paper documents (yuck!) that you receive and upload and organize them using Evernote.  Cost: Free ($5/month for premium)

2. OneReceipt

This seems to be the answer/cure to my purse full of crumpled receipts.  My biggest issue with throwing away receipts is knowing what to save and what to keep.  From an IRS perspective, I found that they do permit electronic copies of receipts and you don’t need originals.  OneReceipt allows you to add all of your email accounts, pulls anything that is a receipt for a purchase—Christmas gift, plane ticket, Prada purse—and allows you to categorize it.  Furthermore, you can keep all receipts in one place to refer to when you need them and to not worry about them when you don’t.  When the dishwasher breaks, don’t dig through old folders but just quickly search your OneReceipt account.  For hard copy receipts, I email them to my OneReceipt email address and they’re automatically added.  Cost: Free.

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3. SignNow

I hate having to print documents to sign and then scan them back in.  Talk about inefficient.  Enter SignNow.  This tool allows me to open a PDF, sign my name directly, and even email to another for a signature.  Cost: Free.

4. Catalog Choice

I prefer to not receive any catalogs because most of them end up in the recycling bin anyway.  Also, like most of us, I get catalogs from companies I have never purchased from anyway.  Catalog Choice is a free service that allows you to unsubscribe from requested catalog using one dashboard.  In 10 minutes, I unsubscribed from 15 mailing lists.  Catalog Choice also shows me the environmental benefits of just my cancelled subscriptions.  To date, I’ve saved 1 fully-grown tree, 190 lbs of greenhouse gas, 68 lbs of solid waste, and 457 gallons of water.  Cost: Free (this is a non-profit so if you love the service, please donate).

5. Doxie scanner

This is the only piece of hardware on my list.  After reading reviews on the more expensive NeatReceipts scanners I decided on the Doxie.  The all-new Doxie Go lets you scan anywhere without being attached to a computer.  The software is included and is user-friendly (a sticking point with most NeatReceipts reviewers).  From the software, you can directly send your scans to Evernote.  I especially like that the scanned PDF text is searchable; that is huge.  Cost: $199.00 for the Doxie Go.

6. Virtual PostMail

When you decide to take that trip around the world (or really if you’re just trying to go paperless), Virtual PostMail gives you a 4-digit postal mailbox or real postal address to receive all of your mail.  You can then see your mail online within 24 hours.  This service even has a check depositing feature that deposits checks you receive in to your bank account securely.  Cost: starting around $10/month.

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7. CardMunch

This iPhone app, built by LinkedIn, allows you to take a picture of a business card and convert it to an address book contact automatically.  You can also then see your mutual connections on LinkedIn and add them as a connection if you like.  Cost: Free.

8. Google Apps

Keep your email, calendar, and documents (including spreadsheets) in one place and in the cloud.  Google Apps is useful for sharing documents and making edits without having to send multiple versions back and forth.  Set up a personal domain (i.e. www.yourname.com) and use Google Apps like you would as a mini-business.  Cost: Free.

9. DropBox

Dropbox stores your files—documents, photos, videos—that you previously kept on your hard drive in a synced cloud-based folder, accessible by your phone or any of your computers.  You no longer will be emailing files to yourself (come on, we’ve all done it) or, heaven forbid, print it.  This also helps eliminate those multiple version issues.  When you change a document from your iPad, it will automatically update across your devices.  You can also share folders with friends and colleagues.  In our business, we use this especially for very large files that we previously needed an FTP site for.  Cost: Free for up to 2GB of storage.

BONUS tool – SendItToMe

If you have a Kindle, install SendItToMe’s bookmarklet in your browser toolbar and you can send articles that you want to read directly to your Kindle.  Don’t print out articles and add more paper.  Cost: Free.

What tools are you using to reduce the paper in your life?  Chime in here.

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Author: Alexandra Gibson is the Managing Director (boss lady) for OttoPilot Media, an inbound marketing firm, and the SVP for Aspen Associates, an FF&E procurement company in the hospitality industry.  She wrote her first business plan at age 11…she’s been entrepreneurially intolerable since then. 

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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