Going Paperless at Home – Putting the FREE back in Paper Free

The following is a guest post from blogger Andrew Odom about going paperless at home. The Odoms are building a 200 sq ft home and redefining a person’s true needs and cutting back on “stuff.”  Thank you Andrew for your organizing insight!

THE ISSUE

There are a number of reasons to go paperless at home.

For years, all kinds of companies – banks, utility companies, insurance companies, and even cab drivers – have been about going paperless at home. Not only does it save money (both on the part of the company and the consumer) but it is environmentally responsible, easier to keep track of your budget (especially if you use an online budget app or some sort of banking software), and space saving.

Granted there are a few concerns including security, archives, and compatibility. Those pale in comparison though when thinking of a newfound ability to view banking statements, balance statements, recent purchases, instruction booklets, etc. on the go! This doesn’t even take into account how much space and aggravation can be spared when you take even your media – photos, movies, music, etc – into cyberland, on to external hard drive, or on large format disc.

So when we first began downsizing and then preparing to move into our bungalow we reevaluated our consumption of paper and extraneous media. We realized very quickly that by transitioning to a paper free lifestyle we could live a more simple and more organized life. In our quest to live more simply then we outlined our ideas for filing digital photos, our desire to stop holding on to receipts and other paper statements, and our refusal to print….well, anything. (In fact, we haven’t owned a printer since 2010).

But the question continues to be asked. Why? Why go paper free? Is it really just about convenience? NO! Here is our thinking.

Paper is made from trees with a healthy addition of chemicals and lots of carbon energy for production and distribution. It is neither organic nor truly bio-degradable. Disposing of it causes extraneous use of trash bags (which end up in the landfill) which then causes a larger empty spot in our pocket books. It goes against everything in regards to sustainable living, organic living, and even tiny house living. Honestly, when living in less than 200 sq. ft. who has room to store extra toilet paper and paper towels?

And then the second question appears. Why get rid of your DVDs and CDs and photos? The answer? Why not? It is now common practice to download and even rent music and movies via digital resource such as iTunes and Amazon so why take a step back in time and either purchase a CD/DVD or commit your favorite tunes to one? Keep the file digital. If you do want to hang on to that coveted ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack or your Director’s Cut copy of Bladerunner then you can at least take a stab at proper organization. I think the Stacking DVD Rack and the Jute Rectangular Baskets by Organize It are nice if you want to blend your collection in with your decor.

GETTING STARTED

We have found that before you throw away a CD or call your bank to have your paper statements discontinued the best plan of action is to survey your home for areas that can be converted to paper free. This includes the media area (CDs, DVDs, photos), bathrooms (Kleenex, toilet paper, etc), the kitchen (paper towels, napkins, scratch pads). The second task is to figure out how your lifestyle would be effected by limiting your use of such products or eliminating them altogether. To that end, I offer a few tips.

  • Get “fancy.” Perhaps the easiest paper to eliminate is the napkin. Granted many of us take pride in our vast collection of fast food and take out napkins (colors deserve extra respect, of course), they only add to the clutter and trash. Try to get a little fancy, as it were. Replace paper napkins with cloth ones. You don’t have to use expensive cloth from boutiques and gourmet stores. In fact, you can be cavalier by buying some cheap bandanas at the five-and-dime or you can be a bit more creative and sew your own. Can’t sew? Try this method then.
  • Post-It permanently. Post-It notes are expensive. Convenient and colorful? Yes. Expensive? Oh yeah. Wasteful? Um, yeah. How about trying a blackboard or a whiteboard instead. We used chalkboard paint on the outside of our bathroom door (which is conveniently open to the main room of our bungalow) to leave each other notes, take phone messages, start a grocery list, etc. We have already planned out a small whiteboard for the Tiny House to do much the same thing. They are small, affordable, and available almost anywhere!
  • Bill me later, please. One simple thing you can do to reduce your paper footprint is to say no to paper bills. If you already pay by direct debit or standing order, then making the switch is simple. In fact, some banks are offering monetary incentives for this such as reduced fees, so it’s a win-win. If you don’t see the option on your current paper bills visit the companies website and check the FAQs.
  • Cleanliness is next to….well, cleanliness. All bathrooms needs to be cleaned. Perhaps using paper towels on the mirror, TP on the toilet seat and some Kleenex for left-behind dust may not be the most eco-friendly answer though. Instead, try using towels. Old tshirts, socks, or even, well, towels, make for great cleaning towels. Use one for the toilet and keep it separate. Then have one for washing/scrubbing and one for drying. You can easily throw them into the washer on HOT to clean them and prepare them for reuse.
  • Welcome to the digital age. No one wants to throw away greeting cards or college term papers. So why do it? Instead of holding on to all the paper stock or even using it in the first place, consider digital options including scanning services, home scanners, and cloud storage. In regards to sending greeting cards there are a number of websites now that offer free and minimally priced memberships to greeting card services.

I will not pretend it is easy to make the transition. Most of us don’t know life without paper product. But is that the legacy we want to leave for our children? Do we want them to live in a world that continues to bury itself in dead, stripped, oxidized trees? What do you think? Are you paper-free already or are you trying to reduce your paper consumption? What stumbling blocks have you encountered? What suggestions do you have? And as always feel free to share this post on Facebook or Tweet out the link to show your support for living a more simple life!


About Andrew: Bigger does not always mean better. Progress does not always mean forgetting our roots in order to forge a new future. Blogger, photojournalist, tiny house enthusiast, and hobby farmer Andrew Odom has spent much of the last few years rediscovering the lost art of living, growing, and being truly happy. Visit him online at www.tinyrevolution.us.

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