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Even in this era of i-everything, it’s unlikely that any of us can completely cut paper out of our lives. But digging out from the piles of documents on our desks and reducing our junk mail haul are goals we can achieve. Here’s how…
Do It Digitally
And by “it,” we mean any transactions you would otherwise do on paper. Most banks, credit card and insurance companies, utilities and charities allow you to receive paperless statements and pay your bills online. When you travel, book your flights, hotels and rental cars digitally and request e-tickets and online confirmations whenever possible. Applications and registration materials for most schools, camps and extracurricular activities are available at the organization’s website, and can often be completed online, so you never need to print anything out. Similarly, lots of theater, concert and movie tickets can all be purchased digitally and redeemed at the theater.
Why Print When You Can PDF?
The next time you’re about to print a document, ask yourself if you really need a hard copy. Are you just going to stick it in a folder and file it away? If the answer is yes, save it as a PDF and store it digitally instead. The same principle applies to purging the piles of paper you already have. If you no longer need a physical copy, scan it, save it as a PDF and store it on your computer; getting in the habit of having digital files will help you break your paper habit and reduce clutter at the same time. As with all important data, don’t forget to back up your files regularly.
Just Say “No” To Junk Mail
Junk mail is like your least favorite relative: It shows up uninvited, is annoying to have around, and keeps coming back. Unfortunately, just like your great-aunt Geraldine, there’s no way to completely eliminate junk mail from your life (those solicitations addressed to “Postal Customer” are particularly ornery, aren’t they?) but there are steps you can take to significantly limit the barrage. Start with the big stuff: catalogs. Go to CatalogChoice.org and choose which ones you want to continue to receive and which you don’t. Catalog Choice will contact the senders and do the dirty work for you. Next, nix unwanted credit card offers at OptOutPrescreen.com, a site that stops consumer credit companies from sharing your information with third parties. To keep your mailbox free of coupons and flyers, remove your name from direct marketing lists at DMAchoice.org. Finally, go to YellowPagesOptOut.com and say goodbye to phonebooks forever.
There’s an App For That
If you use a smartphone or tablet, digging out from under the piles of paper on your desk is a snap. List-generating apps like Paperless: Lists & Checklists enable you to create custom lists for literally anything, from groceries to to-do’s to work projects, and sync them from your phone or tablet to your computer. For more complex document organizing and sharing capabilities, Evernote leads the pack in giving you instant access to any document, image or file on all of your devices, regardless of where it was created or stored. There’s even an app for getting rid of junk mail -- snap a photo of the offending catalogue or credit card offer, and PaperKarma will send the company an unsubscribe request on your behalf.