I made the move into the paperless world some months back, with the ScanSnap S1500M from Fujitsu. This scanner really is remarkable. It's a workhorse (War Horse?), chomping through documents as it scans double-sided and spits them out.

I'm using it in the following ways:

  • Scanning new important documents: tax-related stuff, auto repair files, that I need to archive for that "just in case" scenario
  • Archiving old material, such as class materials and lectures (from 20 years ago!), that I want access to
  • Saving children's artwork and school materials

It's key to have the scanner nearby. If it's not within reach of your computer, you will end up with a pile of to-be-scanned documents that becomes overwhelming. It's best to scan as you go, in small batches, rather than letting it stack up for weeks and then having to separate out papers and scans into different groups.

For materials that are being archived, I use Evernote, which has terrific tagging, categorizing (in notebooks), and cloud service. Scans can be sent directly into Evernote to be preserved, both locally and in the cloud, and then available on mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.).

For items that are sensitive (such as receipts, tax documents, banking, etc.) I store them locally on my hard drive; things for immediate use, I put them in Dropbox.

The only snag I've run into is, well, snags. Old papers, such as my decades-old notes from college courses, don't always do so well. Some of the papers have been in a folder a long time, so the papers are bent, stuck together, or had a staple (now rusted) stuck in them, so they don't separate properly. You sometimes have to do work with a stack of papers, fanning and separating and turning them around, to get them to pass through individually through the scanner. This is more a fault of the paper than the scanner.

Some papers don't need scanning. Why should I scan my bank statements or car insurance policy? I can file and replace them quite easily. For things that change regularly, or that a financial institution is keeping on file, I don't bother with scanning--it's not always useful or time-saving. When I scan, I either need it archived, or I need it available digitally. For things that don't meet that criteria, they get sensibly filed. I don't know that you can ever truly go paperless, but you can certainly cut down on the bulk of it.

AuthorKevin Taylor