Have you considered moving some of your files and papers to a digital system but the thought overwhelms you? Friends, I hear you. I am not as especially tech savvy person, but recent events have shown me the power of a paperless system. Today I’m going to walk you step by baby step through 5 easy steps to start going paperless.5 Easy Steps to Start Going Paperless|The Holy Mess

Now, I hear you crying quietly into you mountains of receipts that date back to 1974, but rest assured we are going to take this slowly.

Consider this post an overview of how you will get started. I won’t share every tiny detail, but you’ll get a great idea of what’s possible! I’ve included a few screenshots as well as helpful links to resources Mike and I use on a regular basis.

Before you start, remember these 2 important points:

  1. You don’t have to get rid of all your paper. I suggest you start with items that either you don’t care about the paper (say, recipe clippings, that you scan and throw away), or go ahead and keep your paper for awhile as a back-up. You can throw it away later once you feel more comfortable. Throwing it out right at the beginning might cause you to have a panic attack, and that’s not our goal here.
  2. Choose one SMALL paper area of your life to start. SMALL. And move forward. Do not go back and do previous piles, just move forward with new paper that comes in.

5 Easy Steps to Start Going Paperless


1. Choose one type of paper as a starting place.

  • Do NOT attempt to go back and scan all your old papers and receipts. That might happen later, but that’s way too overwhelming. You’ll get stuck and quit half-way through.
  • Pick something practical. Choose a category that it would be helpful to share documents with someone via email. Here’s one of ours. My husband scans all of our kids documents for their special education. (IEP paperwork, medical forms, assessments from specialists). We recently moved to a new school district and it was A-MAZ-ing when I could simply email the new district every single document they needed with one click. New doctors? Click. New therapists? Click. New teachers? Click. Or, I can print documents right from Dropbox.
  • Possible ideas: Recipes, receipts, kids’ school papers and artwork. Remember, you are not attempting yet to go back and do all the old boxes and boxes. This is just the new ones that come in.

2. Create a Dropbox Account.

  • Go to www.dropbox.com and create an account. Then, download the app on your phone. Dropbox is a system of folders on your computer with storage “on the cloud”. Think of it like a thumb drive (or a floppy disk) except what’s really great about it is that you can access it anywhere you go, and you can share it with other people. Dropbox does not own your stuff — you own it. They are a storehouse, like if you kept your stuff in a storage facility. You decide if someone else gets the key to your lockbox or not.
  • Save your username and password.
  • A helpful word about Dropbox: Drop is free to use but after you get to a certain storage limit you do have to pay for it. We’ve been using Dropbox for several years and this year for the first time hit the pay limit. If you store a lot of files (especially photos, video files, or something like backing up your website), then you might need to pay, but it’s still not that expensive.

3. Create folders in DropBox.

  • Dropbox is a digital filing cabinet. You can throw everything in it together, or you can separate items within folders.
  • Instead of spending an endless amount of time creating folders, start with 4 folders. (Yes, you can create 100 folders, but don’t do that. You will get stuck on this step and that is not good.) I suggest you start with: 1.Inbox (Think of this as your digital short term to-do box — these are to be moved quickly), 2. Family, 3. Photos, and 4. Financial. Once you are familiar with Dropbox, plan to add more folders later.

4. Download the app Scannable onto your Smartphone.

  • You need a way to turn your paper items into a digital file. Scannable is a great app for doing this. Scannable is made by Evernote.
  • Dropbox is a digital file folder that keeps your files on the cloud. Evernote is very similar, except Evernote is a digital note-taking system. You can also keep files in Evernote, but it’s meant to be used more for personal note-taking, so I prefer to keep most of my files in Dropbox.
  • Scannable is unfortunately only for iPhone. If you have Android, check here for an Android app for scanning files.
Scannable app

Scannable: How to use Scannable

  • Scannable is awesome if you have a page or even a few pages to scan. For example, this summer I was in Illinois and there was a legal document that required my signature immediately. I signed it, used Scannable and emailed it to my husband. It doesn’t just take a photo of the document but converts it into a file (PDF) that can be printed and will look just like the original (think photocopy).
  • Important: When you save a file in Scannable, be sure you click PDF save. Otherwise, it will save as a photo, which is not much different than taking a picture and if you are doing that you could just be using your iPhone. That’s okay but the quality is poor for a document you need to save. Scannable gives you a PDF that looks like it was photocopied.
    Scanning a document with Scannable

    Important! When you save a file with Scannable, make sure you save it as a PDF file. It will have this blue message at the top that says “File type set to PDF”. Otherwise, it will save as a photo which is too low of quality. This is a screenshot of a paper we scanned so you could see what I mean about the blue PDF message.


  • Another scanning option: If you have more than a few pages, Scannable will drive you batty. It’s time to move up in the world and consider purchasing a big daddy scanner. Yes, these are expensive but oh my gosh they are so awesome! Mike has had the scanner in the link and photo below for a couple years now and it’s pretty darn amazing.

If you really want to go paperless, this is how to do it. This is an expensive item so add it to your Christmas list. We got ours as a combined gift from parents and it’s been well worth it. This scans receipts, business cards, photos, stacks of papers (can do front and back), and it’s “smart” so it can recognize what it’s scanning. We use it for medical forms, the kids’ IEP papers, and so much more: Fujitsu-ScanSnap-Document-Scanner

5. Give each document a name.

  • Whether you saved a file via an app or scanner, you now have a digital file. What to do with it? Give your file a name that makes sense to you — and will make sense to you 10 years from now.
  • Share your file. Choose “Save to Dropbox” then send to the appropriate folder.

There you have it! Keep in mind this is an overview of the process to help you get started with the 5 easy steps to start going paperless. There are number of possible options and ways to progress from here, but don’t get overwhelmed.

Start with one small project and build from there as your knowledge progresses.

Have you started going paperless? What works for you? What questions do you have? Post below and share with us!


Action Steps:

Day 3 in Calm the Clutter Series

  1. Create a Dropbox account.
  2. Download the Scannable (or similar for Android) app.
  3. Choose an area of your incoming paperwork where you can begin to keep paperless files. Be realistic. Start small!


7 Steps to Calm the Clutter

7 Days to Calm the Clutter|The Holy Mess

All this week we will talk about how to calm the clutter and stay organized. This series is full of tips, tips, tips!

Who doesn’t love quick tips and tricks? These are great take-aways you can use right away, or sign up for the emails to go at your own pace.

Monday – 7 Bible Verses for When You are Stressed and Disorganized

Tuesday7 Tips to Stay Organized When You are Super Busy

Wednesday5 Steps to Start Going Paperless

Thursday5 Tips to Organizing Your Kids’ School Papers and Schedules

FridayHow to Have an (Almost Totally) Portable Home Office

SaturdayAwesome and Amazing Products to Organize Your Home Office

Sunday7 Tools You Must Have to Stay Organized for Weight Loss and Fitness

5 Easy Steps to Start Going Paperless|The Holy Mess

Find an Organized You.

7 Days to Calm the Clutter.

* Make your home office portable.

* Go paperless -- for newbies!

* Organize for weight loss & fitness

* Daily action steps

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