8 Steps to a Paperless Home Office

Keep your home office organized and join the paperless revolution. Here are eight easy steps for going, and staying, paperless.
Vintage Wood Door as Desk in Contemporary Home Office

Vintage Wood Door as Desk in Contemporary Home Office

The re-purposing of a vintage painted wood door as a desk adds texture and eclectic interest to this contemporary style home office. Keep your home office organized with this simple desk design turning something old into something new.

By: Kim Hildenbrand

Bills. Statements. Announcements. A flood of incoming papers can take over even the most organized home office.

"Despite the increasing number of banks, utilities and other companies now offering paperless billing and payments, most of us still accumulate hundreds or even thousands of pages each year," says Joe Kissell, author of Take Control of Your Paperless Office. "That leads to clutter, overflowing filing cabinets and time wasted looking for old documents."

Cutting this mountain of paper, Kissell says, saves time and space, and it makes your important documents easier to search. Paper also is vulnerable to damage from fire and water, while digital files can be preserved indefinitely on the cloud or off-site. Start your journey toward a paperless office with these tips.

  • Stop paper before it starts. Cut down on incoming mail by signing up for electronic statements. Your bank account, insurance policies and bills (credit cards, utilities, cable and more) most likely can be viewed and paid online. Setting up automatic payments simplifies life further. You can also go online to opt out of receiving junk mail, such as catalogs and credit card offers.
  • Invest in a quality scanner. Kissell recommends choosing a model that can scan at least 20 pages per minute and process both sides of a page at once. For ease, he says, look for one with a sheet feeder for processing a stack of pages at once. "There are many models to choose from," he says, "typically in the $250 to $500 range."

8 Stylish, Functional Home Offices

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By the Bay

Enlighten your morning correspondence with a seat at your home's sunniest spot. Transforming an interior bay window into a study nook takes advantage of natural light and extra space. Eliminate the glare factor with adjustable Roman shades.

Behind Open Doors

You'll want to throw your closet doors open once you plaster the walls with sunny wallpaper, add shelving and plug in your favorite lamp. Invest in a Lucite chair to make the cozy space feel bigger.

Photo By: Virginia Bell; Edit by Virginia

Double Duty

Tuck a chair under your console table for an instant home office. Bonus: You can watch a movie with your family while you address holiday cards!

Stairwell Study

Carve out a study nook in the oft-unused space under your stairs. You'll find ample room for a desk, shelving and cabinetry.

Photo By: Sage Design Studio; Inc.; photo by: Leslie Goodwin

Take Note

You won't forget a single item on your to-do list when it's written on a cabinet-sized notepad. Cover a standard cabinet with chalkboard paint and start planning.

Photo By: Martha O’Hara Interiors; photo by: Troy Thies

Space Saver

Need a study break? Close your eyes and rev your creativity in a loft above your home office. With alternating corkboards and pegboards, this design maximizes the desk's function while showing off your best art supplies.

Photo By: Martha O’Hara Interiors; photo by: Troy Thies

Tidy Shelves

Keep your workspace uncluttered and your tasks organized with open shelving and stylish boxes for out-of-sight storage. Just look down for inspiration – an Aztec rug infuses color and texture in an otherwise unadorned office.

Bring on the Bling

Glam up your home office by adding shimmery sheets of gold leaf to a basic desk. Complement the glass desktop with a clear lamp for unobstructed creativity.

Photo By: Honey & Fitz; photo by: Ruth Eileen Photography

Perfect Fit

Make your own corner office with a colorful Parsons desk and gallery wall for inspiration. Economize the space with matching ottomans that can be tucked under the desk when not in use.

Upper Limit

Don't overlook the fifth wall when decorating your personal creative haven. A wallpapered ceiling draws the eye up, makes the room feel larger and invites inspiration.

Corkboard Calendar

Keep your social schedule in check with a larger-than-life calendar. Birthday invites and reminders find a home on days separated by rope and pinned by reusable date markers.

Photo By: John Bynum Custom Homes

  • Ensure documents are searchable. "Configure your scanner software to use optical character recognition (OCR) to automatically turn every scanned document into a searchable PDF," Kissell advises. This allows you to find documents by searching for words they contain. 
  • Keep in mind that going paperless is a long-term process. "It may take time to scan and recycle years of old documents," Kissell says, "but if you do a few every day, you’ll soon find your filing cabinets much more manageable." Set up a routine to simplify the process — for instance, scanning a couple of documents with your morning coffee. 
  • Double-check scans before discarding originals. After scanning documents, you can shred or recycle them. But Kissell says to confirm the scan is intact first. "Sometimes scanners malfunction or miss a page," he cautions.
  • Back up your scans. Be sure to back up your scanned documents. If they stay on your computer’s hard drive, they are just as susceptible to damage and loss as paper documents. You can store documents on a cloud-based storage system or external drive.
  • Set up a discard station. When choosing a shredder, keep in mind that a "confetti" shredder is more effective than a strip shredder, as it creates tinier pieces that cannot be easily taped back together. Shred any paper containing sensitive information, including account numbers, medical information and Social Security numbers.
  • Don’t toss everything. Scan your most important papers, but keep the originals as well. "Always keep the original copies of important legal documents such as wills, birth and marriage certificates, titles, deeds and anything with a governmental stamp or seal," Kissell says.
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