Minimalism A to Z: E Is for Electronic Storage

Electronic Storage

“Computers are very good at searching. Computers are also excellent at retrieval. No matter how fast and efficiently you think you can find and retrieve information in your house from pieces of paper, rest assured, computers can do it faster.”

– Jill Duffy, PC Magazine

While electronic storage doesn’t solve all our paper clutter problems, it sure helps. Also, there are many advantages of electronic storage besides saving space.

It’s easier to drag-and-drop than to place papers in files.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who actually files each piece of paper you need to keep promptly after it comes in to your home. If so, that’s wonderful, and you can ignore this supposed benefit of electronic storage. But I don’t know anyone like you.

Most of us put papers in a to-be-filed stack, where they sit for months – or longer. Assuming they ever even make it off the kitchen counter or dining room table.

Dragging a downloaded or scanned document to a folder on the computer seems so much easier (after all, we’re already sitting at the computer), so we’re more likely to do it right away.

If you’ve misfiled something, you can use the computer’s search function instead of plodding through drawers full of paperwork.

Every now and again I can’t find something I know I saved or scanned, but that’s okay, because it’s up on my screen in mere seconds after I type the search term into the little box.

This is so much better than the days when we had several file drawers full of paper, plus the huge to-be-filed stack. Then a missing or misfiled document was a major problem.

The search feature is also a big help if you’re looking for a credit card statement and your partner has a filing system that you think is stupid don’t understand.

You can get to your documents when you’re away from home on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Simply save anything you think you might need while you’re away from home to Dropbox, EverNote or a similar cloud-based service.

I often use Dropbox at the grocery store to pull up one of my original recipes to check for ingredients. (I do use a grocery list, but it’s nice to change my mind if, for instance, I see asparagus season has begun).

If your documents have sensitive information, consider a more secure syncing option, like SpiderOak.

You won’t have to worry about losing your documents in a home fire or flood if you back them up offsite.

We’ve used Carbonite for years and been pleased with it, but CrashPlan, IDrive, SOS Online Backup and Backblaze are all highly rated. In fact, CrashPlan gets such glowing reviews, I may check it out when our Carbonite plan nears expiration.

Alternatively, copy your files onto a flash drive and leave it in your safe deposit box or at a friend’s house.

If you receive your bills and statements digitally, disposal is easy.

Recycling paperwork with no sensitive information is easy enough, but what about all those bank statements and other documents that can be used for identity theft?

If you arrange to get all those documents electronically, you won’t need to buy a shredder or save documents until your community shredding day rolls around. You just hit the delete button.

Of course, if you get some of those documents in the mail and scan them, you’ll still have to worry about safe disposal, but if you’re talking about a few pages here and there, it’s easy enough to throw them in the fireplace or fire pit or tear them up and toss them in the compost bin.

Do you prefer electronic storage or old-fashioned paper? Or a mix?

6 thoughts on “Minimalism A to Z: E Is for Electronic Storage

  1. Hi Christy:

    I’m on the paperless track. It’s taking me a while because of the multiple categories we have. There is legal, bills, school, children stuff, and the list goes on and on. Maybe I’ll make it a blog post when it’s all done 🙂
    Like always, thanks for the inspiration.

    • Yes, there is a lot of paper to deal with. As you know, I simplified gradually, and it took me a long time to get mostly digital.

      We started out with eight full-size file drawers plus assorted other piles of papers. We’re now down to one very small file drawer (about the size of one of those plastic file carriers with the handle), plus a folder of “action” items that stays on the desk (papers for upcoming events that can soon be recycled).

      Most of what we had was tossed, but it takes a long time to go through that much paper. And I won’t lie, scanning the rest was no fun.

      It’s easy to keep up now, though. Most things come in electronically, and what we need to keep that doesn’t come in electronically is scanned about once a week (takes only a few minutes).

  2. A few years ago I decided to try and create a paper free home gone were all the documents and it was all converted to digital files. The only things I have that are paper are things like my birth certificate and little papers such as insurance cards.It is much easier to find things now when I want them.

    • Thanks for sharing. It’s sometimes hard to convince people that the initial purging and scanning is worth it – but digital storage is so much better. And I say this as a paper person (most books I read are the old fashioned paper kind – checked out from the library).

  3. We had both paper and computer files until we moved into an RV in 2008–no room for much paper there so everything that could went digital. We even made digital copies of documents we had to keep–need the seals on things like birth certificates, etc.–but got everything we kept down into a couple small plastic file boxes. Off the road again now but still prefer digital.

    • Thanks for sharing, Linda. I’m in the process of scanning items we need to keep in paper as well, so at least we’ll have a copy if something happens to the paper ones or we just can’t get home to access them for some reason, like a natural disaster and we’re stuck at work.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.