Paper or e-bills? My tips on how to reduce the volume of paper in your house

I lose many battles in this house, but no battle irritates me more than the endlessness of incoming paper.

STOP.IT.ALREADY.

The paper that enters my, and most everyone’s house includes, but is not limited to:

  • school papers (which is particularly annoying because much of it is duplicate, like newsletters, for example, or fundraising forms)
  • bills (which is particularly annoying when you took steps to make a bill paperless and they still send you more paper bills)
  • newspapers and the accompanying flyers (which doubles or triples whenever there is some sort of a commercial holiday looming, which by the way seems to be happening monthly, now)
  • little tiny notes at least two out of the four of us write or doodle endlessly and then simply lose by leaving them lying around the house (bless her little artistic heart but OMG there is no end to her doodling) (and the other one has a habit of writing down pertinent information for his job or hobbies or whathaveyou which he then subsequently leaves here and there until it too is lost so I don’t know what to tell you)
  • paper we print to help us remember something that we then immediately forget because said paper gets put here and there and is then lost, like all the other paper
  • endless receipts of both important and not important purchases

The last point is particularly annoying to me. I’m anal when it comes to not keeping certain receipts (like a latte, or a bottle of supplemental zinc I paid cash for).  But an inordinate amount of inconsequential pieces of tiny receipts find themselves a home in every nook and cranny both inside the house and in the cars. Seriously, do we have to hold on to the receipt of a bag of chips or a Wendy’s wrap someone picked up for lunch?

*SIGH*

I spent the majority of my morning surrounded by piles of paper. A lot of it got shredded or ripped up and landed in the recycling bin. Things that get included with the paper bills, like repetitive informational brochures, simply got tossed. How many trees lost their lives for this brochure I didn’t even glance at?

To anyone who feels compelled to send me mail*: Please don’t send me stuff, I will go to your website and look for information myself should I feel so inclined.

*Mail we love in this house is anything that’s hand-written, drawn or sent specifically to wish someone some happiness. This includes letters, drawings, postcards, birthday cards and other personalized messages.

The paper piles are endless. Why do we file them? I can see, and even appreciate, that some must be kept in hard copy. It’s tax season, and although we do file online, we realize that pertinent tax receipts must be kept and filed somehow. But bills?

Back when I was living on my own in an apartment I used to be rather dilligent with keeping my files tidy. I hated it as much as I do today but there was less volume. Apartment renting when single isn’t as consuming as homeownership and tending to papers for the whole family. Still, the few times a year I would keep up the filing system helped me find stuff quicker when I need to. I threw out last year’s stuff, kept things organized by most recent on top, that kind of thing.

Now? Even if I did a bit of filing weekly, I would have a hard time staying on top of it. And this in the day and age of computerized everything! It is mind-boggling and so, so tiresome.

I was pretty on the ball initially to register all the bills online. But 13 years ago we became first-time homeowners and we shared many responsibilities, including applying for certain services. Some of the bills were in his name, some in mine, and trying to reconcile it and make it online was sometimes a major pain in the wazoo.

Particularly irksome is the way certain bill-sending companies make it very complicated to register a bill online. We use a service through our Post Office called epost which automatically receives all the bills I registered there in paperless format. I have the option to sort, save, or trash all the bills that come in, and should I require, I could print off a bill which is sometimes necessary. I really like the service and registered almost all the bills with it ages ago. But some bills remained ‘outstanding’ during registration. I abandoned those for some reason, and since I cannot remember why, I am going to assume I simply got frustrated with the process.

Look. I’m not afraid of computers. I can follow steps. Don’t make it complicated if you want my service, not because I can’t figure it out, but if you require me to spend endless time trying to figure out how to register a bill when other companies have a two or three step process and make it simple and less time consuming, then I may not be interested in you anymore.

Unfortunately with certain city bills, I don’t have a choice but to endure the process. I did this today with one of the utility bills and I am no longer in a good mood. Idiots.

There are a few tips I can share however if you’re in the process of going paperless at your house, too. It can be especially daunting if you go from all paper to all electronic billing at one time. To help along with the process, here are a few suggestions that will make the process more efficient:

  • When you register for e-billing put all your paper bills into a folder and mark the front of the folder up with the date, time, and whatever passwords you had to form in a big, red marker. If you get hit by a bus tomorrow (hopefully NOT) then another person who needs to deal with the bills will see the information right at first glance and make life a heck of a lot easier. Alternately if there is ever a dispute you can access all the info you need quickly without having to go through each bill looking for a clue.
  • Unless required by some government, I do not believe you need to keep bills for more than a year. You can if you want, but if you file them in such a way that you would need hours to retrieve a bill of a certain date you may as well not keep the bill at all. Once you’re registered for e-billing you can access any bill by date quickly, and print it off as needed.
  • Shred, or rip up into small pieces, all bills with personal information. This doesn’t just include account numbers, but also names and addresses. Don’t make it easy on identity thieves.

I believe our battle with paper is not over. And with a particularly artistic child in the house, I also have many, MANY art pieces she is oh so proud of. We’ve run out of wall space and it is very difficult for her to understand why all of her art is not displayed, so I have resorted to taking pictures of her drawings and storing them online. It’s a truce, and she does appear ok with it. Still, I cringe when she brings me yet another doodle she made during recess at school as her most favorite thing in the world.

How do you reduce paper coming into the house? Does e-billing make you nervous or happy? Do you have tips you can share?

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