Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I am declaring WAR on Paper: More on the Paperless Office

I just read that the average lawyer uses between 20,000 and 100,000 sheets of paper every year. That means 5 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. For those lawyers who use up to 100,000 sheets, that is over a half of a ton of paper. That is over 1000 pounds of paper Yes....1000 pounds. HOLY CRAP that is a lot of paper.

I know that my average is much much less than that, probably closer to 5000 (about 10 reams of paper a year). But think about what that means. So I am only off putting a ton of CO2. That doesn't make me feel much better. I am still on my quest to rid my house and home office of excess paper. My schedule has been delayed slightly as I have been on the road more than I anticipated this month, but all told I have probably scanned in over 2000 sheets of paper and recyled them. I still have 6 or 7 notebooks filled with CLE (Continuing Education) materials that I need to review and either toss or scan as well as 15 years of taxes/receipts that need to be pruned back to the last 5 years only. My goal is to toss anything older than 7 years and scan anything older than 5.

Why am I doing this? Well, partially to get rid of the clutter in my office, partially because there is just too much paper, and partially because I just need to get things back in order in my quest to be more focused. I think my goal for February may be to create a "life hack" or other type of response to my need to touch things more than once. Work towards the goal of pick it up and sort it immediately. We will see, I still have a couple more days to figure that out!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Simple Office:Going Paperless


Another one of my "Stacks" of documents

Stuff, like most people I have a love hate realationship with Stuff. As a lawyer by day, a reader, a collector, and the owner of a scrapbooking paper company, I have collected lots and lots of papers. Add in the fact that we live overseas and are required to file taxes in not one, but two Countries and one State, add in the fact that the kids bring home stacks and stacks of paperwork from school. Add in the mail (which thankfully we don’t get much of) and my un-natural desire to save old magazines, recipes and ideas and you end up with a whole lot of CRAP.


One set of our shelves and one memo board (my side mirrors this)

The company I work for is a big proponant of the 5S system, which works for manufacturing facilities, but is a bit harder to convert into an office. My office at the factory, well that is already clean. It is the home office that has multiple shelves, drawers, surfaces and desks filled with paper.


My Husband's Desk

I am not advocating a full purge (that is a Minimalist plan and not my bag) and for me baby steps are key, but I have taken another step at removing all of the unneeded papers from our home. Stage One is the home office. I spent some $ on a real scanner a Fujitsu Scansnap1500, which is probably more than the average home needs, but I need to scan papers for work and my old flat bed just doesn’t cut it. So, after bringing home my new toy, I scanned in over 6 inches of paper, threw out 5 empty binders and recycled all of the paper. This took just over 2 hours. I then uploaded a bunch to Evernote and stored the rest on an external hard drive. A rough estimate of the pages scanned was around 500 and I easily have another 8-9 binders filled with seminar notes to scan (at least another 500 sheets of paper) plus 10 years of old tax records (which we have kept as we file in multiple jurisdictions and they each require specific records).

The First Stack of Scanned Documents

I estimate if I spend this weekend scanning and then one more weekend organizing the files both “online” and in the hard drive I should be down to only one drawer of physical papers left in the office. This puts me square in line for my goal of cleaning up the office in January. After the “paper” is gone I can work on the rest of the stuff, which is primarily my scrapbook/art supplies. The final step is to load all of the family geneology stuff online into a Dropbox for my sister so she can access the information as well.

The remainder of the house, well that is for another month.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Travel and my Simple Living Goals for 2011

Beaches of Phuket

I was asked today, and I thought it was a good question, how do I balance my love and desire for travel with a simple living philosophy. I have always thought it is about experience, living life to the fullest and grabbing the bull by the horns. See, we live in Asia. We (my husband and I) were born and raised in the US and we never left the US until we were both in College. Since that time we have traveled a lot, but compared to a European, the US centric mindset is one of "stay at home". I travel mostly for work, but quite a bit for personal pleasure and for the kids’ greater "cultural" experience.

When I was a kid, I admired my Aunt Moyna and Uncle Bob and the fact they spent money every year (at least it seemed like it) to travel to Europe or Hawaii or other far off places. They took their three kids to Ireland to visit with Monya's family. They went to Europe and traveled around; they traveled around the US and saw sights I still haven't seen. What I also vividly remember is the fact they didn't spend money on "new stuff" for their house. Now, Bob and Moyna had a wonderful house in California, but there were no "new furnishings while the old ones worked. The old cars were not upgraded every year or two, the "old" ones worked just fine. This became a model for me I think and impressed me more than I realized until just frequently. I think in some ways they were my inspiration for simple living. . I have started a new website to promote my families travel experience Vagabond Kids and I don't plan on slowing down our travel over the next year. Travel is important to us and is one of the reasons I want to be better at living frugally.

Sunset in Thailand

We spend more on travel than any other single non-essential item. I really do need a new couch, but the old one is okay. While a new Oriental rug for my living room would also be nice, it is the same amount as what I would spend on a trip to India with the whole family. While travel can cost a bomb, we can do better at Travel Hacking, in order to go further on our travel dollar. All of that being said, there are always things that I could be doing better and this is second point I want to make today, it is time to set my 2011 expectations. There is more I want to do; more I need to do to live simply. I could be living more frugally, I could be giving back more, I could be living lighter on the earth, I could be eliminating all un-needed items from my life and I could be connecting with my real self, rather than the one I have fallen into for work.

This year, I am establishing some hard and fast goals to make my life a better place and hopefully make a small stab at making the world better. So each month I am tackling three new challenges. One goal a month that leads towards inner simplicity and one goal towards outer simplicity and one that leads to either better health or a better environment.

So, without further adieu, here are my goals for the next few months (subject of course to change). I promise I will post each month statements related to my progress.

Buddhist Temple- Korea

January 2011

Outer Simplicity Goal: Clear the clutter in my home office and get all documents scanned/loaded to Evernote/ and or tossed into the recycle bin.

Inner Simplicity Goal: Review some of my old materials on Simple Living. Check in with the core principles I thought I believed in and reevaluate and revise.

Health Goal: Continue on the road to recovery (2010 saw me with wrist surgery, Gallbladder removal and my thyroid condition less stable). Step One is participation in a Year of 30 day Challenges and this month’s goal is consuming less alcohol as a step towards moderation in all things. Starting today and for the rest of January (with one exception my 45 birthday) I will not consume more than one glass of alcohol a day.
Who links to me?