Scanning old documents

That which is resisted, persists.
I'm going paperless in my home office. Over my 30+ years of adulthood I have accumulated 20+ filing cabinet drawers of paper records. Plus there's a ton of unsorted bills and junk mail piled up.

My strategy is to tackle the filing cabinets first, then work on the unsorted bills and junk mail. My reasoning is that doing the filing cabinets first will help me set up my taxonomy on Google Docs, making it easier to file the new documents later.

My strategy for scanning my filing cabinets is:
  • Go through each file cabinet drawer and storage box, one at a time.
  • Sort docs into 3 categories: scan & keep, scan & shred, shred.
  • Scan documents to PDF files with a Fuji ScanSnap ix500.
  • Store the scanned documents in folders (with the same name as the original folders) on Google Docs.
  • Put the "keep" documents back into the same folder and cabinet drawer that they came from.
  • Make a backup copy of the scanned documents to a USB stick.
My strategy for deciding what physical items to keep is:
  • Keep official government documents like tax returns forever.
  • Keep items related to tax returns for 15 years.
I've scanned one half drawer so far. It takes a while to scan old documents. Lots of staples to remove.

At this rate it's going to take about six months to scan everything. Yow!


J. Peterson said…
I started this process about a year ago. It's wonderfully liberating. Some observations:

- Academic papers: it's quickest to just cut the corner with the staple off, rather than remove it. Or just google the PDF and download it.

- Books: Many books I don't care to keep the original. I took several to inlaws with power saws and cut the spines off, then fed them to the ScanSnap 50 pages or so at a time. This cleared several feet of shelf space.

- Acrobat will OCR content to make it searchable (handy for that huge stack of old business cards)

- I bought a Czurtek scanner for books I didn't want to cut up. It works OK. It did a pretty good job with some old tractor-feed printouts.
Unknown said…
I've been thinking about old documents as well. I'm not sure if it is really meaningful to save tax returns more than 7 years. They say 3 is enough if you haven't committed any fraud.

I've been putting old receipts for tax purposes in cardboard boxes up in the attic. My hope is that the mice will eat through them and give me a reason to throw them away.

I might scan the UPC code on my old books, record the price, and take a deduction on my taxes when I donate them. Used books sell for 1/2 their cover price. I have the idea that my kids might want to read some of the books I've read but I'm not sure they have the same interest. Donation makes it easier.

Life is simpler when you have less things lying around.


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