Saturday, May 18, 2013

Reducing Waste

If you've been a reader of my blog since its beginning shortly after my retirement in early 2011, you know that I have striven to reduce junk and clutter in my home. As I've aged, I have come to realize how true the old adage is that we do not own possessions, but rather our possessions own us. These days, I believe that less is better.

One area where I've been successful is in reducing paper waste, specifically mail and files and such. Most of my business correspondence these days is electric as I've opted to go paperless whenever possible. Now when statements or invoices are ready, I get an email notification and I can then electronically download and file the appropriate correspondence.

Not all businesses have gone paperless yet, so I still receive some paper mail. When I do, I scan the paperwork and then file it on my computer if it is something I need to keep. After doing so, I shred the original. If I'm careful to separate shredded items, I can even used the shredded paper in my flower beds.

Each night, a backup of selected folders and files from my computer is saved to an external hard drive. I'm not comfortable at this time saving to an online service, though in theory that is probably the safer way to do things.

When I buy a new product that has a user's manual, I search online for the manual. If I can't find it online, then I scan the manual. I can then safely trash the hard copy of the manual. In the old days, I had folders and drawers full of user manuals for refrigerators, lawn mowers, cameras, and anything else I purchased. Not so anymore.

Not only does this method save considerable space, but it is easier to find something when you need it. It is certainly much easier than working through hard copies in files. Of course, how you decide to name and store items has much to do with how easy it is to locate documents you need. I learned long ago that when dealing with technology, one of the most important aspects -- and one most often overlooked, especially by those who lack experience -- is the naming convention you expect to use.

In most business correspondence, I name individual files starting by date, with year coming first (e.g. 2013-05-13). I include hyphens in the name just to make it easier for my old eyes to read. Then I use some sort of descriptive name, such as the type of correspondence (e.g. 2013-05-13-invoice). Using this manner, files are automatically sorted by year making them easier to locate. Then the file is stored in the appropriate folder (e.g. AtmosEnergy). As years go by, I create folders for correspondence for each year and store all files for that year in the appropriate folder. Following this system it is relatively easy to locate individual files.

Of course, if you do pay bills electronically, it is important to monitor payments on a regular basis because of the massive amount of cyber crime today. You should also subscribe to some sort of identity security service that will monitor your credit cards and other financial activity.

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