Organizing my RV Life: Going Paperless

For a long time, I've had this dream about going paperless. Now, thanks to advances in scanner technology and some cool apps, it’s a lot closer to reality than ever before. It terms of my RV life, it means that by digitizing all my important papers – from Passports to insurance policies, to receipts and service records for our RV – I now can travel with all my important documents.

If this sound like a noble idea, I have some recommendations that can help you digitize that mountain of paper that surrounds you. I even have a way to do all this from the road, too.

There’s always something in real life that we want to bring into our digital life and that’s the reason there are scanners – but wait – aren’t scanners just a funny kind of cameras and don’t we already have a camera in the smart phone? So why not just use the smart phone to grab a snapshot of the page or whatever – why bother with a scanner at all?

You can. I do this a lot when traveling. Instead of collecting hard copies of brochures and maps and tourist booklets, I'll snap photos of them with my smartphone. Then, when I'm writing a blog post, I'll scroll through the photos on my smartphone to bring up the image of the document I shot.

But what if you want to scan more?

The best gizmo I've ever seen for scanning is the  Fujitsi Scansnap IX500 . I have one in the home office back at our sticks and bricks house. But I also take it in the RV. It's not that big.   And since I don't do a good job of entering my expenses while on the road, this device really helps. I just take  fuel receipts, campground receipts, food, everything, and run them through this scanner. Best price I’ve found is on Amazon, at about $420.

It scans both sides of the page at once and you can load a bunch of documents of varying sizes all at once into its feeder instead of doing a sheet at a time. You can set it up to work with a PC or a Mac. Stick in what you want to scan, push a button, and it does so faster than any other scanner I've ever seem.  And it does it all in a great quality for very accurate OCR image-to-text interpretation.

Best of all, it can be set to send those digital images directly to a service like Evernote, where it can be stored and organized in notebooks. Automatically.

Have I told you about Evernote? It is my most used app and program. Hands down. It organizes your life in notebooks. I have about 50 of them, one for Roadtreking, one for Fuel, one for Campgrounds, one for Family,… you get the picture. I scan everything in there. I send e-mails I want to save to my various notebooks. It's all secure and backed up in the cloud and password protected. It syncs with all my other computers and my smartphone and tablet. It's searchable. Even a a scanned image of a receipt is searchable. Enter in, say, the name of a town you visited, and the OCR capabilities looks through images and will show you the restaurant bill or fuel receipt from that town. How cool is that?  Best of all, Evernote is free. Yes, it takes a bit of a learning curve to use  it well. But it has a is the best tool I have ever seen for staying organized.

To learn how to use it I bought Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials book. You can get it as a paperback or ebook. Naturally, since I'm trying to go paperless, I got the Kindle version. It taught me how to use Evernote, which, as I said, is now the most used program/app I have.

The Scansnap scanner puts all my documents directly into Evernote, connecting to my account via my Wi-Fi network.

 

So there you go. That's how I've been trying to organize my life.

Is it really possible to go paperless? I doubt it.

But you can sure cut down the mountain of paperwork you accumulate by using a scanner to digitally save important papers. That's a pretty good start.

Here's an NBC-TV PC Mike segment I did that shows these scanners in action.

 




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  • Mike – an interesting piece – I’ve been trying some of these ideas for years. Time to revisit them. It brought back memories of a conference back in the 80’s where I was giving a paper. The keynote speaker was Don Tapscott (Paradigm Shift) – the topic was technology in the office one qutoe I remember was ” the paperless office will happen right after the paperless bathroom” 🙂

  • Steve

    If you don’t want total paperless, look at the Brother Pocket Jet 622. I just got one, its about a foot long and only 2×3 inches square. Like a small box of spaghetti. This uses thermal printer, box of 100 sheets should be good for months of RV needs. Powered 12 volt or battery power, no in or supplies needed other than the special paper (like register receipts), 8-5×11″ cut sheet 100 sheets per box. Now I can print letters, map pages, web pages etc and the printer fits in any small space. USB connection. They do make a costlier version with Bluetooth. Otherwise I would have had NO space to haul even the smallest inkjet.

    • bguy

      r
      Thats what ive beEN loking for.

      • Steve

        You do have to get the 8.5 x 11 paper direct from Brother (brothermall.com), as no retail office supply stores carry it, but its cheap enough from Brother.

  • Harold

    I’ve been using Evernote for years with a Fuji Scan Snap si300i. I have no clue how I could ever go back to paper. One of my many notebooks is shared with my accountant and I scan all the documents she needs to keep our taxes up to date and she can add docs to the folder which I can sign electronically if needed; makes tax time easy … well, easier. Another notebook we used to plan and organize a rally last year. A fairly new feature is that you can snap a photo of a business card and it pulls the data into fields (name, address, etc.) and sends it to Contacts. You can set up lots of automation using IFTTT as well. All Amazon invoices are saved to a folder in EN automatically using IFTTT integration. It is a rich and useful application; seems like I find a new and novel use for it daily. Tonight I cooked tilefish for dinner using a recipe I’d clipped to Evernote many moons ago and quickly found via a key word. I use it more than any other application except ON1 Photo 10 and Lightroom. I’m looking forward to the day that it can send paper junk mail directly to the shredder from the mailbox.