Go Paperless: Digital Organization Help for Adults with ADHD

What if your house and office were virtually paperless? It’s possible! Cut down on paper clutter with these paper-to-digital tips and ideas including mobile apps and ingenious hacks.

How to separate the important sheets from the chaff.
How to separate the important sheets from the chaff.

Many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would love to go paperless to free up space. Most of us have expanding piles of paper that clutter our rooms, and when it comes to managing paper, we can often stand in the way and be our own worst enemy.

We keep things because we tell ourselves we’ll need them — even if we haven’t looked at them in five years and don’t know where we’ve put them. There seems to be security in knowing they’re around somewhere.

Fortunately, today’s digital advances allow us to “keep” things in virtual space, which can help tremendously with tidying and streamlining our physical spaces.

From bills to artwork, here’s some tips for how to go paperless for an organized, clutter-free home — and mind.

Paperless Bills and Statements

Almost every company has an e-bill or e-statement option. Take advantage of it. One hazard of this approach is that if something happens to you, your beneficiaries won’t know about your assets unless they have access to your email account. Make sure you write down instructions somewhere, or at least create a list of accounts that includes the name of the bank or brokerage house.

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Cancel Catalogs

Every time you order something online, the seller sends you a paper catalog. Either call them and cancel the catalogs, or put them in the recycling bin when they arrive. Don’t look at them. You know the websites, and you know that’s how you’ll order when you want something from the company.

A System for Documents and Forms

Documents, especially the ones you have to fill and return, are tenacious. They accumulate because we procrastinate. For most people with ADHD, out of sight equals out of mind. So put an entry in your task management system, and place the paper forms in a folder or basket with their ilk. When you get to that item on your to-do list, go to the folder and fill it out.

Shred old, non-essential documents. Individuals, for example, don’t need financial papers older than seven years. Keep birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses and passports, along with the deed/title to your home, and homeowner’s insurance, in a fireproof lock box.

If you have a large box of papers you don’t know what to do with, write a destroy date on top — about six months from now. If you need to go into the box to find a document — and you actually use it — put it with the items to keep. Anything left in the box on the destroy date should be thrown out.

[Get This Download: Organize Your Home By Working With Your ADHD Brain]

Digital Sticky Notes and Reminders

Instead of keeping physical sticky notes all over the house, use a mobile device, tablet, or other digital app to prioritize items and assign everything a due date. If a task needs a follow-up, set a date to take further action.

Keeping Kids’ Artwork

Drawings and other art works your kids make are treasures are perhaps the most difficult to part from. But you can’t save everything. What you should do is explain to your child that the point of art is creating it, not necessarily keeping it. That way, your child can choose whether to keep something, or is content to have created it and be done with it. The favorites can be kept in an 11 x 17 envelope, or photographed and stored in a virtual album.

From Printing to Cloud Storage

There seems to be a generational divide on this one. Kids and young adults are happy peering at their phones for information. Many don’t have desktops any more. For older folks who grew up without the Internet, remember that the only way you could take your work home was to print it out. Many of us are still in the habit of printing everything. This is a habit worth breaking.

Don’t print out anything unless you will absolutely need it outside your home or office. Try one of the cloud storage services, like Dropbox or Google Drive, to save and view your documents. Your documents will be available anywhere you have an Internet connection. Once you save your document in the cloud, shred it.

It’s also no longer necessary to buy an office or industrial scanner to convert all your paper to documents. There’s an app for that. In fact, if you’re using cloud storage, it’s probably a feature of your system. Click the “+” icon in the Google Drive app on some smartphones, for example, and you’ll see “scan” as one of the options.

Some people are reluctant to store precious memories and documents electronically for fear of losing them. That’s valid. Make sure you have a backup if it’s stored locally (on your computer’s hard drive or your device’s internal storage). If it’s stored in the cloud, know which cloud you put it in. You must know which cloud storage system you used and what your login information is. Most people have lots of accounts, with different usernames and passwords. You’ll need a fail-proof way of keeping track of them all.

[Download This Free Guide: 22 Clutter-Busting Strategies for Adults with ADHD]

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