Save Space In Your Tiny House By Creating A Paperless Office

Not only do we live full time in our 221 sq ft tiny house, but we also use it as our office (which we work in full time). This means that our home works double duty as office and residence. Though we feel like our tiny home is super roomy, one thing we don’t have an abundance of is storage space for our office materials. Piles of receipts, paperwork, and documents were not only an eyesore when we would open our cabinets, but were also taking up valuable space.

When he heard of the concept of a paperless office we jumped on it and haven’t looked back since. By combining a well-teamed system of the ScanSnap scanner with Evernote.com, we made quick (and fun!) work of getting those piles of paperwork totally organized into fully searchable digital documents.

The beauty of the marriage between ScanSnap and Evernote.com is that they create readable files from all scanned items. This means that anytime we need to do a search for a document, all we need to do is apply the pertinent search term. No more rifling through piles of documents or sorting through files! All of our documents are saved onto our hard drive as well as in the cloud so we can access any of them from anywhere with an internet connection.

As a bonus, we managed to open up two full shelves in our cabinets by going paperless and have been thrilled with how organized everything is now. And as a double bonus, we now have a couple weeks’ supply of paper for starting fires for our Snorkel wood fired hot tub on these cold, cold days!

To watch how the ScanSnap interfaces with Evernote.com and how you too can become an organizational superhero, check out the video below we created for this week’s “Tiny House Minute” episode.

31 Responses to Save Space In Your Tiny House By Creating A Paperless Office

  1. jack January 19, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I really like the idea of a paperless office.
    One question is what desktop search software do you use or is it built into EverNote and ScanSnap?

    • Andrew Morrison
      Andrew Morrison January 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      Hi Jack. The search function is part of Evernote. It does not search the desktop, but rather the files that are backed up in the cloud in your Evernote account. That function is available in the free account version and is apparently even more powerful in the paid account version (I have the free account).

  2. Mara February 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    I used a ScanSnap scanner to get rid of all the clutter, and now just use TurboScan on the iPhone for receipts and docs. Even more nimble! Highly recommend these phone scanner apps.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 5, 2014 at 11:32 am #

      Thanks for the tip Mara! We will totally check it out. :)

  3. f d February 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Saw you featured in Treehugger.

    Thanks for inspiring me again to downsize my office more, which is loaded with paper and digital clutter. I have digitized and purged 75% over the past two years. But seeing you guys live and work in a space the size of my office … impressive.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

      Hey again f d! Thanks for the TreeHugger heads up. Hadn’t seen that. SOOO cool! And thanks for the Spam alert…takes a village

  4. Kelsey B February 7, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    I am saving for the scansnap and absolutely love using Evernote.
    But what do you do for things that require originals (SS card, marriage license, etc)? I’ve heard of people scanning them and then keeping the original in a deposit box; and also of keeping a safe on hand with those documents in it. What do you guys do for things like that?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Thanks for writing Kelsey! We can’t recommend ScanSnap enough. It has changed pretty much everything when it comes to our business and how we organize. In terms of the ‘real’ documents, we keep all of those. A safety deposit box is a great idea if there is worry of damage/theft/loss in your regular home. The great thing is that those really essential documents take up so little room. The bulk of our paperwork used to be in the form of workshop participant agreements, receipts, old tax paperwork, etc. We are talking boxes and boxes of paperwork that is now easily searched for (if we ever even need to pull them up) and stored digitally. Totally awesome!

  5. Pamela February 11, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    You’ve convinced me to go paperless. It’s been tugging at me for past few years and now that you’ve made it look so easy … :)

    A couple of questions:

    1. Which model of snapscan did you find works for you?

    2. Does it scan photos as well?

    3. I have similar building receipts and some things which are “write-offs” for my business. From a tax standpoint, have you found you need originals … receipts, invoices, contracts, etc.?

    Thanks for the help! Pamela

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      Thank you for writing Pamela! It is the S1300i. The photo thing is not so much. But we are very picky when it comes to photo quality. If you just want a way to scan images just to look at once in a while with no desire to reprint then it will do that. If you want really high quality and to be able to print a high quality image, this is not the machine. In terms of official paperwork, our tax accountant tells us that we don’t need the original receipts. It all just needs to be legible. As a pleasant surprise we also found out that we don’t even need to keep the original printed previous tax statements. So, all that we have in original format now is our ‘essential’ documents (titles, SS, etc.). Pretty amazing all the paperwork we had been carrying around for years thinking we had to keep originals. Please do check for yourself though regarding the information we just gave you just in case there is an error in any of it. :)

  6. Alissa February 11, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    How many papers does it scan at once? What format I.e. PDF, JPEG, etc does it save it as? Is the quality descent?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Thanks for connecting Alissa! Not exactly sure how many it can scan at once (15 maybe?). Best to look that one up on their site. You can save the files in various formats (ones you suggested and more) and the quality is very good. We did scan some photos and didn’t think the quality was photo quality so won’t use it for that (if we wanted to reprint something at some point). Only key is that if you want to use the search function for your files, you would have to create the document as a searchable PDF. When you do a bulk scan, all of the pages will save as one file (assuming that is what you want). It’s a pretty sophisticated system actually.

  7. Nenke Jongkind February 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    What software do you need to have to work with searchable pdf’s?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

      Hi Nenke. The search function is part of Evernote. It does not search the desktop, but rather the files that are backed up in the cloud in your Evernote account. That function is available in the free account version and is apparently even more powerful in the paid account version (I have the free account).

    • Andrew
      Andrew February 26, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      I use Evernote.com.

  8. Leah March 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Do I need the Scansnap to scan documents for Evernot? Would a regular scanner work? Why did you choose the Scansnap?

    • Richad April 7, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      I have been using a ScanSnap S1500 for several years and love it. I have a full size office so for me I would purchase the latest and greatest scanner I could afford. It will scan one or both sides of a paper very quickly and in color if you want. ScanSnap comes with its own software and I usually scan to PDF. You can then let ScanSnap convert them into searchable files but it has to imbed that info somewhere inside that doc which you will not see. I just usually use keywords in the program to do my lookup.
      I also use Evernote every day but it is a different company/program but you could certainly import anything scanned into Evernote. If you are not scanning much you could use your printer/scanner that you already own and save the scan to a file but it would be a much slower task.
      I have taken new textbooks over 200 pages long and gone to Office Depot and had them slice the binder off ($2) and I scanned the whole book both sides at once in a very short time. I then take the loose pages back to Office Depot and have them copy the hardcover front and back of the book (which gets tossed) and have it spiral bound for about $5 more. Now I have the book back into textbook form again. Please do not get onto me about it being illegal. I am just trying to show you the speed and quality of my desktop scanner..
      I am sure that any of the other major brands of desktop scanners will do the same job just as well or better. I just researched it and flipped a coin and ScanSnap won the toss..
      One last thing. When you scan all of those docs in your filing cabinet(s) and then start shredding them you are very worried. Just be sure you backup your scanned docs from your hard drive to the cloud every now and then. It’s safer than loosing your docs in a fire (unless you own a fireproof file cabinet $$$$). Scanning and shredding was like when I gave up my home phone land-line because we had cell phones, I felt like I was cutting off my umbilical cord but now I am ok with it. Sorry about the length of this post.

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella April 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

        Thanks for your feedback Richard!!

  9. Leah March 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Sorry f d.. Its not a spam comment! I really want to know. I already have a scanner on my printer and I want to know if they think the Scansnap is better then most scanners.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 6, 2014 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Leah! fd’s comment was an old one and I had already removed the spam comment. :) In terms of ScanSnap question, we are actually not sure! We are not sure if it’s ScanSnap that creates the searchable PDFs or Evernote. That is the big advantage of the system. Perhaps take a look at their sites and see if it’s Evernote. If it is, then any scanner should do the trick. Let us know!

  10. isni March 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Hello, this is amazing information… your videos do not show up, there’s just black space – am i not doing something, or doing something wrongly? and please tell about wheels. DOES your build have these? or just provision for them. (from isobel)

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 10, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that it’s not showing up for you. I tried it here and it worked fine. Perhaps you can try it on another device?

  11. Greg March 16, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Got this all set up because of this post. LOVE Evernote, and will use it in personal and business. ScanSnap s1300i is amazing, silent, and quick. One question. Do I just throw these bills, etc. out now that I’ve scanned them? Perhaps I’m looking for hand-holding, since I think the answer is obvious, it’s just scary!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Greg! We do! But to each his own and some people may not be comfortable with this. :)

  12. Andy - Clear Data March 18, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Hi Jack, great post.

    Its a great way for small businesses to save money, its great for security reasons too, backing up digital documents is much easier. The problem with using paper has always been the risk of fire. If businesses lose their documents through fire it could destroy the business.

    Andy

  13. Jacqueline S. March 18, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Hi! Such a cool home and I love all the extras. I have three questions.

    1.) Did you research before you settled on the Scanner you purchased, I have seen
    others that do the same thing. Is this one best in your opinion?

    2.) In the shower area and bathroom, how do you keep mildew away and will the
    steam from the shower cause the ceiling of the shower area to warp?

    3.) What if the stairs were built with a higher side (say 2 ft) would that work? Visual
    Example: If you took a piece of plywood and nailed to the side of the stairs…but
    of course you wouldn’t really do that. Could that make one feel more secure on
    the stairs?

    Thanks for your time! JS

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 28, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Hi Jacqueline! To answer your questions: 1) we did a fair amount of research on the ScanSnap but the deciding factor was watching a review video. I’m guessing there are others out there that serve the same function but we decided to go with one recommended by a trusted source. 2) currently we just open our window partly. However, we are having a kitchen fan installed and will also be putting a wall one in our bathroom to vent directly outside. Tiny houses generate a ton of moisture and it’s really important to take action to make sure that doesn’t happen. 3) I think you are referring to creating a guard rail? Absolutely one could do that. Or a hand rail on the wall. :)

  14. Trudy April 3, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Hello. I LOVE everything about your home. Fantastic work and such an inspiration.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella April 3, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      Thanks Trudy! :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Living Without Sacrifice: Solutions to the Top 5 Tiny House Limitations « My Path | My Life | Thoughts | Music + My Head - February 20, 2014

    […] accomplished that. By creating a paperless office (you can watch a short video on how we did that here), we eliminated 75% of the space we used to require to run our business. We found two folding desks […]

  2. Thinking Tiny | Living Without Sacrifice: Solutions to the Top 5 Tiny House Limitations « Living The Tiny Life | More Independance + Freedom | Opportunity For More With Less - March 6, 2014

    […] accomplished that. By creating a paperless office (you can watch a short video on how we did that here), we eliminated 75% of the space we used to require to run our business. We found two folding desks […]

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