Saturday, November 26, 2022


An easy trick to keep important documents in the RV … without all the paper

We are full-time RVers and have the luxury of a file drawer, lots of cabinets, and nooks and crannies to stash stuff. And stash them we have! As I was trying to cram one more sheet of paper into the file drawer, I thought, “There has to be a better way!” While I had already weeded out older warranty booklets, instruction manuals, ancient tax forms and receipts, there was still a lot left.

I made a quick call to our tax accountant to see what we had to save. He suggested we go through all our papers, scan them, put them on a hard drive or in the “cloud” and only save the paper we actually needed.

So that’s what I did! I pulled out all our files, papers, receipts from drawers and cabinets. It grew to be a veritable mountain of paper!

Using the cell phone to take the photos, I set up the system I had used for documenting all of our non-digital photos in our old photo albums (more on that here) and it worked great. My iPhone has a scanner setting or, of course, it can just take photos. I chose to take photos as I could save them quicker. I already have two small LED lights and a stand for a cell phone. The system stores well too!

Photo credit Nanci Dixon

Here was the process in digitizing my documents:

Day one: I just started photographing the documents, not paying a lot of attention to what I was taking or how I would save it. Bad move.

Day two: This time I separated the segments by writing what I was photographing and the word “start” on a sticky note. I took a photo of that, clicked the series of documents and wrote “end” on the sticky note and scanned it again. Now I didn’t need to read every pic to decide how to file.

Photo credit Nanci Dixon

Day three, four, five: I copied every piece of paper and organized onto two separate hard drives.

Day six: Took one hard drive to our safety deposit box. Both hard drives had all our previously scanned photos from our photo albums too. First, I double-checked with our tax accountant on what papers to save. (Consult a professional if in doubt!)

Photo credit Nanci Dixon

Day six, evening: Enjoyed a good bonfire and lightened our load. Wow! Now I have lots of space to put more stuff in….


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Bob p
2 months ago

All that electronic filing, one of the great advertising gimmicks when computers first came out. “Computers are going to eliminate paperwork”. Except businesses soon learned computers crash and all their files were lost, durn, well now we have computer files and paper hard copies just in case. My thoughts reading all the great ways to file without paper, if it’s important you better more than one source for your files, and if you have an iPad hat doesn’t have ports to plug in a hard drive or thumb drive I guess I have to rely on pictures taken on my phone, DW’s phone and iPad just in case one should crash. Phones are the worst document saving device if you break it or in my case it fell out of the holster and I inadvertently ran over it with a school bus, everything gone! Be careful what you store in anything that could crash and destroy your files.

1 year ago

I scanned documents and emailed the images to myself, with titles in the subject line. Then, loaded backup files onto a thumb drive and left it in my storage locker.

Michael Theis
1 year ago

I do the same and also store downloaded PDFs of owners manuals. Very important ones I also download to my phone and or traveling tablet. I have been in a lot of places and parks where wi-if and cell signals are not available or iffy.

1 year ago

I use Evernote. It has applications for PCs, Macs, Iphones and Android. I can use a scanner or the phone camera. It stores all notes in the cloud and does enough OCR to allow to search easily. About 460 per year.

Chris Mead
1 year ago

If you absolutely need to take documents, iCloud ($2.99/mo for 300 GB) is the way to go. I’ve moved on to put all mine there which also syncs to several PCs. But I still have my paper too.

Frank D
1 year ago

Look into “Scanner Pro”, a $5.00 well spent, also has a free version. For Apple ios only. Also works with “Dropbox” for cloud storage. I’ve been working with it for a couple of years and it hasn’t failed me yet.

1 year ago

Good idea, but there’s no need to go to the expense of buying hard drives for this. It’s easy to find USB Keys with many Gigabits of space, capable of storing every piece of paper you’ve ever had, for far less money. Just be sure to make more than one copy, and you’re good to go…

Astrid Bierworth
1 year ago

I have been scanning all my receipts for years now. I have a little Canon Lide scanner which goes everywhere with me. It just plugs into the computer, no power source needed. PDF files take less space than pictures. Every Sunday morning I scan the past week’s receipts. If there’s a receipt I might need a hard copy of for a possible return, I save it in an envelope, one envelope per month.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed to check a receipt later on. I save them on the computer in directories under each credit card by date, I name each scanned receipt by date and store, for example 2021-08-22 Costco. This automatically sorts them by date on the computer. Each statement is in a separate directory with all the receipts pertaining to it as well as the proof of payment.

I also have an external drive with me everywhere I go and I back up all my data every week, after scanning the receipts.

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 year ago

Oh, you’re sooo organized, Astrid. Great tips. Tell Sandy “Hi” for me, please. Take care. 🙂 –Diane

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