Unfortunately for most of us, a paperless home office is more an idea than a reality.­

Once an unbalanced pile of paper topples or client notes take too long to find during a phone meeting, the concept of going paperless becomes more than a passing thought. Admit it – paper has crept into your office, made a home and plans to stay — until you develop the paperless systems to chase it out.

That means you’ll need to take control, look into electronic systems like data management, document management and paperless software — and in general, figure out how paperless home offices work, and how you can make one work for you. Take it one step at a time, and that process is easier than you might think.

Why is a paperless office such a great idea? Here are 5 good reasons.

Your documents are more accessible and handy.Don’t worry about taking 10 pounds of reports and notes on an out-of-town trip or across town to a client meeting. You can pull up the information you need from your computer and share materials with collaborators or clients via e-mail or electronic fax.

It’s easier to search for your documents. Honestly, with all your files and filing cabinets, no matter how organized your documents are, you still take precious time riffling through papers and folders to lift one single document out. With a paperless office, you can locate documents and files quickly.Save those 10 minutes you spent fumbling through paper while on the phone by clicking on a computer file. One click on the keyboard, then voila – your document is right before your eyes.

“Paperless” often really means “less paper.” Yes, it’s possible to scan all received documents into your computer, and to store all in-house documents in your system as well.

You save money. Paper costs money. And so do printers, toners, ink, filing cabinets. Although you cannot completely go 100% paperless, you will end up using only about a ream of paper in a year. Your ink and toner will last 10x longer than when you had a paper-full office. And those bulky and unattractive filing cabinets – all you will need is one small fire-proof safe, and you’re good to go.

But you’re still likely to have some paper floating through your office. Not all of your clients or customers will want to be billed electronically. Some vendors will still want to communicate by snail mail.And tax and regulatory requirements could force you to either do some current business on paper or to keep hard copies of your past home or business. But as we mentioned, it’s much easier to keep one document file than it is to maintain an office-full of paper from the past 2 decades (or more) of your business’ existence.

Your data, documents and information are safe and secure. Keep confidential material securely locked away in electronic files that only you can access. You need to realise that 85% of identity theft cases occur with offline, printed documents.

You also won’t have to worry about paper becoming damaged – by fire, floods, and other natural calamities. You need not worry about thieves carting off with your original and vital documents, titles, agreements and contracts.

Paperless offices are more environmentally friendly.Help reduce the amount of paper generated every year. It is estimated that the typical business generates 1.7 pounds of material per person per day, most of it high-grade recyclable paper. Imagine the number of trees you save just by going paperless? You help save Planet Earth!

Realize that less paper is just the beginning of the payoff. The most visible impact of a move to a paperless office is the reduction in the cost of printing, mailing, shipping, and storing paper. Over time, lots of other benefits should become apparent: Less time spent looking for paper lost in the shuffle. Fewer hours looking for bills, documents, and, if you’re in business, copies of client documents. The ability to access all sorts of information from computer files—in a matter of seconds without having to search your office. If you’ve got a home office that serves as a satellite office of a business, you can have access to all of your business files, using software, even if you’re not at your business location.

Realize that a paperless office doesn’t happen overnight. Your home office or business won’t go from all-paper one day to paperless the next. It’s a progression. In short, change is not going to be easy —but it can be profitable and convenient in the long-run.