As you go through the downsizing process, digitizing to downsizeyou will inevitably find lots of items that you just can not part with, but that you also do not have the space to keep. This is where digitization comes in. Many of these items can be scanned or digitized in to an electronic version allowing you to free up physical space but still hold on to the necessary items. You don’t need a full blown scanner to be able to digitize, there are free apps out there that you can use. Let’s take a closer look at some of the items we digitized while downsizing as well as some of the tools to help…

Important Documents & Papers

We may not want to keep them, but they are necessary for all of us. Now that we have our own businesses, we have a semi-constant stream of receipts that need to be filed for tax purposes. We certainly do not have room for them in our 240 sq. ft. RV, so we decided to scan them instead. Receipts are just one example, but scanning applies to other important documents as well. While the first time you make the switch, you will probably have a fairly large pile of papers to scan; once you make it through that initial phase, maintaining the process is much easier. A scan only takes a few seconds of your time, and it will make keeping and organizing all of those documents a breeze. Make it a habit, and you will be glad to rid your life of that extra clutter.

Scanning Apps For Android Phone Users…

Google Drive App

CamScanner App

Other Scanning Apps 

Scanning Apps for iOS Phone Users…

Scannable by Evernote


Photos are a great item to scan, since making an electronic version not only allows us to keep those items for ourselves, but also gives us an easy file to share with others. Instead of only one family member having that cool photo that harkens back four generations, now every family member can have the digital version of the photo. We actually ran out of time for this part of the downsizing process, so we ended up storing some photo albums in a plastic bin in my parent’s garage when we first set out in our RV. We do want to digitize the rest at some point, and only keep one physical photo album.  Photos may seem like a difficult item to part with even after you have an electronic copy, but try to keep in mind that as an RVer, your photo collection rate is only going to increase.

To scan photos, try PhotoScan by Google Photos (works with Android & iOS).

Movies & CDs

Unlike family photos that you can share as you like, movies and CDs have copyright laws that will keep you from sharing them. However, you can still digitize them.  We were so grateful to declutter those two areas and still keep our collection with us. After digitizing them, we then sold our physical copies for some extra travel cash.

We used Handbrake for our movies and iTunes for our CDs.

Those were the three main areas that digitizing really helped us to meet our downsizing goals. This is definitely a lifestyle change that we plan to continue, RVers or not. We like the organization aspect, and the fact that we will never have to physically move those items again!

You may have noticed that I do not include books on this list. You may enjoy your ebooks, but I am still not convinced! I love paper books, and I am constantly making efforts to minimize my screen time; so you won’t pry those books out of my hands! 

What are your favorite ways to digitize?

Let’s wrap up the Downsizing 101 series with what to do with all the stuff!


About Jen

I love travel, which led me to become a fulltime RVer. I love wellness, which I can talk about 'til the cows come home. I love being self-employed, which means I get to dabble in what interests me from essential oils to RV planners. But most importantly, I love my husband and our life together on the road!

8 comments on “DIGITIZING TO DOWNSIZE (Downsizing 101)

  1. Another great article! It’s got me thinking seriously about downsizing some items in our home. But, like you, I love my paper books and cannot see parting with those that I have left after my last “downsizing”.

    • Thanks, Sandra! Glad to hear that you love your books as much as I do! I studied abroad in Spain for 5 months in college, and I had one suitcase for five months – I found room to take my favorite book with me! lol

  2. Books, LOVE them! I borrow almost weekly from the library and download to my Kindle but the books I love I have narrowed down as far as I think I can. I still have 7’x8′ wall of just my favorites. One thing that really helped is having no need for many of the reference books I used to keep, now they are available online. I have resolved not to buy no books for myself for a year….just borrow. We are lucky that our library is part of a larger state wide network so there are many, many available. We may have to put our name on a list and wait but no matter where we are when a digital book becomes available we can download it so as much as I lament the loss of paper books being able to use the whole state as my library from where ever I am is just so amazing!
    Photos are another thing though. Some just cannot be saved electronically(for me) I feel the need to have it to hold in my hand or hang on the wall.

    • Hi, Candace! I love libraries too, and I do enjoy audio books a lot, which are usually available through the library. I like to listen to them when I cook and clean or workout, or drive – wow, I use them more than I realized! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! And I understand that some photos need to be kept in print – I get it. I want to keep one album too, but have the rest digitized. It is a work in progress for me. -Jen

  3. My biggest concern about digitizing is where/how to store the backups. I had a computer crash once that took with it all my photos. Fortunarely I had sent many to relatives, so got some of them back, but I wouldn’t do that with business receipts. I had an IRS audit in ’06 and I can’t imagine the added hassle of that had I not been able to produce original receipts.

    Your thoughts?

    • Great question and reminder that we need to be careful how we store the information once digitized. We chose to go with an external hard drive to back up our important stuff (documents, receipts, Chris’ work items, photos, etc.). That is an option to consider. Also, you can consider saving things in the cloud – Google Drive and Dropbox both have options. Depending on how much you want to store, you may have to pay for these options. Either the external hard drive or the cloud will probably cost some money. Both have pluses and minuses. With the external hard drive, you still have a physical item that could fail at some point, but you do not need internet to access your information. With the cloud, you must have internet access to use it. Hope that gives you some options to think about it and find the right fit for you. Thanks! -Jen

      • I think it’s very important to remember that any thumb drive, hard drive or writable cd can become corrupted over time. With a re-writeable cd it’s only good for about 5 years. And the cloud options are great, but things go missing and they say in advance that they are not responsible for accidental deletion. So definitely save multiple copies in multiple places.

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