Digitising User Manuals

Today I thought I might bore you all with how to digitise your user manuals rather than allow them to take up space in your home. Feel free to disagree about the sense of digitising if you like, I have no problem with how you choose to use the space in your home. I live in a two bedroom apartment so space is at a premium and not to be wasted. 

There are so many manuals available online in PDF form that you can download to your computer. Today, as an example, I googled for the PDF of my Brother P-Touch PT65 label maker. It must be at least 12 years old. I found the PDF in one try, downloaded and saved it to my computer and decluttered the paper copy.

A PDF filed logically on your computer is so much easier to access than digging around among twenty other manuals in a file box. In my case that box is in the bottom of my linen closet. I created a subfolder in my Documents folder call “Household User Manuals” and that is where I am now saving any user manuals I can find PDF’s for online.

Below are some instructions I put together for those who don’t know how to go about finding and saving the PDFs they will need.

  1. Find out the make, name and model number for your gadget/appliance. It may be printed on the paper manual or you may have to check the information plate on the item itself.
  2. Go to your computer, find the Documents file and create a new folder in this file and name it Household User Manuals (or whatever name suits you).
  3. Close out of Documents and open your internet browser.
  4. Use the search engine there (I use google) and the details you have collected on the item, to find the user manual you require.
  5. Hit the download button provided at the website to download the document.
  6. Once fully downloaded (there is usually a timer in the bottom righthand corner of the screen) wave your curser over the bottom lefthand corner of the document/screen. A row of symbols should appear prompting you with the usual options (print, enlarge, reduce, save…). Simply hit the save option.
  7. A box will drop down from the top of the screen prompting you to give the file/document a name. Type in your chosen file/document name that will identify the appliance the manual is for. (eg, in my case Brother P-Touch labeller PT65)
  8. This box should also show what folder the document is to be filed in. It may open to a default of the last folder you saved something in, and not the one you need this time. Make sure you choose the folder you created in step 2. (Household User Manuals (or whatever name suits you). Then hit save.
  9. Job done and you can start on the next manual.

You could likely have manuals for appliances/gadgets you still own and use that a really old – like my forty year old Elna sewing machine. You may have no choice but to keep original user manual such as these,  as a PDF may never have been created of it. An occasion could arise where you need this manual to get the instructions to use a function that you as yet aren’t familiar with.

However by chance I happened to google this manual and, lo and behold, a PDF has in fact been created for it. Downloading that is next on my to-do list.

If you can’t get your head around going digital I have another suggestion to reduce the paper clutter in this area. Get out the manuals and remove and recycle all the extra pages transcribed in foreign languages. You most certainly won’t be needing those. There may also be installation instruction for the appliance. Chances are you will never again need those either.

I must point out two things at this point.

  1. I use a laptop or notebook computer, so it is easily moved to the appliance I might need to access the PDF manuals for. If you only have a desk top computer (no laptop or tablet) it will be more inconvenient for you.
  2. It may also be prudent to back up these files to an external drive or a cloud for extra security in the case of a computer crash. This is only necessary if you are insecure about the possibility of the PDFs becoming unavailable online once they get a little old. I’d say there is little chance of that, given that I can access that manual for my 40 year old sewing machine.

Today’s Mini Mission

Digitise receipts for things you either need for insurance or warranty purposes. Chances are you will also never need them in either in digital or original form. Check with your insurance company if it makes you feel better about decluttering them.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

Add a few one pot meal to your weekly menu. Cooking everything at once saves on electricity and your precious time. I often also cook the meat portion of my meals separately but cook all my vegetable together one way or another. A slow cooker or a set of steamer saucepans come in handy for this method of cooking.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. This is such a great idea Colleen. So many times any more the manuals are online already and not printed. I have had all of the manuals for everything in the house for some time. I knew we would move eventually and wanted to have them available for whoever bought this place. For those things we are keeping I have been gradually digitising them. I try to do this when I have time to do it. It is taking longer than I would like but I am getting there. My biggest one is the one for the printer. I have it on the laptop now and I am so glad I do. I’ve been thinking of selling this one and buying a smaller one as I don’t need everything this one can do. We will see what I find.

    • Hi Deb, I am not sure why I haven’t digitised more of my manuals before now. I did it with all the construction manuals for the iKea furniture we had some time ago. This may result in one the last file box we own being decluttered from out house.
      As for the printer. If you have no requirement for colour I would go for a laser printer. I have been using the same black cartridge for six months now and we haven’t had to replace the toner cartridge yet. The inkjet ran out of ink on a far too regular basis.

      • I have thought about a laser. I’m really not doing much printing other than an occasional item for Mom. I’ve been trying to come up with a way I can stop doing even that. If we move to the retirement place I can print from their “office” area. I may just use that and forget the rest. No printer at all.

        • Deb J – I vote for keeping the old printer until you shift and then using the office service at the retirement village! Sounds perfect! But I know how frustrating it can be to have to wait while something is in your ‘sights’ to declutter.

          • Moni, I think that is what I am going to do. I will make sure they have anything I need then give away the printer.

  2. I had to rummage in the entertainment centre drawer last night for something and pulled out the manuals for the tv and sound system and suggested we go digital to Adrian, but he wasn’t convinced……yet. Even though he acknowledged that the first sign of problem we have to get in a technician as neither of us have any technical savvy. I will try again another time.

    RE: My upstairs storage room 30 things in 30 days, I am ahead of schedule but have been aiming for the ‘lower fruit’ so to speak and gaps are definately starting to open up around the room. I’m at 23 on day 8 – I have been conservative with my counting – for example a box of 30-odd technical manuals got counted as one, a box of ‘stuff’ counted as one etc because they were all dealt with at the same time. There is a set of shelving that wasn’t on the to-go list but it is clearing out noticeably so it might find itself on the list yet. There is quite a collection of empty plastic storage bins. My local goodwill was interested but my plan is ensure I have them all collected together, everything that is supposed to have lids, will have a lid, and any that need cleaning or dusting are done so. Also I have a couple of storage bins in my attic at home, that I want to go thru and if I can consolidate down to a smaller container, to do so while I still own a variety of sizes. Today I also freed up a set of plastic drawers, so I just have to figure out what to do with those!

  3. Our new range has a QR barcode inside the drawer. I scanned it with my phone and pulled up not only the model and serial number, but a link to the manual. Clever!

    • We just purchased a washer and dryer that have a cell phone link that will give you an error code and troubleshoot problems. I’m hoping there’s an app that will teach it to fold the laundry and make the bed as well.

  4. Last night, the girls and I did our annual re-visit of our keepers boxes. We must have been in a ruthless mood because now all of our stuff now fits into one box combined, rather than a seperate box each. The girls had a good chuckle at their ‘twelvie’ stuff (that is teenager speak for young or pre-teen) that used to be so precious. So this morning I am processing all the ‘out’ stuff, including my younger daughter’s trophies.

  5. Opinion please: when looking amongst the keepers box we came across a box which has the original molds taken before my daughter got her braces put on. Earlier this year they gave us a box with these in and said they need to be kept for 10 years as they are a medical record. I just rang and asked if that was correct and was re-assured that yes they are a medical record which needs to be kept but they just don’t have room any more.
    I think they look a little bit disturbing, and they in no way look like what her teeth look like now so couldn’t be used for identification or any such thing. I would happily hiff them out but now my ‘organiser’ side of the brain is saying I probably should do as I’m told. What do you all think?

    • Hi Moni, I dare say the dentist knows what they are about so I would also keep them. There must be plenty of other things you could declutter instead for the time being.

      • I guess, they took molds when her braces came off which they made her retainer from, they keep those in case she needs to order another one. (she takes her retainer out in her sleep, one we never found again, its one of those eternal mysteries).
        The boxes they keep them in could 4 or 5, so maybe I should look for something smaller. Why we would want a record of her pre-braces teeth, I’m not sure.

  6. Hi Moni,

    I’m on the conservative side, so I say keep them. It may be that the teeth will move again in 10 years and it might be of interest to the docs to compare. But you can do whatever you decide of course 🙂

  7. I love the idea of removing the non-English sections of instruction manuals. I never thought of doing that but it certainly will save space and weight. I did manage to condense a lot of manuals and instruction booklets a couple of months ago and they fit neatly in a filing cabinet but I think I could go back and purge some more. Thanks for the ideas!

    Another thing that I have discovered during the last week or so of intensive clearing-out with my sons is that it is not pleasant to find battery-operated items which have been sitting unused for years. Obviously none of us gave any thought to how the batteries would behave when the things were stashed away. Lesson learned.