My Top 5 Phone Apps for Organizing

My iPhone is a multi-purpose tool. Yes, I make calls, send texts, and share photos on Facebook. I even play the occasional Pac-Man game when I’m really bored. But even more than communicating with the world, I use my phone as an organizing and productivity resource. I know you’re thinking, “She is an professional organizer. Of course!” Don’t let my career choice fool into thinking that your smart phone is not as valuable.

Your phone can organize your life!

Top 5 Apps for OrganizingOur world is filled with amazing technological advances and the apps available to smart phone users are no different. I want to share with you my top picks for organizing my life and schedule. These apps aren’t the only choices. In fact, there are so many great app choices, that sometimes it’s difficult to decide on the right one for your needs. My encouragement to you is try different ones, especially if they are free to download, and see which ones you like the best. There are pros and cons to every app, but you’ll discover which ones work best for you, even if you are not a “techy” person. Use your phone for more than just communication. Organize your life!

1) ThingsThings is by far my most useful organizing tool. It’s like my second brain, keeping track of all my to-do’s with ease. The most comprehensive task manager apps will cost you money; Things is $9.99 in the App Store. But there are some decent free ones, as well. If you don’t need something as extensive as Things, try Google Tasks, Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, and Toodledo. Keeping lists in any one of these apps is the best way to get things done! You will love being more productive.

2) Evernote – The more I use Evernote, the more I like it. The best part about it is that it’s free! You create notes within notebook categories. I have notebooks for recipes, gardening, health, books to read, travel ideas, quotes, Christmas lists, and more. Within those notebooks, I have many notes relating to that particular category. You can also create notes with photos and voice memos. Evernote is the best way to get rid of paper clutter! I recommend downloading the free desktop version as well. Evernote will automatically sync all your devices. To learn more, read my helpful blog post entitled Overcoming Paper Piles with Evernote.

3) 1Password – One of my huge organizing accomplishments in the last year was transferring all my passwords from paper to a digital format. My identity is more secure and my passwords are safely locked away. After much research, I choose 1Password, because I only have to remember one main password to get into the app. The easiest way to set up 1Password is to download the app for your desktop computer, create all new passwords with the help of the password generator (you only have to do this one time), and then you can download and open up the app for your smart phone. 1Password will automatically sync your “password vault” between your computer and phone. To be honest, the entire set up process takes quite some time, but once it’s done, it’s done. And yes, it is expensive, but a password app is worth spending money on. You will be happy that your passwords are secure in one place!

4) Calendar – The iPhone’s native calendar app is not perfect. Scrolling up and down while creating an event is a hassle, but it works well enough. The main reason I use it is to keep track of my schedule. I place all events, including repeating ones, into the app and use the alert feature to remind myself of important places to be at the right time. If you lose track of your time or forget events, I encourage you to use the calendar app on your phone. If you have an iCloud account, it will sync with your computer and tablets as well.

5) Docs to Go – I use Docs to Go infrequently, but when I do, it’s very handy! This app uses the Cloud to access all your computer files, including Word, Excel and PDF formats. When I don’t have my MacBook with me and need to look up a file, I open up Docs to Go and find the information I need. I use the free app, but there is a premium version for those that need more powerful editing tools.

I received no compensation from any companies or app designers for this post. I just wanted to share with you my favorite productivity phone apps! I hope this information is helpful in organizing your life.

Which smart phone apps do you like and use the most? Please share in the comments below.

Simplify in Three Areas: Your Solution for Stress

Americans are stressed out.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, three out of four doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments, and 44 percent of stressed people lose sleep every night. The effects of stress can be devastating to health – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But you didn’t really need to me to quote statistics about stress to know that you are stressed, did you? You know it; we all know it. The pace of modern life, the overwhelming amount of information and technology, the work load on the job, not to mention the violence of daily news, both here and abroad, make for a culture of unending stress.

The question is, what do we do about it?

Simplfiy Your Solution for Stress

We cannot reduce our exposure to stress in every area of life, but we can change our circumstances and environment to some extent. We can change the things we have control over. As a professional organizer, I have a unique perspective. I help people reduce their stress by simplifying their lives. Living simply in all areas of life is one of the best ways I know to decrease stress and increase happiness. How do I help my clients accomplish this? You can simplify in three main areas: your stuff, your schedule and your relationships. Stuff is the easiest to deal with; relationships are the most difficult.

Simplify Your Stuff

According to researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families, the more stuff we own, the more stress we feel, especially for women. The more we fill our homes with possessions, the more our bodies pump out the stress hormone, cortisol. When we reach the point that our clutter controls us, it becomes a burden. Do you have a room in your home that feels out of control? Does your entire house feel out of control? If you are feeling that stress, it’s definitely time to simplify. Your solution is to get rid of things you don’t want or need, things that are not adding value or worth to your life. The more you give away, the better you will feel. I’ve seen this happen countless times when working with clients. Reduce your stuff, reduce your stress.

Simplify Your Schedule

Another area of life that can overwhelm us is our schedules. Many people wear their busy schedule as a badge of honor. I hear them say, “Life is busy. I just can’t keep up. My schedule is so full.” I feel like it’s the American way, to always be busy. But are we truly happy when we are so busy? What about taking time to reflect and think about who we are, rather than what we do? If you are feeling the pressure of your schedule, stop for a moment and think about why you are so busy. Don’t worry about what other people do or say. The pace of your life does not have to be at break-neck speed. It could be just a stage that will pass. We all have times that everything seems to happen all at once. But if you are constantly “on the go” and don’t see relief in sight, your solution is to let go of tasks and commitments that do not line up with your life priorities. Make time for fun, family, and relaxation.

Simplify Your Relationships

People can also be a source stress. When simplifying your relationships, I’m not talking about selling your children to the highest bidder! :) I’m thinking of the people in your life that you can choose to not associate with – the bossy mom in your toddler’s play group, the negative co-worker that always hangs out in the lunch room, or the angry dry-cleaning lady. As you identify stressful people, find ways that you can “take a break” from seeing them. Find a different play group, eat a short lunch at your desk and then take a walk with your favorite co-worker, or drive an extra five miles to do business with a cheerful dry cleaner. Your solution is to say goodbye to people that stress you out and to surround yourself with people that inspire and lift you up. I know this is not possible in every case, but you might find that you have more choice in this area than you realize.

What is your stress level? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, your schedule or your relationships?

Simplifying can reduce stress and bring you more freedom and peace. Getting organized in these three areas could bring you more sleep, save you a trip to the doctor, and in the end, lessen your overall stress. May God bless you with discernment as you make decisions to reduce your stress, and let me know if I can be of service as your professional organizer.

Selling Cell Phones for Cash: Our Experience

My husband and I recently realized we had two old iPhones taking up valuable space in our office. So, just like I tell my clients to simplify, we went about the task of finding new homes for our out-dated phones. Since they were still in good condition and worth money, our goal was to find a reputable buyer. Here is what we discovered! I have two very different stories to tell.

Selling Cell Phones for Cash

We sold one phone to Cash for Laptops (also called Cash for iPhones). We should have been forewarned by poor customer reviews. To be fair, we received a nice box to send the phone via USPS mail and we were paid promptly with a check. However, it was far less than the value of the phone! I would have gladly sold it to Apple for a iTunes gift card, instead of a measly $14. Yes, that is all I received for my iPhone 4 from Cash for Laptops. Another drawback, we never spoke to a real person. It was all handled with email communication.

After that disappointing experience, we searched for a more personable buyer and found Tech Twice in Hillsboro, a locally-owned company that has been buying back textbooks for over a decade, with their program Cash4Books. Their most recent venture is buying smart phones and iPads. Our transaction started with email, moved to phone communication, and finally a visit to their store on Amberwood Drive. Once the helpful staff showed me how to disconnect a device from my husband’s Apple ID account and restore to factory settings, we were able to proceed with selling his iPhone 4S. Twenty minutes later after a diagnostic check, I walked out with $95 cash! Best of all, we received a hand-written thank you note for our business. Compared to selling the first phone, dealing with Tech Twice was a pleasant and easy experience. (I cannot guarantee you will receive the same amount or more from any cell phone buyer.)

thank you from Tech Twice

The hand-written thank you note we received from Tech Twice.

I don’t promote companies often in my articles, but I was so impressed with the service we received from Tech Twice, I thought it was important to pass along this helpful information to my clients and readers.

If you want to skip the selling process altogether, you can just recycle your phone at these locations.

  • Multnomah County Libraries – Yes, that’s right. Multnomah County has teamed up with the Wireless Alliance to offer free recycling collection boxes for cell phones at all library locations.
  • Portland Women’s Crisis Line – Do something good with your old phone! Survivors of domestic violence are given recycled phones to use in case of an 911 emergency.
  • Far West Fibers – Recycle all types of electronics at Far West Fibers locations, including cell phones.
Have you tried selling a phone? What was your experience?
I’d love to hear your story as well!

Overcoming Paper Piles With Evernote

Paper organizing is major part of what I do in every organizing project, especially kitchens! People tend to sort through their mail in the kitchen and dining room and leaves stacks and piles and mounds and heaps of paper everywhere. OK, I’m exaggerating slightly. But not much.

Utilizing digital tools, you can reduce paper clutter. One of the most helpful apps I’ve discovered is Evernote. I use it all the time and recommend it wholeheartedly to my clients. I’m not an Evernote rep (although I should consider it!), and I don’t have any financial ties to the company. Evernote is FREE for use on computers and smart phones.

First, sign up for an account and download the app onto your electronic devices. Evernote will automatically sync all your data for you. Then, start creating notes and notebooks based on how your brain organizes information. Name them whatever you’d like – how you will remember them easily. In computer language, notebooks are like folders (that hold notes) and notes are like files. Notebooks look like this on my iPhone.

Next, make sure you download the Web Clipper extension for your internet browser, so you can clip sections or entire websites or articles.The Web Clipper is very cool, a necessary part of the Evernote experience! Now here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Build books-to-read lists (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, self-help, etc.) in a Books notebook
  • Put home and garden ideas into a Home or Garden notebook
  • Copy or take photos of your favorite recipes and compile in a Recipes notebook
  • Take a snapshot of invitations or events you receive in the mail and put in a Invitations notebook (toss the paper version!)
  • Keep your favorite quotes in a Quotes notebook
  • Track your exercise and eating habits in a Health or Fitness notebook (I track my weights for strength training, so I know I’m making good progress!)
  • Record your mileage for business expenses in an Auto or Business notebook
  • Create a notebook for an upcoming vacation and notes about your airline tickets, travel expenses, place to see, etc.
  • Make notes for favorite blogs you want to read, restaurants you want to try, or movies you want to see
  • Place your personal and business task lists or goals into a Tasks or Things to Do notebook

Give Evernote a try and tell me how you apply it. The possibilities are endless! Remember, the goal is to reduce paper clutter, so try to transfer your paper piles into a digital format using Evernote. If you need help, give me a call. And in case my article was not enough to get you started, check out this comprehensive post from LifeHacker.

Enjoy the new world of digital organizing!