UHeart Organizing: Paper Eliminating Apps!

I am excited to welcome back my superfab contributing team in 2014, and also introduce you to the newest member, Beth! 

It is no secret that I have been dragging my feet when it comes to using my gadgets and technology for organizational purposes.  I love to organize.  I love technology.  Really I should marry the two right?

Considering I have little experience utilizing technology to better my life, yet that is the way the world is essentially moving, I invited Beth to join the IHeart Organizing team.  She loves to make use of her gadgets to streamline her day to day lifestyle, and I am beyond excited to have her here sharing all of her tips and favorite apps with us.

Beth is a wife, mom, freelance writer and PR/Marketing Consultant.  You can find her sharing her sharing her awesomeness at The Little Magpie, The Food Adventuress, Magpie Marketing and Arkansas Life.  And now IHeart Organizing as well!  Today, she is here to chat about apps that help her on her quest to live a paperless life.  So please, give a warm IHeart Organizing welcome to the darling Beth!

Hey there, organizers!   I'm Beth, and I'm delighted to join the IHeart Organizing lineup this year.  Like so many of you, I'm on a constant quest to better organize my life so that I have time for the things that really matter.

As the years go by, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that the areas of my life that are controlled and organized bring me the most pleasure (or, the highest ratio of days that include feet propped up in the bubble bath, reading a good book, hiking with my family or enjoying a glass of wine with my husband).  Conversely, the areas of my life that consistently feel chaotic, disorganized and behind the eight ball are the top contributors to my stress.

So, suffice it to say that I've been an enthusiastic reader of IHeart Organizing for quite some time.  However, there is one area of my organizing style that's just a little bit different from many of the posts I've read here at IHeart: while I adore organized cuteness, binders, labels, mason jars and gallery walls as much as the next gal, I'm also a big fan of organizing with technology!

In fact, I'm going to just say this out loud: I am on an obsessive, multi-year quest to eliminate useless paper from my life.   I want less junk in my mailbox, fewer paper stacks on my desk and a shortage of decade-old magazines gathering dust on my shelves (despite my affliction with vintage and the fact that I actually contribute frequently to magazines)!  Anyone with me?

Excellent.  Allow me to share a few amazing tools that you just might need in your life.  And please: keep posting those gorgeous projects with labels, mason jars and gallery walls... even the organizing app lovers like me are drooling over them!  Without further ado, here are a few tools to eliminate scraps of paper from your life, focusing on three of the most common sources.

Paper Culprit #1 - Small Humans

While I love seeing special pieces of art and keeping up with my kids and their progress at school, I feel absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of paper that education institutions generate… it just never ends.  Hope springs eternal in my heart that this will change in my lifetime, but for now, I have implemented coping mechanisms.

Everyone has different degrees of sentimental feelings. I do love keeping a select few pieces of my kids’ art, but most of the worksheets and quick drawings head quickly to the recycling bin. We used to use family binders - one per kid per school year.  Regardless of whether you have an adorable binder, box or portfolio for physically keeping your kids’ artwork, I strongly suggest scanning it.  The digital versions can be used for craft projects or just archiving, and you can even take a photo of the child proudly holding up their work.  Even worksheets are fun to save because there are always some humorous responses!

The best tool in my book for this task is Artkive.  You’ll be able to set up a “folder” for each kid and then file work by age, grade and other details.  Plus, the Artkive shop is specifically set up for printing gifts such as a book of artwork for grandparents and other items to preserve all those masterpieces. You can also automatically share their creations with family members or to social media.

Last year, we even took photos of our oldest daughter’s end of year project for the Reach program - so fun!

Artkive is available for iOS and Android (free). Alternative: Art My Kid Made, which I am digging for its compatibility with Evernote (more on that soon!) - iOS (free).

Paper Culprit #2 - The Quest for Food

While there are a lot of papers that enter our lives and are worth keeping (I loved the greeting card organizer in the link party post earlier this week), there are approximately a million more that are completely irrelevant: and frankly, I would rather they never existed in my house at all!  High on that list are grocery lists - I don’t even want cute ones hanging around!

Plus, it’s very common for me to be out near a store and find a pocket of time - while the list is still hanging on the fridge. So, this was another great area of my life to go digital.   My absolute favorite (after trying many options) is Ziplist - it syncs across my Macbook, iPad and iPhone so that I (or family members) can sit down near the kitchen and add dozens of items while planning meals for the week, or just quickly add items on the fly into my phone.

If you’ve thought about going the digital route with your grocery list, now is the time to let your inner nerd/über-organizer flag fly high. Ziplist gets lots of bonus points because I can add items by store and even sort them by the appropriate aisle.  That means I can keep separate shopping lists within the app for the grocery store, hardware/home store, even articles of clothing or vintage items I’ve been on the lookout for (which always escape my mind when I’m standing in the actual store).

Two great examples of the power of an electronic versus paper grocery list:

Vacation:  On our last beach vacation, we stayed in some lovely state park cabins and fell in love.  However, their version of “fully stocked” and mine were very different (I consider dish soap, chopped garlic and salt & pepper essential).  So when I made a list before heading to the {pricey!!} grocery store to stock up, I made it a permanent list in my collection and titled it Vacay.  In a few short months when we head to that sweet cabin again, I’ll know exactly which basics are worth picking up more cheaply here at home and packing along with us.

Holidays:  Normally, I work from a consistent list of our traditional holiday recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I shop as far in advance for those grocery items as possible.   This year, a combination of chaotic work projects and inclement weather had me dropping by a grocery store on the fly.   If that window had presented itself and I were a paper list keeper, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of it - but instead, I just pulled up my standard Thanksgiving ingredient list, skipped the items I knew I had in the pantry and knocked it out in an hour.  Victory!

The Ziplist website also prompts you for items you might need based on past purchases, and there is a downloadable recipe clipper for your browser.

Ziplist is available for iOS and Android (free). Alternatives: Our Groceries - iOS, Android (free), Buy Me A Pie - iOS, Android (free), Out Of Milk - iOS, Android (free), Grocery IQ - iOS, Android (free).

Paper Culprit #3 - The Daily Grind

Here's another confession: I need a checklist for everything.  I mean, everything.  Without the ability to check things off every morning, I would wander the barren landscape of my home seeking coffee and a little direction. I kid you not... my brain does not have the capacity to remember the simple things such as take vitamin, start laundry and unload dishwasher.  Seriously.

Laugh if you may, but I know there are more of you out there like me!  I want to get up, look at a checklist and start marking things off so that I don't end up in my PJs (I work from home) with my teeth unbrushed and staring off into space when my husband comes home at 5 o'clock.  Enter the Routines app by Coopla:

It's genius because it keeps all of these paltry tasks out of your actual to-do list with errands and tasks that are less consistent and predictable (drop dry-cleaning, pick up supplies for a kid's school project).  Add the things that you do - or want to do - every morning, afternoon, evening, weekly on Mondays and even monthly (sharpen knives) or annually (optometrist appointment).

I've even got my zones set up in the monthly section, keeping me on top of deep cleaning the kitchen during the first week of the month, living spaces - second week, bathrooms - third week, bedrooms - fourth week, other spaces (only needed a few times a year) - fifth week.  This ensures that the whole house is tackled by the end of each month.

Best of all, you can force your tasks to clear at midnight so that you've got a beautiful, clean new list of tasks to tackle again tomorrow... and who doesn't love to check things off?   {Me, ME! I love to check things off!!}

The Routines app by Coopla is available for iOS ($2.99). Note: tasks are not synced across devices; however, most users tend to grab one particular device to cruise through daily chores, so this is not a huge issue. Alternative: HomeRoutines for iOS - works well with FlyLady systems.  To ensure you don’t get a bunch of to do/task apps, search your app marketplace for “home routines” or “daily chores.”

"I’m Beth, a freelance writer and PR/marketing consultant living in a 1905 house in northwest Arkansas that could have starred in the 80's film The Money Pit.  Fortunately, I'm married to a man capable of tackling everything from plumbing and electrical disasters to reincarnating hardwood floors, and he keeps the place livable for us and our two daughters, Sophie and Ainsley.  Like so many others, I vacillate between incredibly organized {see: my alphabetized spice rack and neat living room} and embarrassingly disastrous {see: my closet and The Room We Do Not Enter}.  I have an affliction with words and ideas, so I churn out the excess at The Little Magpie and The Food Adventuress and through my business, Magpie Marketing in addition to writing about food, wine, travel and the treasures of my home state for publications such as Arkansas Life.  I love emerging technology and you'll find me first in line to try new apps and gadgets.  I'll share the best tools to keep your life on track here at IHeart Organizing!  

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