Thursday, March 20, 2014

{Almost} Paperless Organizing (Intro to the Series)

Intro to the Series

I have tried many things over the years to help myself become more organized.  I have made home management binders; I have composed scores of lists; I have set up, organized, and reorganized file cabinets; and I have tried out and utilized a number of computer programs and iPhone/iPad apps.  I really like using old-fashioned pen and paper, but I tend to get bogged down in an overwhelming amount of paper that seems to multiply in the night like rabbits.

Upon reading this article found on Just a Girl and Her Blog: Organizing Your Life: How to go Paperless and Hours to Your Week, I became inspired to find a way to go {almost} paperless.

Two things really jumpstarted my attempts to become {almost} paperless in a way that makes sense to me.  (That is the key to doing almost anything: It has to work for you! )

The first thing is an e-book called Paperless Home Organization: How to Create A Digital Home Management Binder by Mystie Winckler.  This ebook was VERY helpful in giving me ideas on how to set up Evernote, one of my favorite apps.

The second is a free website called The Secret Weapon which contains a series of videos on how to utilize Evernote.  It took a little bit of time to watch them, but it was well worth it to me.  This was the key to making it realize how useful Evernote really can be.

Here is a brief summary of the apps that I use.  In future posts, I will go more indepth in how I use them.

Google Calendar (and my Wall Calendar)

If something has to happen on a particular day or at a particular time, such as an appointment or a scheduled activity, it goes on my Wall Calendar and into Google Calendar.

My favorite wall calendar is the 2014 Amy Knapp's Big Grid Family wall calendar: The essential organization and communication tool for the entire family. I have used other large calendars (such as FlyLady), but this is my favorite.  In fact, I give it to myself for Christmas every year (yes, I even wrap it!), and I enjoy taking an evening before New Year's to transfer important information into my new calendar.  It has large boxes for writing lots of notes and it has a dedicated spot for writing in that day's Dinner Menu (or Supper as we say in the South).

I keep this wall calendar in my kitchen which I can see from my computer desk, but I can't read it from here.  (For quick looks at the date, I look at the beautiful decorative calendar that my husband got me for Christmas.  It hangs right by my desk.  It's too pretty to write on, so I just use it to look at the illustrations and the date.)

I also use Google Calendar which is synced to my Calendar app on my iMac.  I also have my church's calendar for activities and birthdays synced to my Calendar app.  (I just noticed that the icon displays the current date!)

In order to use the Google calendar service, you need to be connected with Google in some way (e.g. have a gmail account).  I highly recommend Google email.  I've used it for years and love it because it keeps out a LOT of spam.  I do have to go into my spam folder every once in a while because it will stick legitimate email in there, but that is an easy check and fix.  I'd rather do that than get all the garbage that I used to in Yahoo mail.


Evernote is the main workhorse for my {almost} paperless life.  This free service is like having your own personal filing cabinet in the internet cloud, accessible from your computer, your phone, and your tablet.  Not only can you access your Evernote using internet, but you can also sync all of your devices together so that if you make any changes, the same note will be accessible on all of them.  If your tablet is not connected to Wi-fi, you can still start a new note and/or access an old note and work on them.  When you get connected again, Evernote will sync everything up.  If it finds some inconsistencies, it will put them all in one note so you can fix it later.

I use Evernote for keeping ideas, digital receipts, recipes, and lots of other information.  In a later post, I will show you how I use it in a way that allows me to use it effectively.  (Hint: the key is in the tags!)


Wunderlist is my To Do manager for recurring tasks.  I love it because I can set up different categories of To-Dos and set due dates.  I'll go more into detail in a future post.


AnyList is an iOS-only app that is my newest favorite app.  I use AnyList mainly as my shopping list app.  This is the best one I have used.  It can sync across several devices.  I put it on my husband's phone so that he can put in items as he thinks of them, and so that when he goes to Sam's, he can know what I need from there.  (Going into Sam's is not my favorite thing to do because it always takes five times longer with a little one in tow.  Another tip:  Use the Click and Pull service at Sam's.  You're welcome.)  Anyway, when I first told him about AnyList, he asked if I were going to use it for Honey-Do lists.  I said, "No, but I can." And so I did.  I'm just waiting for him to notice it.

Quick Password Manager

Quick Password Manager is my password keeper on my iPhone (also available as an iPad app).  It is secure and can be synced via Dropbox.

You have to input either an alphabetic or numerical password to get in, the length of which you choose.  (An earlier version required a four-digit passcode, but they have since changed it to make it more secure.)

If I'm going to record any of my passwords at all, it is in this app.  One day, I will write them down to keep in our safe, but this does a great job.

I won't do a future post on this because it's pretty well self-explanatory, and I have no new tips to give you.


You may have read a previous article or two on Pinterest (here and here), but I can do an update.  I use Pinterest to keep my ideas and inspiration.  The only thing Pinterest does not offer that I need is time:  time to visit everyday for as long as I like and time to actually implement the wonderful ideas that I find!


Cobook (only for Apple products), is my address book app.  Setting it up was not exactly fun (syncing it between my iPhone, Google contacts, iPad, and iMac was a headache and a half, but I finally got it to work), but it is an extremely useful app.  I am able to put contacts in different categories which is very helpful.  I love being able to look up contact information where-ever I am (either on the Cobook app on my iMac or through my phone contacts).

NOTE: I no longer support or use Cobook.  They changed their interface which was not intuitive for me, and they added information from my Facebook friends which I did not want mixed in with people I interact with in real life.  I will do a blog post someday to tell how I now keep up with all my contacts.  (Short story:  iMac Address Book + iCloud + the OS/iOS app Contacts Sync for Google Gmail.)


After Google dropped its Google Reader service (I have written on that subject before), I found the open-source app called Vienna to read my RSS feeds.  It is only for Mac computers.

More Thoughts . . .

I still feel like I am just getting started in trying to go paperless.  I realize that it is an ongoing process that must be kept up.  So far, I have begun using the apps mentioned above.  Eventually, I will begin scanning papers so that I can keep digital copies and toss, I mean recycle (or shred), the original papers.  My shredder just bit the dust a few days ago, and I'm not at the point (time-wise and efficiency-wise) to be able to scan in documents, but I will get there!  Already, I have tossed my household management binder (which was never used that much anyway!).  My desk is still messy, but at least I have a plan to get that taken care of, too!

I still use paper lists.  It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and also to clear my mind.  Sometimes I will write a list that I call "Brain Dump" which is just a list of everything I can think of that needs to be done.  Once it is written down, I feel like I can deal with it.

Well, that should be plenty for you to peruse for now.  I'll start on writing posts about the individual apps soon.  (You do realize that "soon" could mean tomorrow or next fall, right? We'll see!)  In the meantime, post a comment or two on anything you would like for me to address first.

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Intro to the Series

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Calendars

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Evernote

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Evernote, Part 2

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Evernote, Part 3

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Wunderlist

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  AnyList

{Almost} Paperless Organizing:  Final Thoughts

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