I’ve clearly been on an organization kick for the past couple of weeks! Last week, I shared my guide to how I develop my home budget and a few cute worksheets to accompany it.
In that planning notebook post, I kind of touched on the fact that, in spite of running a blog that (in a large part) focuses around printables, I don’t use them in my own home. Like at all. I absolutely love designing them and posting them for you guys, but I just have this weird thing with paper clutter. It drives me crazy!
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Last year, I stumbled upon this post about paperless organization, and it completely changed the way I organize our home. (Edited: their full ebook about Paperless Organization, The Paperless Home, is currently available at a discounted rate in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle until May 1st!) Since then, I’ve adapted it into my own style and modified it to fit my family’s needs. I briefly talked about it in my school paper organization post, but I thought I’d go a little bit more into detail today about my paperless system and how I use it to organize everything in my life!
Eliminate paper at every place you can.
A few years ago, I talked about why I ditched paper planners in lieu of using digital organization apps to stay organized. I thought the reasons for not using a paper planner from that post were still pretty relevant to why I don’t use this system anymore…
- It was bulky. I hated having to keep up with this massive planner.
- It got messy for me. The big issue is that, with blogging, flexibility is key. I found myself constantly scratching out/reassigning tasks and to-dos, and I ended up with more scribbles on a page than words. That made it really difficult to use.
- If I left it at home, I didn’t know which way to go! 🙂 I like having my planner/to-do list available at any time. I’ve said it before – if I don’t have these available at all times, I might not remember to wake up in the morning. I’m seriously dependent on a calendar/to-do list.
- Those planners aren’t cheap! I wanted a method that didn’t require a big purchase.
Now, I have just a few apps that I use to organize my day.
The mac calendar app (yes, just the plain old standard one that comes with your devices) is my “big picture” view of my week/month. On it, I have my blog’s tentative editorial calendar (in blue), home/personal events (in green), tasks to promote my items for sale (in red), and sponsored drafts due (in orange). This is what my calendar looked like as of Monday night. As items on this calendar are completed, I color them yellow for easy reference as to what still needs to be done.
My favorite thing about using this (instead of a paper planner) is the ease of moving things around. When you run a blog, this is absolutely essential…publish dates change all the time! It also syncs between my computer and phone so I always have my calendar with me.
For my more detailed daily view, I use a free app called Todoist. In the past, I’ve used Wunderlist for this part, but I love the ability to sort into individual days, sync with other users, and color code that Todoist allows. The color of each list corresponds to the colors of my calendar app – so blue is blog needs, red is product promotion/building tasks, green is home. I also have a few other random lists on here just to organize my thoughts, but those three are the big ones I use as to-do lists on a daily basis. (And I just use the free version of the app…I’ve never really seen a need to pay for the premium features!)
Todoist makes it incredibly easy to categorize items by day, type of task, etc. Here’s how I build my big list:
Once a month, I sit down with my Journey to Clean printables and fill in the cleaning tasks for each day of that month. It sounds like a lot to do, but it really only takes me 10-15 minutes each time I do it. This is done by going to your cleaning list (for mine, it’s the green home/cleaning), typing your task, and typing the date (for today, you would write 4/19 after the task). It should look something like the screenshot above…if the date turns red, that task will automatically go to the correct date once you press enter.
You can also add something to a particular to do list (even if you don’t have that list selected) by writing the name of the list with a hashtag after your task.
Since I know a few cleaning tasks will happen every week, I have the daily tasks from my Journey to Clean printables set up to happen on the same day every week so I don’t have to fill them in every time…so, for example, each Thursday I will automatically have a notice that I need to vacuum/mop. I do this by typing in “every Thursday” after I put the task into my list (the “every Thursday” part should turn red once you type it…that’s how you know you’re correctly setting it to happen every week). Once it turns red, press enter and, just like that, you have a recurring event!
Then, every Sunday, I sit down to make sure that my cleaning tasks are set for each week in Todoist. I also fill in the blog posts I have planned for the week (located on my calendar) with a task on my blue “Blog” list. Of course, I put the task for these for a day or two before the post is actually published so I make sure it’s ready to go for the publish day! My weekly tasks for product development/promotion and home/personal needs are also placed on their list Sunday night as well. After that, I’m set for the week! Of course, random things will come up for the week, and I just add those as they come up.
If I don’t finish something one day, I move it to the next day…simple as that. No scratching out or messy list necessary. Saturday and Sunday are my catch-up days…I don’t schedule to-dos on those days on purpose so I can finish what’s not done during the week (or, rarely, have an off-day!). Then, if something isn’t finished by the end of the week, I like to have a “cancel-out” day. If a task isn’t done by Sunday night and it’s not absolutely necessary, I delete it, even if I didn’t finish it that week. That way, you don’t feel overwhelmed going into the next week!
I love that Todoist also allows for easy list sharing with other users…this allows for great family communication of tasks. Noah has this app on his phone as well; this is how I let him know what home tasks I need him to do. I do that by moving the task to the “Noah’s list” you see over on the left. You can allow someone else to share a list by right-clicking the list you’d like to share, selecting “share project,” and adding their email. Once they’re added, just click that person to the right of the task and type in their name…once you do that, it will disappear off of your list and go to their’s. I put Noah’s tasks both on a separate list and assign them to him…that way, I don’t have his tasks on my list, but I can still go see what I’ve assigned to him if needed. Since Todoist also where I keep my (ever-running) grocery list, I’ve shared that list with him as well so he always has access to add or make quick trips for me.
And, for those random notes I need to keep for later, the Mac notes app is great. This allows me to jot down random thoughts…and, I love that it also syncs across my devices so I always have these ideas with me!
Trust me: we’re busy. If we can keep it all organized with these few apps, you can too!
Where you can’t eliminate paper, tame it before it is a problem.
Now, of course, using a few apps isn’t going to change the fact that there is constantly paper coming into your home. It’s just unavoidable. So, if you are planning on going paperless in your home organization, it’s essential that you have a system in place for dealing with all paper.
I’ve changed this a little bit recently. In the past, I’ve only had one “inbox” for all of the paper that came into our home (you can see it above in this picture from my kitchen tour post). No matter what it was, I put it in this little inbox (just a wire basket, similar to this one) in our kitchen. But, with this system, I found myself forgetting about papers that needed attention.
So, I’ve got a new way of categorizing things that is working much better. It revolves around having a filer similar to this one…it works best for us to have three compartments. As paper comes into the house, it is placed in one of the top two compartments. The top one is the “inbox”…if it just needs to be filed at a later date, it goes there. The second compartment is for things that need my immediate attention…school forms, homework, bills, etc. I know that, if there’s something in that compartment, it needs to be dealt with ASAP (preferably that day).
The third compartment is our “outbox.” If it’s a form that is filled out and needs to be returned to school, something that needs to go in the mail, etc. it goes in there. Each morning, I go through that stack and send things to their appropriate place. I like to make sure that one is emptied every day.
It should be pretty easy to deal with the to-do and outbox compartments…but what in the world do you do with the paper clutter of the inbox when you’re trying to go paperless?
My best solution to getting rid of the paper clutter is an app called Evernote. I also talked about this one in my school paper organization post. Once a month, I take the papers in the inbox and organize them into categories. I throw away anything that isn’t needed anymore, put school papers and personal mementos in a pile (dealing with them in the method I wrote about here), make a pile of things that Noah needs to take care of and give them to him, and make a pile for anything that we need to keep a copy of for future reference (receipts, tax documents, credit card statements, school notes).
If I need that document for future reference, I scan a copy with the Evernote app on my phone (do that by clicking the green plus sign at the bottom, then clicking the camera image). Scan it, save it, and you’ll have a new note in your Evernote inbox; I do an individual note for every piece of paper/group of papers I’m entering.
Once everything is scanned in, I go to the Evernote program on my Mac and file those notes into the necessary notebook (I keep the shortcuts to those notebooks over on the left-hand side for easy access). I also tag those notes with relevant keywords to make it easier to find them (tax receipt, blog income, school note, 2016-2017 are just a few I use). Once it’s in Evernote and filed away, the paper copy goes into the shred bin!
Once a month, the paper inbox is cleaned out…this is actually a cleaning task I have in Journey to Clean (under “organize command center”). For this system to work, you have to make decluttering the inbox a priority on a regular basis!
If I ever need to find something in Evernote, the process is super simple. Through technology that is completely over my head, when you scan something into your Evernote account, the words in that scanned document become searchable.
So, let’s say I needed to quickly reference a document and only knew one or two words in it. I couldn’t remember what I named it or tagged it. If I just search in the top right of my Mac app or through the bottom search button of the iOS app, I can easily find what I need. The above example is a recipe from Noah’s sweet uncle who happened to pass away a few weeks ago – I snagged this recipe when they were going through things for his memorial service. Instead of having to search high and low when I need it one day, I’ll have it on my phone or computer in a couple of clicks! That’s what really makes this system a thousand times easier than keeping up with countless paper copies.
And yes, every once in awhile (very rarely), you will have a document that needs to be saved in its original form. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, mortgage documents…unfortunately, sometimes the original copy is the only one that will do. We have those in a fire-proof, locked safe in a closet in our home. It is fairly small and is only about half-full, after almost 10 years of marriage…if that tells you anything about how little we actually save! And of course, a few school papers and special mementos make the cut too…the few original school papers that make the cut after our yearly clean-out we save go in Emmie’s school file and the mementos go in our individual shoe boxes.
There you have it friends! 🙂 The whole process of going paperless might sound overwhelming, and it kind of is…but once you’re into the process and have regular clean-outs and Evernote organization sessions, it really does become easier. I can’t imagine having to go back to organization our lives through stacks and files of paper again!
What questions do you have? Leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to (try to) answer it!
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