Your phone can be your best organizing tool
Do you have a favorite organizing app?
I do, I do, I do.
I love the process of organizing, just as much as I love being organized.
I am always on the lookout for new tools, such as organizing apps, and processes that can help me improve.
Mostly, though, what I already have is what I keep, but now and then I ‘discover’ a new tool that makes me reconsider and improve the way I organize.
Here are my 8 favorite organizing apps that move with me from phone to phone.
Disclaimer, I am not affiliated with any of these apps, I am just a devoted user.
1. Expenses OK
I am not sure how well known this app is. I discovered it by searching “expense tracker” on the App store.
I have been using it for about three years now and I don’t know what I would do without it.
I’ve tried many expense trackers before, but none of them stuck.
They were too complicated to set up, they required you to create a budget first and add your income streams. They were set up to add and deduct (even if automatically) and they didn’t offer clear cut and simple reports.
As a user, I just wanted a simple, easy tracker.
I’ve been tracking my daily expenses for several years now, every penny (or in my case, pfennig) spent.
Using this app makes it easy to stick to the habit.
Here are a few super useful things the app offers:
- It lets you set up your own categories and select a neat little icon to go with every category.
- You log your expenses per category, date and amount. It is as simple as that. No budget setup, no income setup.
- The app is completely free, easy to backup, export and it has a pleasing design.
- You can also password protect it.
- You can look up reports of your expenses on a daily, monthly or yearly basis as well as per category.
Using this app has become a daily routine for me (and my husband who knows I am tracking so he keeps all the receipts).
As soon as I buy something or pay for something, even while I am still at the counter, I pull out my phone and quickly record my expenses. Same with online shopping or bill payment.
I am in total control of all of my (family) spending now and I can quickly deduce where we are about to overspend.
Easy, simple, pretty, what’s not to like.
I am not sure if Trello needs a special introduction. It’s been around for a while, but I only “discovered” it about a year ago when I started a new job and they used Trello to collaborate and keep track of tasks and projects.
I knew of Trello before but never thought I could translate it to personal use in any useful way, so I dismissed it as a collaboration, project management tool, which is its primary purpose, anyway.
Trello is one of those tools that made me rethink and then reorganize some of my productivity processes.
It is a powerful tool, constantly upgraded, but in a nutshell, it manages projects using the Kanban Method: To Do/Doing/Done and lets you move cards with tasks between these lists.
You can have multiple (probably unlimited) lists within a board.
With a little bit of trial and error, you will get to organize it in ways that suit your own needs.
It is my main organizing app now, with 9 personal boards (I use the free, just for myself, version).
I grouped most of my needs and interests in these nine boards ranging from learning and travel to favorite recipes and games and crafts I can do with my kids.
I share one board with my husband where we track our joint to To-Dos and administrative/logistic information like insurance and financial information.
Trello has an amazing mobile app, and that has made me love it even more.
My most used board is My Week board
- It hosts my regular To Do List;
- my Brain Dump List, where I dump any ideas and think about them later;
- My Q2 Goals (you know those from the Eisenhower Matrix, not urgent but important);
- Recurring To Dos like payments, things I do on a weekly or monthly basis, small administrative projects;
- Scheduled Tasks (anything that already has a date and that I don’t have to think about until the reminder date);
- and my favorite list: Daily Focus where I put tasks I want to focus on that day, and it really helps remove the distractions, etc.
The way my boards look now is not set in stone.
I like a flexible system and Trello offers that throughout.
One downside to Trello is that it only works online, although recently they introduced an offline mobile version.
Oh, and did I mention you can add pretty colors and pictures to your individual boards, cards and lists?
Workflowy is my most recent discovery.
This app is free and the more people you get to sign up the more items you get. I announced this one on my Facebook page and asked my friends to sign up using my link and voila, I have many more items available to me.
But what are “the items”?
Workflowy is an indefinite depth bullet point list for those of us who think that way.
You can create bullet points, within bullet points that collapse neatly into a single line of text when you need it to.
A great way to not clutter your mind (and space!) when you don’t need to think about it. That is why I started using it.
I use Workflowy to keep track of my list of Blog Post Ideas and research. It is such an easy, uncluttered way to capture it all.
They just added a clipping feature which makes it perfect for keeping your research. (it doesn’t clip pictures, only text and I hope they will keep it that way as Workflowy is distraction-free at the moment).
Sometimes, in an attempt to be one for everything app, I find that some apps overflow with features and become a distraction. I hope this doesn’t become one of those, because as it is now it is perfect for distraction-free organizing and brainstorming in words. Especially for writers.
You can also export everything you write as clean, formatted text.
If this sounds interesting to you and you decide to sign up and try it out, you can use this link and we will both receive 100 extra items. Try it out and then send your own referral link to your friends for more items.
Of course, if you become a heavy user, there is a paid version, too.
I’ve used Scrivener on my laptop for years for my fiction writing but never attempted to use it on my phone because I was worried about the reported syncing issues. Plus, who wants to write on their phone? How wrong I was. This app is amazing.
It syncs with Dropbox (only) but it does so as advertised.
I recently set up chapters for a non-fiction book I’m writing. While resting at my mum’s pool on my day off, I used my phone’s dictate feature to ‘write’ the rough draft of the first five chapters!
Of course, I could have done that in any note-taking app, I know, but that it appeared on Scrivener on my laptop as soon as I got back home, was a great motivator.
It is also nice to have all your writing projects in one place at all times to refer to, as Scrivener is not web-based.
Just make sure to close your phone app to allow for the seamless syncing of any new items to your desktop software.
5. Closet +
5 years ago I spent three busy weeks of my life organizing the KonMari way.
I followed the book to the letter in all but one thing. I added a step to her process of organizing clothes.
I not only touched every single item of clothing before I decided if it brings me enough joy to keep it, but if it sparked joy for me, I also took a picture of it and stored it in my Closet+ app on my phone.
5 years later and, as Maire Kondo promised, I am still organized. I still fold my clothes the KonMari way (who knew I have that much space in my wardrobe!) and I don’t buy anything unless I can answer positively to “does it spark joy’.
And I still update the Closet+ app.
As soon as I get rid of something, I delete the item from my Closet+ and as soon as I buy something I don’t put it away in my (physical) closet until I have taken a picture of it and added it to the proper category in the app.
This app also allows you to create your own categories and you can run multiple closets on it (if you have clothes in two locations, for example)
I even take pictures of my loungewear and accessories, just to make sure I don’t keep too many items.
I made a one time purchase of the pro version (it isn’t one of those pay by the month for the privilege) and I back it up regularly, although it has never failed me.
But I stick with backup because I don’t want to have to go through the unwelcome process of having to take all the pictures again from scratch.
I recommend the process. It will make your life so much easier in the long run. If you don’t like this app, there are many other closet apps, but many of them are affiliated with shops and encourage shopping habits. This one doesn’t. It’s simple and clean.
Let me illustrate where I find the app most useful: let’s say you are shopping for something and you don’t know if you have anything to wear it with. Easy, just pull out your app and check. The app works offline, too.
It has saved me from ending up with too many similar or duplicate items. We are, after all, mostly consistent and tend to reach for the same items on the shopping racks (or online!)
Disclaimer: My tracking may be easier than some as I don’t have many clothes. My total is 402 items (yes, the app will count it for you), which includes my accessories like scarves, belts and even my bags! Although I was never a fashion queen, before organizing this way, I probably owned three times the amount.
You can also track your usage (how many times you wore a particular item) in the app if you find that feature helpful.
Asking “Does it spark joy?” and this app equals simple living at it’s best!
Seven years on and I am still tracking my period on this same app. I bought the pro version (a one time purchase). There are other apps that do the same thing but this one has been sturdy and reliable for me.
It also has other features such as:
- menstrual symptoms tracker,
- weight, mood and temperature tracker,
- a comprehensive pregnancy tracker,
- period and ovulation prediction,
- charts with period duration, etc. that can be exported for your doctor’s visits, etc.
- there is also an active forum within it discussing women’s issues.
Personally, I only use it to record the start and end date of my period and the app predicts it down to perfection. I PMS heavily, so it’s always good to know that any sudden, inexplicable and overwhelming feeling of sadness are…hormonal.
And finally, for everyone who doesn’t use their phone as a scanner or hasn’t yet gone paperless, you should.
A professional scan (even if you send it as JPG, which this app does) will beat a photo of a document at any time.
This is one of the best scanning apps I ever tried, once again, because of its simplicity. And it is free!
It will scan multiple pages, which you can reorder and crop before you compile them into a PDF document and send them to your email.
If you need it to, it will sync with your Evernote.
The app doesn’t require you to sign up. It is free for the basic functions. (I still use the free version)
Download it and start using it today!
It may seem strange to some that the usual giants Evernote and Dropbox aren’t on this list. But I only listed the apps that offer amazing mobile user experience. Both Dropbox and Evernote are a little disappointing in this regard although I use them extensively on my desktop. (and only when I have to on my phone)
It is important to add, that at the time of writing this Evernote has distributed a Beta version of their new app to users who were interested in testing it. I was one of them and it looks much more user friendly than the current version.
Tell me, what are some of your favorite organizing apps and why?