Digital Household Notebook: Introduction

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I have put together at least three household management binders in my 10-year career as a housewife to date. All three times I thought it through, made it well, and used it for about 2 weeks.

Now, the exercise of making a home management binder is a good one. I think the process helps clarify and organize thoughts as well as papers, which can render benefit even if the system falls by the wayside. But, it does seem a shame for all that paper and effort to go to waste. Plus, I don’t know about you, but at my house paper never stays pretty for long. Not only that, but I dislike giving up counter space to a binder. I tried a half-size binder for a time for that reason (and because I also dislike carrying a binder around town with me), but it was even more hassle to set up and keep up since I had to be careful with the formatting, and specially cut and hole punch all the pages.

So, I gave up on the management binder idea for awhile. Occasionally I’d pull out my last binder, made in 2009, which had become a fancy file folder for home-related notes, but it didn’t seem worth the time and thought to make it current — again.

Plus, I had a computer in the kitchen, where I kept my calendar, task list, and contacts, so a household binder on paper seemed less attractive. Paper quickly becomes clutter, at least in my house, and I’d already done enough purges to know how many lists I generate when I start an organizing project. Lists that then become piles, which then become clutter, which then become a task of going through and deciding keep & file (and forget) or toss (and forget).

Paper and binders are still a great option for some, particularly those who have better follow-through or a more meticulous personality than I do. Also, a digital management system is only really going to work with someone who has a computer of some sort handy in or near their primary work zone (usually the kitchen).

I have a kitchen computer (it was an iMac, but now its an iPad) and a second-generation (no camera) iPod Touch. I always did like having a household binder, and now it seemed like the obvious choice would be to create the digital version — no paper, no losing notes, no coffee spills (we hope!), and, best of all, search functionality. I searched and searched online and found no one talking about moving a household binder onto a computer or phone, though there are many, many, many, many out there with pictures of their spiffy newly set-up binders. So, here goes my own take, mostly original, on moving the household notebook into the current decade.

After all, being able to search, from my desktop, inside every document, my contacts, and my calendar is the biggest boon of digital information. Flipping through a binder or file folder or pile, wondering just what you did with that note you are sure you made? A thing of the past.
Now, my set up is all Apple. But most of the programs I use are web-based, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on a desktop or laptop or tablet or phone or multiple devices. Also, we do not have smartphones or a data plan, so my system relies on wi-fi; it would be even smoother for those with smartphones, but I’ll explain how I make it work without constant connection.

And now, from you:

  1. Looking forward to this series, Mystie. My paper HHB is a folder for interesting articles now, too. I found the bulk too inconvenient to cart around so never had it when I needed it. A few years ago (5? – surely not that long!), I got a Palm Pilot that I put most of the info into: not quite as pretty, but at least it was with me so I finally stopped losing my lists! Unfortunately, it died and I’ve been using an iPod touch for the past year. It works pretty well (love the wifi!), but I find the Notes tool isn’t as customisable as I’d like. I’m hoping you can teach me some new ways to use it!

    One thing I really love about an electronic HHB is that it beeps (alarm) when I need to do something.

    By the way, have you ever seen Cook’n (dvo.com)? It’s a fantastic cooking program that does almost everything kitchen. I have it on my laptop. The iPad app is due out soon, too. I can’t wait. An iPad in the kitchen is TOO cool.

    Sorry for rambling. (BTW, love your new blog. I came over from Brandy’s).

    In Him,
    Meredith

    • Thanks, Meredith!

      Yes, an iPod Touch with wifi makes a great little “Palm Pilot” organizer! I’ve been using mine for about two years. Even though I have the iPad now, I still use the Touch as my pocket version out-and-about. It syncs with Google Calendar well, so I can make appointments and such at the dentist or whereever.

      I agree the Notes built in isn’t great. I’ll give you a sneak peak and suggest looking at SimpleNote or Evernote. Both have desktop versions, too (all free), so you can enter info on your main computer and have it sync. Evernote has more features, but the notes aren’t available offline unless you pay $25/year. So that makes it less useful for our purposes. :)

  2. I am also trying to put a digital home management “notebook” / system. I am thrilled to find your blog. Currently I use Google Calendar/tasks/Drive to manage my homeschool lesson plans. I use iCal for all other planning. I just discovered a wonderful and free site which I use to manage my gradebook. It is igradeplus.com. It works beautifully on both my computer and iPad. I’m still brainstorming where and how to store/ interact with all of my other HMfunctions and tasks. I am working with an all-in-one iPad app called Lifetopix to pull all the info together. I’m not totally sold on it because syncing across devices is a little tedious right now. Please keep me posted on how you are coming along with this and I will do the same.

    • I will keep writing about it, for sure. You might want to subscribe to my feed to not miss anything. Right now I’m working with Evernote because Google Drive is awful on iOS and because Evernote is free and works cross-platform and syncs well. The drawback is not having a spreadsheet option that syncs smoothly.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. I just bought your paperless home organization ebook, and I’m impressed! It’s obvious you have put a lot of thought and effort into the setup. I do have a question, though:I’ve been using iCal, Cozi and Apple Reminders along with Evernote. Why did you choose Google Calendar and RTM? I’m trying to decide if I can tweak my current system to work with your ideas, or if Google Calendar and RTM have features that make it worth the switch….

    • I picked those for two reasons: 1) I’ve been using them myself for over five years, 2) For the book I wanted options that would work for Windows and Mac. You should be able to use the same principles with whatever programs you’re already familiar with. Let me know if you have questions while implementing it!

      • I just got your book on my Kindle and I’m to the section of Evernote… the problem I’m having is following the links to your templates etc. They won’t show up in my browser on my Kindle and yet I can’t see what the actual link web address is to type it into my computer. How can I get those links?

        • I’ve had a few people mention that they had problems with the link in the Kindle version. I’m not sure what went wrong there, since it worked when I tested it before publishing. Thank you for contacting me I emailed you the link. :)

  4. I have everything set up already, and I’m thrilled the RTM integrates with Siri! Next step is to figure out the RTM/iCal integration, and then put everything to the test. I know I’ll have questions about tweaking Evernote ~ thanks for your help thus far :)