Digital Home Management “Binder”: Lists & Notes

posted in: extra 3

Home Management Binder, Control Journal, Household Notebook: It doesn’t matter what you call it, having it helps keep all the tasks involved in homemaking in front of your face when you need them to be, but off your mind when you don’t. It’s usually done with paper, but can it be adapted for the technologically savvy? Or at least the technology-owner? Can it be done with an iPad, Netbook, smartphone, iPod Touch, Android tablet? It certainly can.

Digital Home Management Binder: Lists and Notes

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Lists & Notes

There are a multitude of lists that one might wish to make and store in a household notebook:

  • Home improvement ideas
  • Mission statement
  • Goals
  • Chore lists
  • Inventories for the freezer, pantry, or other supplies
  • Recipes
  • Wardrobe notes for the family (sizes, etc.)
  • Running shopping lists & master shopping lists
  • Someday/Maybe Ideas lists
  • Hospitality lists
  • Holiday plans, notes, and recipes.
  • Thought snippets that might become blog posts

If it’s something that would be in a notebook, I use Evernote, with a couple exceptions. There are all sorts of fancy web and phone apps for habit-tracking, goals, and checklists, but the more places you have information, the less likely you are to maintain that information and have it be helpful for you. How many apps or programs do you want to be clicking and checking and maintaining?

Here’s how I break it down:

  • Calendar: all things date & time specific
  • RTM: tasks
  • Evernote: filing cabinet, notes, inventories
  • Simplenote: shopping lists (Simplenote is faster and works offline, so it makes a better mobile shopping list)
  • Numbers app: lists that require spreadsheet functionality
  • HomeRoutines app: a “Daily Docket” functionality

In this post, I’ll cover Evernote & Simplenote. Right now the main thing I have in Numbers is my garden stuff, though I’m still playing with where I’ll end up keeping school information. I will cover a garden binder and a school binder separately.


Evernote lets you keep “notebooks” (basically, folders) with an unlimited number of “notes” (or, documents) inside them. You can add to a note by typing, adding audio with a microphone, or adding photos if you’re using a computer or device with a built-in camera. Inside a note you can also add bulleted and numbered lists, check boxes, and basic tables (though the table functionality hasn’t been smooth for me, and its tables are very basic, read: ugly). It works on PCs, Macs, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Droid phones, and the Kindle Fire. Best of all, you can use it on as many computers or devices as you own and sync the content between them all.

I make a notebook for each project or area of interest or responsibility, then keep related notes inside. Some of my notebooks include

  • Chores & Routines
  • Blog
  • Gardening & Outdoors
  • Holidays
  • Inventories & Master Lists
  • Pantry Meals
  • Reading Notes
  • Room Analysis
  • School Year 2011-2012
  • Wardrobe Notes
  • Hospitality Notes

For example, in the “Reading Notes” notebook, there is one note for each book I have notes on. I can also drag the photo of the book over from Amazon into the note, so a picture of the book shows up on my screen, which is a nice aesthetic touch. I like to keep the code for linking to the book in that note, too, so it’s handier than going to Amazon for it again.

“Room Analysis” was a notebook idea inspired by Mother’s Rule of Life, where she recommended keeping a notebook page with information about each room in your house. So each room in our house is its own note, and in it I note what color the wall is painted and details like that, as well as ideas for decorating or repair or improvement. It’s a room-specific combination of reference data and someday/maybe idea gathering.

I’ve tried several list types to keep a freezer inventory, but currently I have a notebook for “Inventory” and within it a note for “Basement Freezer.” In that note I have food types (fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, pork, other meat, prepared meals, ingredients, etc.) as headings. Under each heading I have a listing of the things I often have on hand (blueberries, strawberries, peaches, under “fruit” for example). Next to each item I make a row of checkboxes. I then check the number that I currently have in the freezer. As I take something out, I undo the checkmark by tapping it. As I add something in, I add a check by tapping an extra box. By keeping the items I try to keep on hand listed, not only is the tracking faster (taps instead of typing), but also I have a quick reference list for what I should try to add to the freezer. I tend to forget things like what sort of ingredients I can keep in the freezer (chicken broth and freezer jam and tomato sauce are under that list) or what cuts of meat there are or what freezer meals I like to have stowed away. So it’s a memory jogger as well as an inventory tracker.

And I need all the memory jogging I can get.

Evernote can be successfully used for any sort of information or writing that you would typically gather in a notebook or binder. Digitally, however, one notebook or one hundred all take up the same amount of physical space!


Simplenote is a very simple free notepad. You can’t even bold or italicize text. Without options, though, it’s fast and it’s simple to just get the list entered. Sometimes I need to be forced not to format. SimpleNote allows tags, but does not have folders. It’s pretty much just a collection of plain-text files, listed by their first line in the left-hand column. They sort by most recently edited, and the search function — the way you find a list quickly — is prominent. There is a web-based version, a desktop version, and an app version for Apple and Android phones and tablets. Your account on any machine will stay synced, though if you have to open the program for the sync to startup (so, with a wifi only iPod Touch, I have to remember to open SN before leaving the house so it has the most current versions of my shopping lists).

On Simplenote, I keep

  • Errands notes
  • Shopping lists
  • A list of books, authors, and movies I want to have on hand for reference at bookstores
  • A list of beers and wines that we like and that we do not like
  • A list of clothing styles that do and do not look good on me, in case I can’t remember while staring at a clearance rack
  • A list of things to keep my eyes open for at thrift stores and garage sales

Basically, it keeps all my lists I want handy in my pocket while out-and-about.

User Tip

If you are keeping notes in any sort of app or online, you want to make it a habit to use the search functionality to find the note you want, rather than browsing and clicking.

Search functionality is a primary reason digital data is so much more convenient!

Digital Home Management Binder: Lists and Notes

3 Responses

  1. Meredith_in_Aus
    | Reply

    So, Mystie, what’s the difference between Simplenote and the iPad Notes function?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I like the layout of Simplenote better, for one, but the primary difference is that I can access Simplenote from any computer. It’s in the cloud, it continuously saves automatically, and it syncs automatically. So I can take a note on my iMac and instantaneously have it on my iPad or iPod Touch.

      Plus, it’s not only a Mac thing. It works the same way if you’re using an Apple/PC combo or multiple PCs or PC/Android.

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