Homemaking, Time Management

Using Evernote for Homemaking

Julie / August 19, 2010

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Evernote is, I admit, relatively new to me.  I’d read about it quite a bit, but didn’t quite realize that it was free or so completely cloud-based (i.e., everything syncs to online).

Using multiple computers scattered around the house is definitely an essential part of the way I do home organization.  Part of this is because our house is two-storey, and part of it is because I don’t have a good laptop to drag around (and my arms are usually full anyway).  I find it indispensible to have a computer in the kitchen, and so there lives a very old rickety crash-prone laptop that literally dies if you move it too much.  That’s the main one I use, and that’s enough about my computer habits for this post!  On to Evernote.

Because of the fact that I use a number of different computers, it’s more or less useless to me to use local file storage–everything I can possibly throw in the cloud, I do, with the added benefit of then being able to access my whole life in digital from other peoples’ houses and public spaces.  (And if I could justify a smartphone, grocery stores would be a very important addition to that list.)  Evernote, although new to me, is very clearly the cloud-based brain that I’ve been looking for.  It lets me do everything I’ve already been doing, but in a newly unified, extremely-rapid way.

I’m convinced that the key to loving Evernote is to devote some serious time to thinking about specific ways it can work for you, and reading articles and blog posts discussing such specific ways.  Evernote is extremely blank when you first begin, and the hardest part is definitely figuring out frameworks to create and use–how to meld it to your own brain, in other words.  So, without further ado, here are some “frameworks” that have already been saving me immense amounts of time while helping me get even more things done and organized, in the realm of homemaking.

Recipes

I’ve talked before about how I create my meal plan, and Evernote really enhances the results and speed of that process.  I use the web-clipping tool to clip the entire recipe, photo, and prep instructions, put it in a notebook called “recipes,” and tag it with a few of the significant ingredients (in our house, usually that means the meat).  If the recipe is bad and we won’t try it again, I delete it.  If I want to add my own notes to the page, or literally rewrite part of the recipe, I can do that to my clipped version–which of course I couldn’t do to the original website.

I am thus creating a sort of digital cookbook, personalized for our family.  The important thing to remember here is that recalling something from Evernote is much faster than pulling up a webpage would be, yet adding a webpage to Evernote takes only seconds.  It also eliminates distractions from the page, is easy to email to someone else (or myself), and easy to print; again, all my personalized version of the recipe instead of having to work with the default.

The biggest downside to this is that automatic shopping list generation (as per the sites I mentioned earlier) no longer exists.  But this isn’t all a bad thing

Shopping Lists

It has been a source of endless difficulty for us that there are maybe five stores that we shop at semi-regularly and need specific lists for (ShopRite, BJs, Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s), yet refrigerator lists don’t work very well for us and five is an unmanageable number of literal paper lists at any rate–especially because some items are truly store-specific (can only be bought at that store) and many items are generic (just most likely to be bought at that store) and so we end up with items crossed-off, duplicated, forgotten it turns into a mess.

There are two different ways I can think of to manage lists online: to make a separate, simple list for every store (in Evernote, a separate “note” for each list), and use some common sense and multi-tasking abilities to think of picking up one’s ShopRite list while at Target; or to have a separate item (a separate “note”) for every single item and tag it with all the store names where it is sold, so that calling up all items listed with “BJs” would yield a complete, current BJs list.  The latter option is infinitely more organized, but it’s also a pretty big trade-off in terms of work I prefer five lists and managing cross-overs in my head instead of on the computer.  Either way, a digital list is much neater, and can be added/removed from wherever you are, or wherever one’s husband is!  And even with the auto-generated lists, I still ended up usually manually reordering it, because going to the store with two tiny children is far, far easier if the items are on your list in exactly the order they are in the store.

Bills

This one is really a no-brainer: I have an Evernote notebook and I put all our outstanding bills in it.  If we had more bills, it would be helpful to tag them by month due, but we don’t have enough (that aren’t on auto-pay, that is!) to make even that tiny effort justifiable.  I’ve set up most of our bills to have email notifications (Mint can often do this even if your bill company doesn’t) and I’ve set up my email client to automatically file the bills into Evernote.  So the bills don’t clutter up my emailbox or my calendar, and I can just flip into Evernote and remember at a glance which bills I still need to take care of.  The very, very few bills that don’t have e-notifications can be easily scanned, as can other mail that you “need to keep” but don’t really want to find a physical home for.  Remember, too, that Evernote finds the text in images and makes it searchable.

On a sidenote, here’s the search string, found here, that you need to add to Google Chrome or Firefox to make it easy to search your Evernotes:

https://www.evernote.com/Home.action#v=t&b=0&z=d&x=%s

Research

This is one area where Evernote really shines.  Know you’re going to need to buy a crib soon?  Want to comparison shop?  Just do your regular browsing on the web, and if you think something is worth coming back to look at again, “clip” the relevant info (pic, price, dimensions, features) to Evernote, add a note of your own if you want, and either tag it with “crib” or put it in a “crib” notebook–depending on the size of your research.  At the end of the day, instead of a hard-to-sort-through list of links with meaningless titles and no other useful information (not to mention you’re dependent on the various server speeds and page-renderings to even get back to the information you already saw), you’ll have a neat little collection, almost like 3×5 cards, all assembled in one neat little place and ready to flip though at a moment’s notice.  Need to send one to husband to review?  Click, done.  Send him the whole set?  Click, done.  It’s not just faster, it actually makes it easier to get an overall picture and make clearer decisions.

Information Collecting

I’m all the time running across information on homeschooling that I think would be really useful later.  And sometimes I can’t find it later (lost in the sea of bookmarks), or I can find it but it’s gone, taken off the web.  Evernote is a way of taking those miscellaneous little tidbits of information and articles and bringing them all together in a coherent, organized, searchable, and tagged way: a way of creating your own sort of sub-internet.  As with recipes, it also lets you get rid of all the extraneous distracting information that you don’t need, so when you go back to read that brilliant article from six months ago, that’s exactly what you find–and all you find.

Our munchkins are obviously not old enough to be using the “˜net yet, but I foresee some real uses of Evernote in terms of assembling digital items for their review, as well.  If I find some great diagrams, essays, and a fiction story on ancient Egypt that I want them to read while we’re studying Pharaohs, I can clip them all into Evernote and send them the collection–void of distracting links to follow, questionable advertisements, site downtimes–instead of giving them a list of links to check out on their own.

It’s important to note, too, that with a premium account, Evernote lets you put all kinds of files into it, which really lets mixed-media collecting take off.

Home Improvement Ideas / Inspiration

I honestly don’t spend much time reading home decorating magazines (or doing home decorating, for that matter–I think we have literally two pictures hung in our entire house after four years of living here), but occasionally I’ll run across a picture or an idea or a product that really strikes a chord with me, and if I don’t do something about it right then, then of course it continues on its merry way of falling back out of my brain again.  Evernote lets me grab on to those rare (for me) moments and file them away until I do have the time or resources to deal with it more thoroughly.  Right now I’m just throwing them all in a great big “household” notebook and trying to tag them relevantly–if I had more inspiration moments, I’d probably need to come up with a more detailed organizational scheme.

I’m sure there are many more ways to use Evernote with homemaking, and I hope to discover them as I use it more and more.  It definitely “works for me”!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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4 thoughts on “Using Evernote for Homemaking

  1. I love Evernote! I use it for everything, it seems: grocery list, household "want to do this, need to catch items on sale" list, the progression of research discussions at work, our Christmas card list, etc.

  2. Ooh, how do you use it for your Christmas card list? And if you and Josh collaborate on lists, does one of you have a premium account to share editable notebooks, or do you just use the same account? We haven't figured that out yet! I'm seriously thinking of signing up for premium just because of the SSL, though… not to mention I think we might go over the limit since I'm scanning and THROWING AWAY everything, haha.

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