Can an app declutter your life?

The number one thing that helped me get through the exhausting first stage of purging my home of the unneeded was my sister. We were both decluttering like mad that fall and when she made a trip to sell things from her storage locker, I made a trip to the Salvation Army to drop off unused goods. I’m not sure I would have kept going if she hadn’t been on the same journey as me at the same time.

We were also training for a half marathon together. Every Saturday we did a long training run along the seawall in Vancouver with Henry in the jogging stroller. At the half way point she would take over pushing the stroller so I could keep my legs going and finish the run. Again, I’m not sure I would have trained for that half marathon on my own if I didn’t have a sidekick/cheerleader for those long runs.

It’s okay, and very human, to need some assistance with creating change or working towards a goal.

Some people won’t need anything more than the idea of creating space to declutter their home.

Others might need to read a book, talk it out with a friend or even enlist some paid professional help to come to their home and get them started.

If the seed of the idea of less has blossomed in your head, but you’re not making a lot of progress on the action part, find some help. It could be a friend, it could be an Excel spreadsheet or it could be a book.

Or, it could be an app.

I’ve rounded up a few apps that can help you declutter different areas of your life and stay organized. Please note: none of these apps will take half full cans of paint to the recycle centre or box up your Christmas decorations. That stuff is still up to you.

Financial

Smart Budget is the financial tool we use to track all of our spending. If you had told me three years ago that Chris and I would be tracking every cent we spend I would have laughed in your face. We’re not that organized. Miraculously, this app makes us that organized.

Why it works for us: we have joint finances and spend cash or Visa debit for everything. Smart budget allows multiple users on one account so we have a real time balance of what’s in our checking account and wallets. We can set up recurring transactions like rent and utilities but we manually enter each purchase we make. It’s great for keeping us on our toes about what’s a need and what’s a want. There is a free version with some performance and capacity limits to it. We tried it out, liked it, and bought the full version.

Not great for: if you have separate finances from your spouse, want to track net worth or want a more automated approach for transactions.

For something more sophisticated that will download transactions from your bank and credit cards, and that you can set up budget targets on, try Mint.

If you want to test the waters with a financial app and want to set category and spending limits, Budget has a lot of functionality and is quite simple to set-up and starting using.

Your Stuff

Stylebook This is a spendy app at $3.99 but it has great features. You can take photos of your clothing on hangers and it has a background removal process. It’s like paper doll clothing. You can also import photos into the program. Tip: if you own pieces from large retailers go and grab the image of them from their website. Great app for not only tracking what you own but putting together outfits, tracking when you wore them and packing for trips.

Great for: if you want to track your wardrobe, if you are a fashionista and want to make sure you don’t wear the same cocktail dress to a party two years in a row, if you want to start wearing everything in your closet instead of the 20% that you wear 80% of the time.

Household

HomeRoutines I tested out this app for a few weeks and liked it. Takes a small time investment to get up and running, you have to edit the areas of your home and frequency of cleaning, but it creates a nice check list of thing that need to get done around the house.

Why did I stop using it? Our place is really small so it’s obvious what needs to get done. If there’s muffin crumb all over the carpet it’s time to vaccum. Our home isn’t that complicated and our schedule is quite relaxed so I fit housework into a few 2-3 hour windows a week and it gets done.

This would be good if you have a larger home, want to keep track of when you last wiped down the baseboards or really like to-do lists.

Menu Planner Meal planning has changed my life. We save money with less food waste and I don’t have the stress of a last minute dash to the grocery store at four o’clock to find something for the evening meal. If you’re not meal planning start today, app or no app!

Menu Planner allows you to import recipes from several well known websites, creates a shopping list from your meal plan and allows you to sync to multiple devices (nice if you have older kids or a spouse and they want to know what’s for dinner that week). You’ll have to invest some time building your recipe database but once it’s all there you’ll be able to build meal plans and shopping lists with a few taps.

This is one I tested and ultimately moved on to a Google docs spreadsheet instead. I really like the features of this app but my frequently used recipes would have to be manually entered (either my own or from an unsupported website) and the ingredients list built into the app is sparse (have to manually enter a lot of the foods we eat).

So… I wussed out on the time commitment to get it all up and running. I also do most of my grocery ordering online and while I could build shopping lists on the grocery store list to match weekly meal plans, again, it was a big time investment. So for now I spend about an hour once a week creating my menu plan and ordering groceries online.

Great for: if you need some help to start meal planning, if you use a lot of recipes from the supported websites, if you are a big fan of using apps.

Where is the Minimalist Life App? What I really want, and have been searching for, is an app that tracks your stuff. Something simple that you could use to document everything in your house, or just what’s in a kitchen drawer. Has anyone seen anything like that?

UPDATE: It’s been found!

 

MyStuff2 A HUGE thank you to Joanna for pointing me in the direction of this app. The MyStuff app allows you to scan barcodes, sync to Amazon and track collections, furniture, housewares – pretty much anything. Ideal if you want to keep a detailed inventory of things that you own.

Downside: probably too much work to do your whole home on an app on your iPhone. It might make you crazy tapping stuff into the small iPhone keyboard for hours and days at time.

Good for: collections, tracking Craiglist or yard sale sales, getting a good inventory of stuff that you struggle with or buy duplicates of or sell (books, DVDs, kid’s clothing).

Also, tell me about any apps that have helped you declutter or get organized in the comments. There are so many out there it’s hard to sift through them.

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  • Another great post where you have taken all of the information I’ve been thinking about and put it into one place. Based on your financial posts last year, we spent the end of last year getting our finances in order and started using the Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA) for all spending money. We don’t use it to track bills but instead use it like it says as the envelope system for all spending money for things like groceries, gas, etc. It also syncs with several devices, so both my husband and I have realtime updates, and you can access it online to refill the envelopes. It has been incredible. We also were not that organized around our spending, but this is SO EASY! We can breathe easy and are so much more in control of finances now.

    I’ve also done my menu planning with a spreadsheet in Excel with the list below. I love that I can save it from week to week and just make the few edits I need to keep the meal ideas fresh but simple. Now my husband and I take turns doing the meal planning each week, so it’s really not a huge chore.

    I COULD use some help getting back on the de-cluttering wagon. I tend to be that friend who comes over and helps you de-clutter for my friends, but yet I’m unable to for myself. I have a great friend that is great at that too though, so I may need to enlist her or find that app you’ve been talking about. I’ve been wanting to take your tips from January about scaling down to just 2 bras and such.

    Maybe that app is your next project. Whenever you bought something new it would be cool to add it to a category and decide if you really needed it, right? Say you were going to buy casual flats and you say you already had a brown and black pair of flats, you would know you had to get rid of an old pair or not buy the new. The list of categories would have to be pretty comprehensive to help you make educated decisions.

    Thanks again!

    • Kim – I have been thinking about the “track your stuff” app for quite some time. I actually talked to someone about it but the cost to develop it was just too high. Still thinking about it though. I’d like to spend some time working on an Excel spreadsheet that people could use for tracking their stuff. Not as sexy as an app but still useful.

      So happy to hear of another family enjoying meal planing and tracking spending. I never thought we would get here, it always sounded like so much work, but it has made our lives easier and saved us so much cash!

      • Actually, I think the spreadsheet is a great idea! I’d use it! Writing stuff down has a way of encouraging you to simplify.

  • Paprika has some of the functionality you mentioned would be good in a recipe/ menu planning app. Copying recipes from any website from search within app.
    I’ve found it pretty versatile. But can’t get away from paper and pen and google.

    Really enjoying all the new posts. Thanks! Is it freezing where you are?

    • Interesting. I’ll have to check Paprika out.

      Thanks, I am enjoying writing them :) The writing muse has been strong since the new year. And yes, it has been freezing over here. Everyone tells us we should be used to it (Canadian) but we’re from fair weather Vancouver. Chilled to the bone.

    • You rock! Updating this post now :) Really like the software they link to in the article. An investment but would certainly help us track our stuff and have an inventory ready for future moves.

  • These apps truly look amazingly practical. But when it comes to menu planning, budgeting etc, I prefer to get ideas on the Internet, and then go off with the old-fashioned pen and paper and write a list. :)

    Can I ask what is ‘track your stuff’?

  • There’s also minifylist.com to track your stuff (and share it if you like with others who are doing the same)!

  • I don’t need an app to help with meal planning – it’s in the genes :-) however if it helps anyone to do it I totally support the idea because meal planning makes life a whole lot easier and healthier (IMO)
    ref the half training! You know where I’m at then! Urgh at the mo! Cold and icy weather and long runs at the weekend – you think I’d have learnt by now…

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