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North Hills Monthly

Developing an APPtitude for Organization

Jan 01, 2017 02:26PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Hoarders crew

New Year’s resolutions to get organized are well and good, but knowing where to start can be tough. If tackling the chaos of a messy basement seems overwhelming, consider a different approach. 

An assortment of apps can assist individuals in getting organized. While a smartphone cannot do the sorting, storing and discarding for you, it can indeed make some of those tasks easier.

Are you facing a junk drawer full of receipts that cannot be thrown out? What if you need them for taxes or an insurance claim? What if the zipper breaks on that new coat and you need to return it? 

The Shoeboxed app can help. Ideal for anyone with a home office, Shoeboxed lets users snap photos of receipts, then store and manage them easily. A great resource for the self-employed, the app allows professionals to track purchases and expenses; however, at $9.95 per month, it’s pricey for casual users. Smart Receipts is an excellent (and free) alternative for anyone who just needs to declutter a desk drawer. Available for both iOS and Android, Smart Receipts offers many of the same features as Shoeboxed.

Wunderlist is a great organizational tool for those who like to see lists written down and then have the satisfaction of checking them off. Wunderlist is intuitive to use and visually simple. It is easy to create stand-alone lists such as To Do Today, or to keep related lists within folders—such as a Grocery folder that contains separate lists for Aldi, Giant Eagle and Costco. 

Lists can be shared, which is helpful when collaborating on projects that involve assigned tasks or trying to divide a shopping list between spouses. Users create their own names for each list and can set reminders and due dates for completion. The app is free, available on Android and iOS, and syncs between devices—a plus for anyone who prefers typing on a computer keyboard but wants the convenience of viewing a list on a smartphone while out and about.

Kristin DiBacco, professional organizer and owner of The Serene Space in Cranberry Township, regularly helps individuals gain control of their homes and offices. One app she recommends is Evernote. Evernote functions much like a notebook day planner from the 1980s, but with the bonus of being interactive. The app syncs across devices, so users can make a note or list on the computer and view it on a smartphone, and vice versa.

Users can store grocery lists, scan business cards and set reminders for items like picking up milk or ordering someone’s birthday gift. The basic subscription is free and sufficient for such tasks. For those seeking a more robust app to share files and edit documents as well as perform basic organizational tasks, Evernote has a premium paid service. Microsoft OneNote and Google Drive are also viable, free options that can help eliminate the papers cluttering up your desk or countertop.

Time Timer is a basic but remarkably helpful app that DiBacco said she uses with clients who have difficulty focusing on a task for any length of time. The app displays an analog clock on the user’s phone. DiBacco presets the clock for a given time—say, 30 minutes—and then the user can watch the time ticking down in the red circle as they complete a task. If you find yourself avoiding jobs like cleaning out a pantry, DiBacco suggested setting Time Timer for 20 minutes and committing to stay focused for just that amount of time. Time Timer is available on both Apple ($2.99) and Android ($.99), and can be useful for timing presentations or keeping kids focused on homework as well.

If your goal of getting organized needs a kick start, an app might be just the nudge you need to get some momentum going. If more substantial assistance is required, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) website has tips for hiring a professional at  or check out DiBacco’s resources at