Using Your Phone to Stay Clutter-Free

published Jun 8, 2015
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(Image credit: Nobuhiro Asada)

For better or worse, one thing the digital revolution has done is enable us to have fewer things. Of course, our phones alone have eclipsed the need for many other electronic tools (cameras, CD players, etc.). It’s amazing!

But what about the things in our world that persist in physical form, things that don’t give us joy in our space and can easily a growing mass of clutter if we’re not meticulously organized? I’m talking about sticky notes of lists, notebooks of ideas and plans, and ohmygoodnessgracious the masses of paper that school-age children pull out of their backpacks every day. Here’s how I’ve embraced the power of my phone to hang on to the information I need — and even organize it — without drowning in paper.

To-Do Lists

About six months ago, I switched from my no-longer-updating list-keeping app to Todoist and I really love it. The interface is clean and simple, but underneath the minimalist and sharp exterior, the functionality is powerful. I’ve been able to do everything I want to do with the app including batch editing tasks, sorting them into folders (with color!) for different areas of my life (home, work, kids, projects, etc.), and having subcategories.

The “Inbox” feature is particularly useful, allowing for a brain dump when there’s a flurry of thoughts swirling in your head. Throw them down as tasks to get your mind clear and then sort them into their proper folders later. Todoist is perfect if you’re implementing any GTD concepts. (Read more about Todoist and GTD here.) Toggl can also be integrated with Todoist through its open sourced Google Chrome extension. Read more about that here.

Medical Papers

Whether it’s vaccine information sheets or the results of my daughter’s hearing test pre- and post ear tubes, I can store, and most importantly, FIND, the medical papers I need in Evernote. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to give it a go.


No doubt, if you have kids in your life, you’ll want to hang on to a few original treasures. For the rest, consider Artkive. Take photos of your children’s art and the app will store it with the date and the child’s name. At the touch of a few icons, you can order a high quality book showcasing art and school work from the entire year.


Rather than clipping and sorting and shuffling through your coupons, subscribe to the apps of stores you use coupons for often. For instance, I have the craft stores I frequent in a “Shopping” folder on my phone and I can pull up coupons when I need to. Coupons I get in email can be looked up on my phone at the store; there’s rarely a need to actually print them anymore. Sometimes I shoot email coupons over to Evernote and I always snap a picture of coupons I receive in the mail (only ones that I’m likely to want) and save them in Evernote. Because I don’t like digital clutter either, I tag coupons with a “delete” tag and every once in a while I delete expired coupons.

Meal Planning and Shopping Lists

Plan to Eat has revolutionized my meal planning and shopping routine. I can save recipes right within the program and once I put meals on the calendar, my shopping list is populated. The team behind it are a husband and wife with children, and they get it. Plan to Eat does everything I could want in a meal planning program and it saves me from paper shopping lists, meal plans, and even from physical recipes floating around. Best of all, I can access everything from anywhere.

Business Cards

Can you guess where I might tell you to put the business cards you’ve collected? If you’re not inputting them into a contacts list and they’re strewn around or piling up snap a photo with your phone and, yep! stick them in Evernote with some keywords to help you search for your contact later.

What are your favorite ways to use your phone to stay clutter-free?