How to organize your life with your camera phone

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by Alli

Alli Worthington is one of the most recognized names in social media and the Lifestyle-blogger community. She is the founder and publisher of Blissfully Domestic women’s magazine, one of the most trusted women’s destinations online, and the Co-Founder of the wildly successful BlissDom Conference. Alli’s creativity is only hindered by a lack of clones and need for sleep. She and her husband have five sons and a beautiful rescued dog named Mollie. They live just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Some of us are born with a level head and the seemingly innate ability to develop systems to get organized. Me? Not so much, I was drowning in loose pieces of paper and post-it notes. I wrote everything down, had great plans to stay organized, but never could keep up with where the paper went.

Then I fell in love with my trusty camera phone. I’ve gathered some of my favorite tips that work with both Apple and Android phones. Ready to get started? Great, here we go.

1. In the Kitchen

When I’m in a rush and don’t have time to write down exactly what we need in the kitchen, I just take a picture or two. With a picture of what my fridge and pantry look like, I can easily pick up the staples without ever writing a note to myself.

We also store sugar, salt, and flour in french canning jars and mason jars that are not labeled. (Now sure, I could label them, but where is the adventure in that?) To keep us from forgetting what ingredient goes in what jar, I took a picture and added the label with a text labeling app. You can use any text labeling app you like best. I used Phonto for these pictures because I like to upload my favorite fonts from my computer to use.

2. In the office and living room

For me, the task of writing down all the serial numbers for electronics and computer software is something I know I should take the time to do, but never actually get around to doing it. Instead of copying down a serial code with eleventy-billion numbers, I simply take a picture of it.

I use Evernote (it’s free!) to save my pictures behind a secure passcode. My information is organized into different sections: software, electronics, car information and more. Next time you need to remember that zillion number serial code for something you bought last year, it will be easy to find.

If you are like me, you have USB flash drives to store extra digital files and can never remember what is actually on them. Now I take a picture of the flash drive after I fill it with files. This way I have a visual guide for what files are where.

If you have more cords than electronics but never can find the right cord when you need it, just take a picture. I take a picture of all my electronics with the cords in use so I can remember which cord goes where and in what configuration.

3. Closets, attic, and the garage

I once tried to remember where I put things by writing things down in a notebook. I even bought a pretty notebook to make it seem extra special. When I packed the camping supplies in a storage box I would write it down on my designated page. When I packed my oldest son’s winter snow pants in a bag and placed it on a shelf in the basement, I wrote it down. It went great…for a while. Guess what? I lost the notebook.

Now I take pictures of everything. Where I store the off-season clothes in the attic, the location of the extra coffee mugs, and just about anything else is all documented in my Evernote file.

4. In the garden

Take a picture when you plant your seeds and add the date and number of seeds planted on your image with a text label. I learned that by taking a pretty picture of my plants and adding a label with information, I was more likely to actually keep up with progress than if I wrote information in a notebook.

A fun side note: this is also a great project for kids. My boys loved taking pictures of their plants during each stage of development last year. The joy of taking blurry daily pictures of a bean plant from germination until the day the beans were eaten is more exciting to kids than you may imagine.

These are just some of the fun ways that using your camera phone can help you stay organized around the house. I use my phone in new ways all the time, like taking a picture of the boys’ playroom when it is actually clean, just to remind them of what it should look like. When someone says, “Oh, Mom, it’s clean!” I can ask if it looks like the picture. If not, it’s not really clean. There are no excuses when there is a picture for reference.

iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide

My book, iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide, is full of step by step visual tutorials for every thing you need to know about using your smart phone in amazing ways. You will learn everything from how to use apps that make your pictures even more beautiful, how to upload your favorite fonts to use on your apps, to how to post your Instagram pictures to your blog automatically.  After reading this book, you will know how to:

  • Take amazing photos with your iPhone
  • Easily edit photos on the go
  • Post photos to your WordPress blog directly from your phone
  • Back up your photos so you never lose them
  • Turn your images into stories
  • Create photo collages from your iPhone
  • Make your images pinnable
  • Turn videos into pinnable graphics
  • Easily create visual content for your brand
  • Turn iPhone photos into gifts for family and friends
  • Use your iPhone to get organized
  • Make money from your visual content

This book is also jam packed with:

  • iPhone app recommendations from award-winning bloggers who have “been there and done that.”
  • Photo editing tips and tricks from professional photographers
  • Details on which iPhone accessories and apps are actually worth spending money on
  • Tips for turning everyday photos into storytelling tools

Normally, the book is $9.97, but for a limited time only, you can get it on sale for just $7.00!

Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed. Alli is giving ten Simple Mom readers a copy of her e-book, iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, telling me your favorite thing to photograph. (If you’re reading this via email, please click over to the post and leave a comment directly.)

This giveaway will end this Saturday, September 29, and we’ll announce the winners soon after. I hope you win!

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Comments

  1. I like to take pictures of the things that make our house our HOME. Such as the stickers my daughter has stuck to her door, or the ‘super sofa” sign my kids hung above the sofa in the playroom…

  2. avatar
    Michelle Rulmont says:

    When in Maui earlier this year, the condo we were staying at had a window break due to wind. We were able to email a photo to the owner’s instantly from my husband’s iphone and we not held liable! Life saver !

  3. Everything in my house uses a different type of lightbulb. I photograph the lightbulb while still in the package and holding the package next to the item that uses it. SO handy to have when you are at the hardware store. I do the same with our heater filters.

  4. I love photographing my kids. I also just started photographing their art work for easier storage.

  5. OF course my favorite thing to photograph is my family, but I absolutely love your organization ideas! I can’t wait to implement the storage idea. We are still trying to find a 6 foot wide, bright blue hard plastic kiddie pool that we stowed somewhere (attic, woods behind the house, who knows), so if we can lose a pool I think I really need these ideas – LOL. Your book looks like it’s full of great ideas. Thanks!

  6. Whenever I travel, 10 miles or 1000 miles from home, I try to capture a picture of people in their culture. I have pictures of old Italian women sitting on a porch watching a wedding unfold in the streets, an Egyptian camel rider, Honduras cabelleros, a sleeping man on a Baltimore park bench, children riding bicycles barefooted (three to a bike) in Costa Rica, and many more. I share this collection with my children so they can experience the facinating array of cultures in this world. I am on the waiting list for the new iPhone 5 and I can’t wait to learn how use it to continue my love of photography!

  7. My favorite things to photograph are my kids and my garden.

    But reading the last comment reminded me of the time I got a parking ticket in the city. I got a ticket for “parking over the lines.” ONE of my tires was parked ON the line. I took a photo and took it to court. I won the case! Minor, maybe, but that was my only ticket ever, so it mattered to me.

  8. I love taking pictures of the silly things my kids get up to!

  9. I take photos of items that I’ve lent out, clothes, books, tools, etc. This way I know who has what and who to ask when I need the item myself.

  10. Great tips! I too take pictures of “how clean it needs to be” it has helped my son with his chores! I use my iPhone camera for everything…our children, our travels, our dog, etc. I’ve taken pictures of our living room bookcases and gallery photo wall to help decide on purchases while out shopping!

  11. avatar
    Kimmy Zahirniak says:

    I was so excited when I read this article. I use my phones camera function to capture notes, business cards, toys that my daughter wants (including the prices) for her wish lists. Recently we started taking photos if our meals so we can have a virtual way of reminding us what we ate, so that we could remember that we should make that meal again. Thank you for your tips, it gives me validation that I’m headed the right way towards organizing and simplifying my life.

  12. Of course, my favorite subjects are my mews!! My kitties are just so cute and photogenic – I can’t stand it! :)

  13. In addition to my kids (of course!), my favorite thing to photograph is items that I’m going to post for sale (or to give away). So quick and easy to snap a photo and upload it instantly.

  14. I have to say this is something I use all the time but not for organizing! I love taking pictures of the kids and inspirational ideas I see when I’m out and about.
    Thanks for sharing some of your tips.

  15. I like to take pictures of my kids when they’re sleeping. :)

  16. I love photographing my nails right after I get them done!

  17. I use camera as external memory drive also. I take photos of things that will remind me things I need to remember. For instance, today I took photo of morning school car line drop off parking sign that needs to be replaced. I also have been using photo to reinforce what kids need to do daily. If I find the backpack in middle of floor, I snap a picture and show it to the child who needs to put it away. No shouting, No cajoling, just show the photo.

  18. I come from a picture taking family. We snap for no rhyme or reason. So naturally, being a first time mommy, my absolute favorite subject and muse is my son Caidyn (01.15.11).

  19. My favorite pictures are of my family making memories!

  20. What a cool idea! I’m terrible at putting outfits together and remembering what looks best with what, so anytime I come up with a combination that I really like I take a photo of myself and store it in an outfits folder. This is also really useful when packing for a trip!

  21. My favorite pictures are those of my family making memories!

  22. LOVE IT! I “think” I’m organized until I read an article like Alli’s above. Sigh. I have once take a photo of a shopping list with my iPhone but it stopped there. I am constantly taking photos of my kids, my pups and chickens, and the great outdoors. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

  23. At work, I sometimes have notes that I want to keep forever, but do not want to type them up. Take a pic and then load the pic into my Evernote and I am good.

  24. My boys of course!

  25. Love to take pics of my kids!

  26. My favorite things to photograph are my kids!

  27. I know this book will be AWESOME and I would love to win it. I already use my iPhone camera in so many ways, but I am sure there are more ways that I am NOT utilizing. I currently do Project 52 exclusive on my iPhone. I take pictures of notes at work, in case I have to work on something at the bosses house, I am sure I have it every time.

  28. No surprise, but my favorite photography subject is my little girl

  29. I often photograph books I want to remember to read later. Also, I work in the theatre biz…. iphone pics are GREAT for quick decisions from designers…”do you want cups that look like THIS or THIS?”

  30. family, pets, places we go

  31. I take pictures of newly budding flowers in the springtime.

    I would love to win your fabulous book!

  32. Photos of my kid’s art!! I get them to hold it that way I have a record of what they look like at that age and I don’t feel guilty when I let go of one of their masterpieces. Both are stored forever on my camera.

  33. I photograph recipes when I’m heading to someone’s house for an extended visit. That way I can offer to make dinner (or breakfast – I always forget the ratios for mixing crepes) without dragging my whole cookbook along. Plus, I have the ingredients list with me when I stop at the store on my way there.

  34. This book looks right up my alley! I’ve recently been fooling around with my iPhone and am trying to figure out the things I can do with the camera. I love taking photos of my kids and cats. It would be great to know more to do to ‘awesome-ize’ them!

  35. I love to take pictures of my 5 children. I also enjoy taking pictures outdoors. We live in the country and there is always something to photograph.

    Love this post and would love to win the book. I am going to be getting an iPhone soon and it would be great to have this resource to help me enjoy the camera aspect of it.

  36. My favorite thing to photograph is my toddler! I love the idea of using pictures to keep yourself organized. I have way too much paper clutter and no matter how much I purge, there is always more coming!

  37. all really great ideas !
    i always photograph where i park when i go to the mall and also anything that i may want to buy when i go shopping – come home and try to find prices online for it – also my kids when we are on vacation – we use the cameras for “proper” pictures but i like having photos of the kids with what they are wearing on that day in my phone

  38. i love taking pictures of my kids. i used to lug my big camera to the silliest of places (how many park pictures do i really need?!) but on my phone, i don’t seem so crazy. it’s the little silly faces and activities that i can catch (if i am fast enough) with my phone’s camera, that i don’t ever want to forget….

  39. My husband has an app on his phone to track the gas mileage on our cars. If I am out and have to get gas, I take a photo of the gas pump with the Price Per Gallon, Gallons filled and Total. I usually take a second photo of the Odometer, but now after reading this article, I will just use Phonto and add the Odometer reading to the gas pump photo :)

    Awesome ideas! My head is full of so many more already :)

  40. Honestly? My favourite is where I parked the car. Favourite because it sure saves time, and mental energy! ;)

  41. avatar
    Jessica McGill says:

    I’ve been using my iPhone more and more to do just that! If I stumble upon something I like, I will take a photo of it, then while at home see if that item will really work for us in our home and if I truly need it or not? If I don’t really care about it when I get home, then I got my answer…
    Cheers!

  42. I love taking pictures of my family (including the animal members)! Helps remind me of why I’m working or running around crazy to get things done!

  43. I enjoy photos of anything/anyone memorable. I would love this book to help me capture them in unique ways and getting organized is always a plus! Thanks for sharing.

  44. Like most moms, I enjoy taking pics of my boys. But, I also love taking pics of landscapes and nature. This ebook sounds awesome!

  45. Apart from my little boy, I love photographing the beach as the day begins heading into dusk. The light changes so quickly and there’s always someone interesting to meet. It’s the best thing about living close to the ocean.

  46. I use my iPhone to photograph my grandchildren, pet, gardens, wardrobe, furniture and like you suggested, serial numbers and product they go with. I have even taken photo’s of my mom’s prescriptions to have on hand at dr. appt.’s or hospital and
    nutrition labels that I want to research before purchasing.

  47. My toddler. If find I’m still able to be a great combination of candid and very cute posed shots whereas my preschooler and 6 year old already seem to cool for school when it comes to photos. The have a extra terrestrial sense of when I have my camera phone out and run the other way!!

    Great post by the way. I’m TOTALLY inspired. What awesome ideas. I’d never ever thought of using my phone this way. This is going to make things a lot easier.

  48. i use it to photo everything as i always forget my camera!!!

  49. I love to photograph my kids. I take MANY more pictures now that I have an iPhone.

  50. avatar
    Kelly Godzwa says:

    Besides photos of my kids, I enjoy taking pictures in my backyard – lizards, bugs, snails, hummingbirds – I love capturing the moment!

  51. I don’t have an iphone, but my son does. If I won, this would be a gift for him.
    I have gotten pictures from him of the temp. in his car! (He lives in AZ) And pictures of things around his house.
    He is a teacher & I think he could use a lot of this info in his class room too.
    I take pictures with my phone of my gramma who just turned 100 last month and e-mail them to family.

  52. avatar
    Elmina Tilley says:

    I mostly enjoy photographing my family and our experiences. I also love to photograph old barns and buildings.

  53. I think that mostly we take pictures of our cats. Lol. Every time they are laying in silly positions, someone grabs a phone!

  54. avatar
    Sharon Lien says:

    Besides family, animals, scenery, and fun stuff, I take pictures of recipes rather than writing them down when a friend shares a recipe with me. I also take pictures of auto, plumbing, hardware etc. parts when needing to pick up replacements at the store. That way I can be certain I get the right one!

  55. When I go to teaching conferences there are always so many great samples of project ideas. I take pictures of them as well as any whiteboard notes for quick and easy reference when I get back to my own classroom.

  56. I use my iPhone to take pictures of our everyday lives. Today that was a visit to a horse rescue. Tomorrow, it might be piles of laundry. I love having a camera in my pocket! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  57. I love to take pictures of God’s beautiful creation~sunsets, trees, flowers, and my family. :)

  58. avatar
    Sharon Schuster says:

    Thanks for the great ideas. Gonna take some photos tonight!! =]

  59. avatar
    Heather Musick says:

    I love taking pictures of my kids.

  60. Currently my favorite “things” to photograph are my kids, especially my 8 week old daughter! This book would be beyond awesome for me!

  61. I love to take pictures of my kids and my cats!!

  62. Love takingbphotos of life with 4 kids!

  63. avatar
    Stephanie H says:

    I like to photograph my 2 year old son.

  64. My children are my favorite thing to photograph.

  65. i like photographing the simple everyday moments in our simple days.

  66. The thing I am most proud of photographing with my phone was the order of steps to fit our two booster seats (with the detachable backs) in the duffle bag we were using to check them on the airplane. It took me five or ten minutes to figure it out the first time and once I had them in I took photos as I unpacked the bag. I was so happy to have those photos at the Detroit airport at 4:15 in the morning when it was time to pack them up to come home! Phew! Now I know I have so much more to learn! Yahoo!

  67. My favorite thing to photograph is my children!

  68. Of course my kids are my favorite thing to photograph but in terms of my phone camera, I love using it to take pictures of things in the store I am on the fence about buying. It assures me that I won’t forget about it or forget what it really looks like and that way I don’t feel pressured to make an impulse buy. I can go home, think about it, and get opinions from others.

  69. avatar
    Kate Javier says:

    I have always used my P&S, but having an iphone changed everything for me, and have since given it away. It’s not always convenient to bring my DSLR everywhere.. lol..

  70. I love taking pictures of my grandbaby – and my basset hounds – for the same reason. It seems like I never have my “big camera” at hand when they are doing something adorable (you know the scene – set up a tripod and the world stands still), but I always have my smartphone with me! I am depending on my phone more and more for shopping lists and reminders – and this post is just perfect – thanks for the tips!

  71. I use my iphone to take pics of my baby!!!

  72. I love these ideas! Especially the text lable app! I often use my camera phone for taking photos of recipes in a book or magazine I dont want to buy yet. It’s also great to take pictures of your kiddo with a toy they are begging for that could possibly wait until their birthday or Christmas.

  73. I would LOVE a copy of this. Seriously. So useful.

  74. I love to photograph my kids – Love all these tips – thanks!!

  75. I love to take pictures of my kids!

  76. I love to photograph my children. I use my iPhone so the pictures are handy to show them off.

  77. my kiddos!

  78. What an intriguing idea!

    • Forgot to add….my kiddos are my favorite to photograph. And I probably take waayyyy too many photos of them!

  79. I’ve started taking photos of my sons drawings and his lettering. He uses dry erase boards for his letter & number work and draws on one of those magnetic boards. So either way the work would be lost without a picture.

  80. avatar
    Maria Welke says:

    I love your post! I’m one of those women who seem to have no vision when it comes to making the most of my technology and still dream of being blissfully organized! I use my phone primarily to take pics of my precious grandkids and scenery as I go about my day. I don’t know, there’s just something about trees that fascinate me…
    Anyway, I would put your beautiful book and brilliant ideas to good use, I promise! Unfortunately, medical expenses prohibit purchasing wants right now so I hope you draw my name!!!
    Thank you for the great ideas! -Maria Welke

  81. avatar
    Terri Wortman says:

    I don’t own an Iphone. what about those of us who have android phones?

  82. My favorite thing to photograph is definitely my 9 month old daughter! :) I have taken at least one pic (more like 50) of her every single day since she was born! :) it is so amazing to look back through the pics and see how she has grown and changed!!!

  83. I, of course, LOVE to photograph my son! I never get tired of taking pictures of him.

  84. My kids, sunrises, clouds, nature. Moments.

  85. avatar
    Julie Holland says:

    A zillion pics of my 4-year-old daughter : )

  86. To think that until now I have only used my phone camera for shopping for specifics: i.e., make up, or washing instructions on my girls dresses. This sounds like a novel solution to break the to-many-to-do-lists which isn’t working :-(
    Plus, Sept. 29th is my birthday ;-)
    Cheers,

  87. I like to take pictures of recipes that I find in magazines while waiting at the Dr.’s office or wherever I might find one so that I can leave it there for the next person who might be reading that magazine. Thanks for the great tips and such a fun giveaway!

  88. Oh that’s easy! My favourite thing to photograph is my craft projects!

  89. EVERYTHING !!! I take pics of everything… from my food to my toes to price tags in shops….. so much so that my friend asked my if I wrote this post???!!! Problem is, I take a million photos and then what….. SO NEED YOUR BOOK !!!! And your expert advice. A must-have for me !! Crossing my fingers…. oh, maybe I should take a picture of that !!! ;-))

  90. avatar
    Julia Owens says:

    Up until now, it’s my beautiful son’s face that I have taken most photos of. But I really love the idea of using my phone to help in being organised…who knows what awaits!

  91. I take tons of pictures of my kids with my iPhone. Since I live overseas, I can capture them in different cultural contexts which helps family and friends see how different our world is.

  92. I LOVE to photograph my son with my phone. But I have also found it handy to take pictures of my recipe cards before heading to the store. [Yep, I still have paper recipe cards :)]

  93. I was just thinking yesterday after my husband called me from the store asking “what brand of hotdogs do we buy again?” I need to make him a picture list on my i-touch (that way he could take it with me as apposed to my phone, and his phone is not update enough to do a big picture album). It could have pictures of the labels of all the top foods I send him to the store for so that he would not have to call me all the time just check the photo list.

  94. My favorite thing to snap with my iPhone is just those candid everyday moments when I wouldn’t have time to run for the big camera!

  95. avatar
    April Vattaso says:

    Great post and such an awesome sounding book! Really cool ideas. I would love this book because my phone is the only thing I can ever grab on a moment’s notice, and I always only have a moment’s notice because I love photographing my girls, and I love photographing nature. Neither of these things really wait for me to run and grab the bulky camera, lug it out of its case, and put it in the right settings. The only way that works is if I plan and have the camera out all day, and, let’s face it, I just don’t plan that well. Currently, all my phone pics look like they’re taken with a phone, even with my use of Instagram, so this book would be really useful in allowing me to create phone photos my girls (and birds and flowers) will in the future say they are proud to be in.

  96. All those precious family moments. Thanks for the chance to win!

  97. My kids, my home, flowers, leaves, insects, light coming throught a window, a curtain moving as wind breezes through, food packaging… sooo many things!

  98. avatar
    Brooke Kingston says:

    I love snapping images of my kids…they are usually big blurs on my iPhone pics, I would love to win your book!

  99. I love to photograph my family and the great outdoors. But that’s with my “real” camera. I just can’t seem to take decent pictures with my iPhone!

  100. You’ve got some interesting ideas here that i wouldn’t have thought of but i’m confused by the jar one. surely it would be easier to look at a label on the jar itself than have to find the labelled photo? And why not label your flash drive? Love the ideas of the serial numbers and attic contents though.