Tips & Stories

5 Ways to Use Evernote to Organize Your Busy Family Life — Guest Post by Erin Doland

Posted by Erin Doland on 20 Aug 2009

Posted by Erin Doland on 20 Aug 2009

IMG_3319 Name: Erin Doland
Profession: Editor-in-Chief of,
Twitter: @UncluttererTips

Book pre-order: Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-day plan to organize your home, your office, and your life — available November 3

Get organizing advice from Erin every Tuesday and Thursday at the Real Simple magazine website

Part of Evernote’s Summer to Unclutter Series

To get from my bedroom to my kitchen, I used to have to walk along a maze of clutter through my apartment. I kept everything I deemed sentimental because I was afraid that if I got rid of it there wouldn’t be any proof I had experienced something and I would forget about it. One day, my husband sat me down and asked me to change the way we lived. He didn’t want to be surrounded by the past; he wanted room for our future. Over the course of the next six months, I conducted research and organized and got rid of literally thousands of pounds of stuff.

The process was life-changing. It is out of this transformation that I started writing for and ultimately became its editor-in-chief.

5 Ways to Use Evernote to Organize Your Busy Family Life

Life with children is hectic, and staying organized can help keep things from getting out of control. Armed with a computer, smart phone, and Evernote’s family of products, you can keep your cool instead of stressing out. The following five tips can help you to maintain some sanity in your busy family life:

1. Remember where you parked

Whether at the mall, an amusement park, or a concert with your kids, the last thing you want to do is delay getting home because you can’t find your car in the enormous parking garage or lot. When you first park, snap a picture of identifying information near your space and save it to Evernote. If you’re in a rental, also add a picture of the license plate of the car you’re driving. Once you’re back, either delete the pictures or add notes about the quality of the spot if it’s somewhere you might want to park again. “Great place for quickly getting onto the highway ramp after a packed concert at Wolf Trap Amphitheater.”

2. Food on the go

Using Evernote’s Web Clipper, I bookmark our favorite restaurants’ menus. When we’re pressed for time or grabbing takeout with friends, I have all of our go-to places in one quick, easily accessible location. Plus, with Evernote’s robust search engine, I can quickly compare prices for our favorite dishes.

3. Keep track of names and faces

Have you ever received a phone call from Dylan’s mom and then wondered for hours afterward whom you were talking to? Take photographs of your kid’s friends with their parents, send the snapshots into Evernote, then label them with the names of everyone in the photo. Finally, organize the pictures by activity (Braeden Soccer, Molly Ballet, Jackson First Grade). It’s nice to do a fast pass of mom and dad names before heading to the next event. Also, if there is a phone number list, you can scan it into Evernote and have everything together. (You might also add information about food allergies–no one wants to accidentally send a kid to the emergency room at your son’s next birthday party.)

4. Shopping lists based on recipes

I’ll keep copies of my favorite recipes in Evernote. Then, on my grocery list, I’ll just write “Grandma’s Pork Roast” or “Sesame Brussels Sprouts.” Once I’m at the store, I pull up Evernote on my phone and check out the specifics of the recipe. If I’ve found that I like one brand of an ingredient better than another, I’ll even snap a picture of the packaging and store it with the recipe for future reference. This also comes in handy if my husband is doing the shopping and I want to quickly send him the images and recipes.

5. Birthday and holiday shopping simplicity

Maybe Molly wants the latest toy for her birthday, but she wants the one that blinks and goes “whirrrrp!” instead of laughs and says “blurrrrb!” Snap a quick picture of it into Evernote to make sure you’re going to buy the one she wants. Create a notebook of many possibilities and have it on hand when grandma and grandpa ask for gift ideas. You can also save the page to the same notebook to make buying even easier when the time comes to do your shopping.

How do you use Evernote in your busy family life? I’d love to hear about your tips in the comments.

Evernote’s Summer to Unclutter

Check out our previous post in this series:

Erin Rooney Doland is Editor-in-Chief of, a website providing daily articles on home and office organizing. Her book Unclutter Your Life in One Week will be available November 3, 2009, by Simon Spotlight Entertainment (a division of Simon and Schuster).


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19 Comments RSS

  • Corrie L Wilson

    Rather than search everywhere for the papers that get sent home on curriculum night with teacher policies, lunch menus and contact info, I create a notebook for each kid and scan all that into evernote. Then, when the teachers post homework on their websites, I use clipper to save it, so my kids can never say they don’t know what’s for homework.

  • Jodi Paul

    I tore my mattress tag off!

    But I scanned an image of it before I threw it away, and put it in Evernote.

  • Michael

    These are some great tips!

  • Klaus @ TechPatio

    I use Evernote to store reciepts and invoices, so I always have them at hand and easily searchable and indexed.

    I also use Evernote to plan vacations and pretty much everything else, just throw it in there with a tag and you’re good to go. Just wish the iPhone app would be a bit more stable, it crashes too much for my liking.

  • JanyRegina

    I recently cleaned out the remains of 93 years of my mother’s life. She was of the Great Depression and a hoarder. The truly nice things she had were lost in the detritus of things that I have no idea why that she kept.

  • susan

    I like your ideas but I see a snag. Taking photos of children (minors) with names and info is not a smart thing to do for obvious reasons. Might help you to stay organized, but if someone else gets a hold of your phone it could be a bad situation if you know what I mean.

  • Gretchen Cawthon

    5. Birthday and holiday shopping simplicity

    I do the same thing but what I did was turn it into a separate notebook called “wishlist” and setup tags for each person in our family. I then made it a shared notebook and sent the link to all our family members. I update the book after each event and review it with my kids from time to time to make sure it still has the items in it they want. Works great and my relatives really appreciate the visuals.

  • hamhead

    with the relative unreliability of the evernote for iphone app, i would not be able to rely on it for that parking tip as it always wants to automatically sync and tries to search for a connection even though i would like to tell it that its offline and to stop trying.

    also sometimes the unsynced note that is on my phone may refuse to open or open with a blank screen.

    cmon evernote guys, lets get a much better iphone client with full offline data and better options for switching on/offline manually.

  • Erin

    @Susan — That is why I suggest that the PARENTS be in all pictures with kids. Be safe with your information.

  • castercad

    Well I will try that tips… I think that’s cool…

  • Deborah

    I keep lots of lists: gift lists, lists of books I want to read, music to buy, my favorite shopping websites, etc. One of my favorite uses, though, is to take pictures of bottles of wine that I like. I email the pic to my account and make notes about why I liked the wine, where I had it, etc. Then, when I’m in the grocery store, and I can’t remember what to buy, I just open up my evernote account.

  • Russ

    I am a teacher. As part of my classroom website, I take pictures of the notes I’ve taken on our class discussions on my whiteboard. At the end of class, I upload the pictures to a public Evernote album that’s linked on my website. Evernote makes my handwritten notes searchable for parents and students.

    (Note: I never take pictures of any names or other identifiable information about kids.)

  • Jim

    Don’t forget, Evernote has a great little encryption feature you can use if you are afraid your info (especially info about kids as above) will get into the “wrong hands”. Then you just have photos of families and the other info is safely encrypted with a password.

  • Haqi

    I downloaded and trying to use, but can’t open? I have in my task bar (MacBook), but nothing happens. Worse, you don’t have an email address!

  • Serena

    The doctor or dentist office is full of magazines and there is always an article, an item picture, or more importantly a recipe that I am always tempted to tear out: Evernote and my iPhone camera to the rescue once again!!!

  • Megan

    I love evernote, because it allows me to keep track of each store I shop at and what coupons I need to use to get free or nearly free stuff at each place. The search ability is awsome for me when I’m on the go. This way I look at my list and go to my coupon organizer to find the coupons and easily get great deals fast!

  • billyberue

    I too am a teacher and naturally am very organized. It never used to be this way for me. However, we use teacher planners and they work perfectly for me. I have never used something like evernote before but I am going to give it a shot to see if it simplifies my life any.

  • Ann

    @Susan – I think we should all password protect our phones in case we lose them. this way any information that we store there will not be accessed by others.

  • Jill Bradlie

    I used this on my iPhone when potty training boys using a 3 day method I had found