Organizational Tips and Tricks – Favorite Tools for Photographer and Home Organization

Okay raise your hand if you’ve made a resolution or goal to become organized in 2013. Don’t worry, I won’t tell. I don’t really have a resolution or goal of this nature for this year. Or really, if I’m being 100% honest, any year. When it comes to STUFF, I’m fairly organized. There is our storage room in the house that gets to be chaotic, but about every six months I go in and re-organized. That’s what happens when you have other people contributing to a system or space… not everyone is on the same page. I am pleased and fortunate though, that overall I am very organized.

Now when I say organized, I mean when it comes to STUFF. I’m still working on organizing my brain and actions, although I don’t know if that will ever be 100% accomplished. The reality is that if I can’t see it, I can push it to the side and worry about it later – procrastination! But when it comes to things that I can actually see and fix, it’s very easy for me to organize them. Email, craft supplies, office supplies, and the gazillions of scrapbook things that I have – are all in a place, labelled.

The first thing to note is that you have to find what works for YOU. I have some things organized by manufacturer/designer, but sometimes that won’t work for you. Some of my things are organized simply by type – all Sharpies together, etc. And then by color. Ask yourself, if you were going to search for something, where would you look first? Not because that’s where it has been, and doesn’t belong, but what would be natural to you if everything was where it was supposed to be? If your scissors belong with ribbon instead of with pens, put them there! Everyone is a little different. Do what works for you!

Here are five of my most favorite organizational tools!

1. My Dymo LetraTrag Label Maker

I love love love this thing. I don’t care if my husband rolls his eyes whenever I break it out – I stand by the fact that it’s awesome. I use it for a LOT of things, and it works for several reasons! Not only are they nice for my own reference, but for others too! There are times that I need to ask someone to hand me something – and even if they have no clue how I have things organized, I can help them with the labels. I took some quick phone pictures to show some of my scrapbook labels.

brooke, summer, scrapbook, labels, organize ,organizing

Again, these are organized based on what works for me. To me, flowers and jewels go together, so they are in one drawer. Fall & Halloween go together, so they are in one box. I use the label maker for my hard drives, my office supplies, and lots of things! Best $30 ever.

2. Gmail

Another lifesaver! As a former IT professional and current and forever geek, I have to say that most of Google’s products are pretty killer. Gmail is no exception. I have used almost every single free mail service available, and have used email programs locally to work with email. After going through program after program and service after service, few compare to the ease of use that Gmail offers. Picture this: you have an email from your lab that has a receipt that you’ll need for expensing, and a coupon for a future order. With other email programs, you would have to COPY the message, and put it both into your expenses folder, and then into your coupons folder. With Gmail, you can use tags/labels, instead of folders. This means that you can tag this email with BOTH tags – expenses and coupons – and it will show in both places, without having to copy the email. This means less wasted space, and emails that are easier to find. Not only that, I can search my inbox for emails by a number of search terms, and find everything I need quickly and easily. If I know that I spoke with a specific client six months ago via email but now I don’t remember what I said, I can search in Gmail quickly and find all conversations super fast.

But what does this mean for business owners, who don’t want but want their own domain? You can use your own domain with Gmail as well. My email address of goes to my Gmail inbox, and there are several different ways to accomplish this. Not only that, but when I send emails, people see my email address, instead of my Gmail address. This is really cosmetic in nature, but can be important when you want to leave a good impression with someone that you’re contacting.

I prefer emailed receipts now because they all go into one folder, underneath my business – and at the end of the year they can be easily worked into my tax regimen, instead of having to hold a folder of paper receipts, and hope they don’t get lost. Gmail works into so many other aspects of Google’s products, but I will have to stop there for now. There are so many plugins that are amazing with Gmail as well, but that is another post entirely. If you are looking for an amazing solution to organize your email and make it SUPER easy to use, check out Gmail. It is a tab that is ALWAYS open in any browser I have open, and a must!

3. Google Calendar

Another lifesaver, and one of my most favorite Google products. By the way, when I say Google products, please understand that these are products that are FREE. Product does not necessarily mean expensive, it just means they are created for Google users, and maintained by Google.

Again, I have used LOTS of different calendar products in an effort to have everything organized. I’ve purchased the dry erase calendars, the pretty calendars from Fly Lady (gorgeous but I need electronic) and other options. Outlook, Lotus, and numerous other options just don’t have the capabilities of Google Calendar. It is so powerful in fact, that several businesses and organizations use it daily. THis is another tab that is open almost always in my browser. You can create different calendars for different things, I have a total of 16 calendars loaded, 7 of which are my own. You can load sports calendars (Go Broncos!), the phases of the moon, holidays for different countries, sunrise/sunset – and several other calendars that are public and available to anyone. Personally I have my own calendar, Tom’s calendar, my business calendar, my editorial calendar, our family menu, and more. Menu? Yes, it is loaded into Google. EVERYTHING IS IN ONE PLACE and I love love LOVE it. You can choose the view, whether week, day, month, or other. Recently when figuring out my mileage, I was able to print just my business calendar with all location details to go over everything for taxes. My son’s school calendar is in here too.

Because it’s a Google product, it is also easily integrated into other things. So I can see my calendar in my Gmail window if I choose to, so that when I’m replying to client emails, I know exactly what my schedule is. I can send Tom a quick email and ask him to pick something up on the way home if I need to, because I know what is for dinner quickly and easily. I can publish my calendar to show when I’m available for specific things as well – which is particularly nice for client meetings or for my staff to know what the heck is going on. And again – this is a FREE product that is included with your Google account. So if you signed up for Gmail above, or if you already have a Gmail account, you have a Google calendar. Just click on the link and check it out.

4. Evernote

Okay let’s move away from Google for a moment. Whether you work from home or at an office, what happens if you lose your grocery list, or leave it somewhere and you don’t have it with you? Have you ever written out your to-do list, and then put it in a really safe place, so safe that it’s now gone? I would never do that… sure… ;) I use Evernote for SO many things, it is amazing! When I think of something that I need at the store, I open Evernote quickly and stick it in my groceries list. It automatically syncs with my smartphone and iPad, so that I have the list when I go, even if I forget to bring it with me, because I almost always have my phone with me.

Business people, there are certain things that you have to reference consistently, such as tags for blog posts, or notes from a specific workshop. What happens if you leave that notebook at home and you’re working away from your office? With Evernote you always have them handy as long as you have a device with you that has Evernote on it. As a photographer, things are CONSTANTLY changing with my contracts and website. In Evernote I have notes that I can put quick changes into, and then I can spend a day working on those changes and clear them out. This means that I can focus better on a specific task, instead of being ALL over the place with different changes to make or things to do.

I keep track of books that I want to look into. If someone tells me they read an awesome book, I make a note of it in my phone, then look at it more when I get home.

I keep track of funny conversations with Tom. WHY, you ask? Well, this kind of turned into a funny thing with us. Sometimes there are conversations where we are both laughing so hard that we can’t even breathe, and no one else would understand why we are laughing so hard. I originally started saving these things for our wedding vows, but as the years go by, it turns into a funny reminder of memories. Sometimes that note will come up when I’m scrolling and looking for something else, and it brings a little smile to my day. Sometimes I will use a reference in a card for a holiday, or a quick text to tell him I love him. I believe so strongly in memories, not just in photos, but in stories and words as well.

I also keep track of memories from trips, the specific things that are so funny, but you really had to be there to understand. I put ideas for gifts, marketing ideas, movies I heard about and want to watch on NetFlix or rent, workshop notes, goals, journal entries, letters to Kaden, recipes, client orders, checklists for shoots, and SO many other things. Evernote is a VERY versatile program, and I know that I don’t even touch the other capabilities, because quite frankly I haven’t had time to watch the videos to learn how to use it.

Oh one more thing that you mommies will relate to – I recorded Kaden, at about 2 years old, saying “How you doin’?” like Joey from friends. At the time it was kind of a joke to play it back to him, but now, that recording is priceless to me. It is in Evernote as an audio clip.

Evernote has a premium option, or a free option, and I haven’t dived into the more advanced features yet. I use the free option, and have hundreds of notes, and LOVE my Evernote!

5. Storage Cubes

My office is organized by cubes, instead of an actual office space. I do this because then it is mobile, and on our hard floors, it is nice to be able to move things if I need to. Eventually there is a particular desktop that I want from Ikea, but it is always sold out – and it has zero drawers or storage. Why? Because I want my desk to be clear and organized, and storage to be separate from my desk. Again, I realize this doesn’t work for everyone, and if my office ever moves to a place that doesn’t have hard floors I might have to look at other options. But for now it works really, REALLY well for me.

I decided to show you a picture that I found on Pinterest that has the same products that I use, only because it is much prettier than my own office LoL!

These cubes and storage options are designed specifically for scrapbooking, however I use them for my office as well. WHY, you may ask? What the heck do I need to store for my business? Think of all of the little things that go into running a business – paper, folders, stamps, cords, memory cards, business cards, marketing materials, USB drives, ribbon, wrapping paper, and all of the regular office supplies that someone might need. And glitter. LOTS of glitter. That should be on a standard office supply list, duh. ;)

Seriously though, I save so many things for my clients that I really need a nice place to hide things, and keep them super organized. The picture above under the label maker gives you a little bit of an idea as to how I use them, but there are so many uses for them. These little personal touches that go into everything I do are noticed by my clients, and they matter. Keeping everything organized so that I can find something when I need it is REALLY important, and saves time! These storage options aren’t terribly expensive, although I would highly recommend using a coupon or waiting for a sale. They range from $20 – $50 each, and the carts are about $100. If you use your 50% off coupon, you can put together some really awesome organizational options for some great prices. And then use your label maker to remind yourself of where everything goes!


SO – I’m curious, what are your favorite organizational tools? I struggle with time management and organization, that is a focus for me this year. What are your favorite things to use to help keep you organized, either with stuff, or with your time?