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Thursday, February 22, 2024

How to Use Your Phone to Declutter Your Life

Most of us are getting used to staying indoors for extended periods of time at the moment, which can mean—kids and work depending—more time to get on with those household jobs you've been putting off.

One chore you can take on with nothing but your smartphone (and a little willpower) is decluttering: There are more apps to help out with this than you might think. Try these out and end your lockdown with more space than you had when you started it.

Go Paperless

Your phone can make quick work of converting all your paper documents into digital versions, tucked away safely in the cloud. A number of apps will use your phone camera as a scanner, converting photos to PDFs along the way and cropping documents down to size.

We like Google Drive for this, because it makes the text inside PDFs searchable as well, and it offers a variety of ways of managing your scanned documents (including folders and starred files). Unfortunately, the scan-to-PDF function is only available in Google Drive for Android: Tap the Plus icon (lower right), then Scan to import a document. You can rotate and crop a snap before saving.

You can upload files using Google Drive for iOS but it's a long-winded process. Take a photo of a document like you would any other photo using the iPhone camera app, then from Photos on iOS, select the picture and tap Share. Choose Print, then on the next screen pinch out on the image, which converts it to a PDF—tap Share again, then choose More and Copy to Drive.

iOS has its own document scanner inside Notes. Open up the app, create a new note, then tap the Camera icon above the keyboard and Scan Documents. As with Google Drive, you get cropping and rotation options, and once the document is saved as a note you can easily export it into another app if needed.

You have plenty of other choices, so it's worth experimenting with a few different apps to find one that you like. One of the best we've seen is CamScanner for Android and iOS—it was blacklisted last year for spreading malware, which CamScanner says was caused by a rogue ad network. If you're prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, it's now safe and back in the app stores, and it comes with a ton of features for digitizing your documents.

The services you already use might have document scanning options too—Adobe Scan for Android and iOS is quick and simple to use, and can recognize text inside documents, but it is closely tied to Adobe's cloud storage platform. Likewise, the Dropbox app for Android or iOS can also scan documents, but it's best suited for existing Dropbox users.

Sell Your Junk

You might already be familiar with online selling tools like Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace, but you may not know just how easy it is to create listings from your phone—snap a few photos, write out a description, and you're just about done without having to open up your laptop at all.

That's not to say you should rush through making listings. The more time and effort you take over them, the better prices you'll get. Take as many photos as you can, be honest about damage and deficiencies, and look at other similar listings for inspiration before creating your own.

You can get rid of so much of your unwanted stuff this way: old toys, unused clothing, that exercise bike you never got to grips with. You can sell almost anything, no matter how old or even how broken, as long as you're realistic about price—look at it as a decluttering exercise rather than a money-making scheme, and you'll find people are only too happy to take stuff off your hands, even if it's just for parts.

The obvious big name in the field is eBay for Android and iOS, and it is particularly suitable if you've got larger and more expensive items to get rid of. It attracts a huge network of buyers and has various protections built in to ensure the safety and security of both buyers and sellers. (Just be sure to read the guidelines first).

Facebook Marketplace is built into the Facebook app for Android and iOS. It works well for local deals—especially if you're trying to get rid of stuff that's used or damaged somehow—but you can post items out to anywhere in the country as well. Again, be sure to read the advice that Facebook gives for sellers to keep yourself safe.

While they don't have quite the polish and reach of eBay and Facebook, both Letgo (Android, iOS) and OfferUp (Android, iOS) make selling really straightforward. (And Letgo has the option to just give away your stuff, if you really want to clear your home quickly.)

Nextdoor (Android, iOS) is also worth a look as a locally focused app for giving away or selling your unwanted items around the neighborhood. Of course, Craigslist is the elephant in the room when it comes to selling your stuff. It has mobile apps as well (Android, iOS), and it's definitely suited to mobile, in-person transactions.

Get Organized

Digitizing paper documents and getting rid of unwanted stuff are the two main ways you can declutter using your phone, but there are plenty of other apps willing to lend a hand too. Other tools are prepared to help you get organized, for example, whether that's setting up a to-do list or making a searchable inventory of everything you own.

Google Keep (Android, iOS) and Notes (built into iOS) can put together records of just about anything, and they offer intuitive ways of keeping your notes organized as well. Other options for keeping track of your work include the ever-popular Evernote (Android, iOS) and the more focused Todoist (Android, iOS).

Getting your home and your possessions in order is a lot easier when you know exactly what it is you're dealing with, and Sortly for Android and iOS can help with this. You can add entries for all of your stuff, all tagged and categorized, attach pictures and specs, and even get estimated values for everything you own, which is especially useful for home or renter's insurance, or replacing your items in case of a disaster.

How about turning decluttering into a game? A number of apps can "gamify" your to-do list, adding challenges and rewards along the way. A couple of our favorites are Habitica (Android, iOS) and EpicWin (Android, iOS)—both let you set yourself specific targets and compete against other people (so you could get your whole family involved in the decluttering process).

Think about apps that might be able to replace physical objects at your home as well: Do you need those racks of CDs with Spotify (Android, iOS) in your pocket? And might it be time to replace some of those paper books with electronic versions courtesy of the Kindle app (Android, iOS)? There's also Centriq (Android, iOS), which can replace all of the product manuals taking up space with digital versions available at a single tap.

Finally, don't be afraid to get in outside assistance to help you clear out space and simplify your life. Apps including TaskRabbit (Android, iOS) and Handy (Android, iOS) let you pay people by the hour to clean and tidy, though you're going to have to wait until social distancing rules are relaxed to make the most of these apps.

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