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The Best Home Maintenance Tool is Right at Your Fingertips

With the help of a few common digital tools, you can transform your device into a household control center that simplifies home upkeep.

Boost Your Photographic Memory

Here are better uses for your smartphone camera than selfies.

1.  Take the guesswork out of repair projects.

  • Remember how to put items back together by taking pictures before you take things apart.
  • Need to pick up a few new parts? Take photos of the old components to help you pick the right replacement parts at the store.
  • For repair projects that require a pro, share a picture with your contractor before he gets to the job, so he has a head start and the right tools.

2.  Create photo albums. Use this basic smartphone function to arrange pictures into organized collections for easy reference. Here’s what you can document:

  • Your home’s infrastructure. Take pictures of your home’s wiring, plumbing, and insulation when walls are exposed during renovations and repairs so you’ll know where they are later.
  • Your home’s inventory. Take pictures of your possessions for insurance purposes.
  • Your lighting preferences. Remember the best bulb for each fixture with pictures.
  • Your circuit breakers. Use your camera to document what’s connected to each two-pole (240 volts) and single-pole (120 volt) breaker.
  • All your paint colors. Photograph paint cans and swatches so you remember each color’s name and brand. You can do the same for flooring, tile, and wallpaper.
  • Your home improvements. Build up some bragging rights: Take before, during, and after photos.

Put Free Cloud Storage to Use

Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive offer free data storage and will automatically sync across all your devices. Each offers a simple, clean, and efficient way to manage home upkeep. We breakdown the best uses for each app.

Dropbox is like cold storage for photos, documents, and videos you don’t need at your fingertips but want to retrieve easily. Store and share:

  • PDF copies of appliance manuals, which you can often download from manufacturer websites.
  • Filed tax paperwork and back-up documentation.
  • Household records, including warranties and receipts that document repairs.
  • All of your smartphone photos. You can set Dropbox to automatically back up your images. It’s a great way to save home improvement ideas and products you find while on the go.
  • All the screenshots you take while surfing the web on your computer. You can set Dropbox to automatically back up these image files. This is great way to store and share remodeling ideas and repair tips found online.

Evernote. Great for boosting your organization factor. Create folders (Evernote calls them notebooks) with detailed project information. Store and share:

  • Home improvement ideas. Share notes with text, photos, recorded audio, and attachments.
  • Inspirational photos, DIY articles, price comparisons, and coupons using Evernote’s Web Clipper feature.
  • Project expenses. Take photos of receipts and save them as searchable PDFs. Evernote scans the information so you can easily find them using merchant name, dollar amount, or date. You can even add your own tags for search purposes.

Google Drive. Great for basic organization and scheduling, it also allows users to collaborate on documents in real time. Create and share:

  • Remodeling and repair budget spreadsheets with family members and contractors.
  • Home maintenance schedules to stay on top of seasonal upkeep.
  • A digital home emergency kit, which can include maps downloaded from Google, personal documents like IDs and birth certificates, and a list of areas where family members can meet.

What About Data Security?

Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive each use encryption standards to keep data stored on their servers safe from prying eyes. To learn more, check each site’s privacy policy and terms of use.

Each company also offers two-step account verification — usually including a special code sent to your phone — to keep bad guys out of your account. It’s not setup automatically; you have to enable it. To learn more visit:

  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote

Go a step further with data protection by taking advantage of the built-in hardware encryption that comes with smartphones. It turns stored data into unreadable gobbledygook that can only be unscrambled with a password. Visit your phone provider’s website for instructions.

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These articles are not intended to give legal or tax advice, and you should consult your attorney or financial advisor for additional information.

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