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


Boost Your Photographic Memory

Here are better uses for your smartphone camera than taking selfies:

1.  Take the guesswork out of repair projects.

  • Remember how to put items back together by taking pictures of them before you take them apart.
  • Need to pick up a few new parts? Take photos of the old parts to help you pick the right replacements at the store.
  • For repair projects that require a pro, share a picture with your contractor before he gets to the job. He’ll have a better idea of what to expect upon arrival and will be more likely to bring the right tools.

2.  Create photo albums. Use this basic smartphone function to arrange pictures into organized collections for easy reference. 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 will know where things are located next time you need to find them.
  • 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 of your latest project

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:

Dropbox is like cold storage for photos, documents and videos you don’t need at your fingertips but want to retrieve easily. Some of the content you can store and share includes:

  • PDF copies of appliance manuals, which you can often download from manufacturer websites.
  • Tax files 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. You can set Dropbox to automatically back up these image files. This is a 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 with text, photos, recorded audio and attachments
  • 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 such as 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 set up automatically; you have to enable it.

To learn more, visit:

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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Will my Grandma’s antique table fit here?

Here are two apps that allow you to simply take a photo of the space you want measured and calculate an accurate measure with your fingers.

Photo Measures is available for iOS
My Measures is available for Android

I wonder what we could do with this space?

Check out this interior design database right from your phone to help get the decorative juices flowing and generate ideas for how you could use those “interesting” spaces you find in homes.

Houzz is available for iOS or Android

What were they thinking with these walls?

Ok, so maybe the floral wallpaper or the do-it-yourself sponge-painting wasn’t the previous owner’s best choice ever. Don’t dwell on the current look. Instead, ask “What can be done with these walls?

Color Capture is available for iOS or Android
ColorClix is available for iOS or Android
Wall Painter is available for iOS

What’s nearby?

You’re looking for a neighborhood and lifestyle. Get all the information you need with Trulia Local.

What will our mortgage on this place look like?

There are lots of mortgage apps out there, so make sure you choose one that’s simple and actually works. Here are a few of our top picks:

Karl’s Mortgage Calculator is available for Android
Simple Mortgage Payment is available for iOS
Trulia Mortgage is available for iOS

Can we make an offer?

Cue the hallelujah chorus. It’s time to make an offer. Keep the transaction moving forward smoothly and quickly through the offer, contract, and other paperwork sign-offs that can seem overwhelming. Take advantage of document signing tools to avoid being slowed down by a pile of paperwork.

Docusign Ink is available for iOS
Hello Sign is available for iOS