Organizing Personal Technology

My Smartphone-centric Life

I recently had a couple of bad bouts of luck when it comes to my iPhone and it has forced me to realized how far I have come in terms of revolving my productive life around my smartphone. I found it really hard to go back to basics!

After returning an iPhone that would completely drain of its battery within an hour, I ended up getting an iPhone that apparently had some unknown hardware issues that would cause it to restart 3-4 times an hour randomly. Luckily I had Apple Care, who advised me to restore when I called. However, when I tried to restore, it would go in a restore loop for about 3 times because it kept thinking it was in recovery mode… until it could restore no more and was completely dead on a Saturday morning. I had no choice but to schedule an appointment to the Apple Genius Bar, but the only appointment at the Apple Store closest to me was on Thursday at 4:40pm, which would absolutely not work for me. So I ended up making an appointment at the Apple Store in San Francisco for Monday. A few days before the phone died , I had gotten a basic prepaid phone for myself for emergencies just in time for the phone to die. I was able to get around on my calendar print out and just letting a few friends who I had plans with know to contact my burner phone or my husband’s phone should they need to get in touch.

During the 3 days that I did not have my iPhone working I realized how much of my daily life depended on having a smartphone. The weekend was relatively OK because I have access my computer a bit more often and I don’t have much other than the usual kids activities and social plans to deal with, but Monday it was altogether another story.

Among the things I use multiple times on a daily basis are:

  • GPS with traffic conditions
  • Calendar
  • Contact
  • Google
  • Yelp (what’s good to eat around some place?)
  • Email without having to fire up a computer
  • Read my Kndle ebooks
  • Take photos
  • Check weather
  • Make lists (shopping list, to do list)
  • Music
  • Read news
  • Track food and exercise

On the day of my appointment, without my iPhone, I was no longer keenly aware of traffic conditions, when BART train would arrive so that I might get to San Francisco on time for my appointment. I didn’t know what new places to eat around the Apple Store other than the tried and true establishments that I already knew about. I even had to ask for directions. Luckily, in spite of it all I made it to the Apple Store only 6 minutes late for my appointment.

Once at the Apple store I quickly checked in but waited a while because my appointment was accidentally cancelled by one of the associates there… but an hour later I finally got out of there with a replacement phone, when the restore failed and the iPhone restarted again right afterwards.

Now I am a little worried about the new 8.10 iOS update… I will be eligible for the upgrade to iPhone 6 after Christmas.


Meanwhile my little Verizon prepaid basic phone has been off the charger for over a week and still have full battery indicator bars!


Home Organizing Personal

How I Manage Pictures and Videos

As the family historian, I spend a lot of time taking family pictures and video clips of the kids. I have looked at several different solutions for pictures and videos to help manage our family archive.


iPhone – Like most people, I take pictures via the iPhone. I have a 16GB phone, so not a whole lot of storage, especially since I do play around with lots of apps.

Digital Camera – I have a DSLR for special occasions but for the most part, I have a small digital camera (Canon Powershot).

Eye-Fi Card – I use the Eye-Fi card with the cameras so I can wirelessly upload my pictures.The Eye-Fi card also has social features that allows you to automatically upload to various online services.


My Online Service of Choice: SmugMug

smugmug The reason I choose SmugMug is because it allows me to deal with both photos and videos in one place. I don’t have to spend a lot of time to upload photos to one place, then videos to another. Quite often, I took both pictures and videos from one event and then upload to a single gallery. I spend $60 a year for SmugMug’s Pro version, which allows me to use my own domain, have more control over site designs, and to right-click protect my images. If I didn’t care for those things, I can save $20/ year and go with the SmugMugBasic. I cannot emphasize how wonderful it is to know that all our family’s photos and videos are stored on the cloud. There is nothing to worry about losing or degrading of quality as with physical photos and it is much more easily organized and shared. I originally found SmugMug to be a great alternative for my wedding photos since it allows people to print and purchase prints easily and inexpensively, but since then SmugMug has grown a lot more. Pros:

  • More customizable than competing services.
  • Lets you buy prints and photos.
  • Full screen slideshows.
  • Attractive new gallery themes.
  • Easy to organize by drag and drop
  • Has both Mac and PC solutions or plugins


  • No free accounts.
  • Almost no community features.
  • No Face tagging.
  • Social media sharing is not so robust.
  • No creative common designations.
  • RAW files require SmugVault using Amazon Web Service for additional fee.
Home Organizing Project Management Strategies

Purging Your Stuff Using Craigslist, Donation, and Freecycle

I recently went through a pretty major move that involved two toddlers, buying a new house, and selling a new house. This was a situation that called for a lot of de-cluttering and purging before and after the move, and I have learned a lot about the pros and cons about these  3 ways of purging.



More cash
Purge faster and feel good
Local, feel good

Takes the most amount of time, flakes
Tax deduction only
No money, flakes and odd people

Best for items that are easy to sell and has good demand (e.g. kids beds, strollers)
Good for most things inside the house, as well as non-working electronics
Good for one-off items that you can’t sell on Craigslist too well and would be useful for particular situations (e.g.: large stacks of paper, moving boxes, unopened pantry food)

Craigslist is great for a virtual yard sale because I simply cannot be setting up a real life one and sit in front of a yard for a whole weekend with two kids running around. For many  high-demand items like expensive toys, strollers, bookshelves, kids bed, the best thing to do is to take a picture and post it on Craigslist. I was able to get money for my goodies and use it to help finance the move. You have to take pictures, add good descriptions, and be ready to deal with questions about it and do some emailing back and forth. The problem with Craigslist is that you have to deal with a lot of back and forth, making appointments, and sometimes people might flake out on you. This is why it is best reserved for items that have high demand and are likely to yield many offers. Of course, with Craigslist, you are also dealing with the public, so there is more risk as well. Craigslist has been used in the commission of many crimes, so one does have to take precautions. For me, it is really only worth the trouble if you think you can sell the item for more than $50. Otherwise, it is just easier to donate to charity or Freecycle

When it comes to getting rid of things fast, there is nothing like just donating it to your local charity. A lot of times you would get a postcard asking for you to put your stuff in the front driveway for pick up and the charity would accept most household items like clothes, shoes, blankets, even old electronics for recycling. I prefer to chose my own charity and just drive it over (I happen to live close to a really good one) because I don’t like to have things sitting in the driveway and not get picked up (which has happened) and I also like to research my charities. Having a tax-deduction is nice too, so it is important to get a receipt. You get to feel good that your items do benefit a charity you support. You save a lot of time by not having to take pictures to post online, not having to have email back and forth with people, or deal with any flakes. However, it does not guarantee that your items are going to avoid the landfill. What the charity cannot use they will toss.

Freecycle can be either the most convenient way to get rid of something or the least. Since money is not going to exchange hands, you can simply leave your item out in front of your house (if you are not skittish about it) and have the designated person pick it up. However since you are dealing with the public, you will have to prepare yourself for the possibility of flakes, and maybe even weirdos. A lot of people will email you with “Is this still available?” or “I want it” without any other explanation and I tend to pick the person who would at least add why they would need the item because I don’t want to be supporting any hoarders out there. By my experience, since these things are “free” there tends to be a lot more no shows than Craigslist, so one might have to go down the line of offers or repost. I have also had a situation where someone who took an item from me told me she decided that she didn’t want it anymore and could she bring it back. I was advised by our local moderator to tell her that if she did bring it back it would be illegal dumping and I would let the Freecycle community know about it. Luckily for me, she didn’t bring the item back to my home. Like most people, I give away stuff on Freecycle to feel good that my stuff is being useful to someone and that experience was not conducive to that!

In the end, I think if you are under a time crunch, the winning way to go would be donation, followed by Craigslist for easy to sell items. I found donating to be less fussy and easier given I have two kids to juggle on top of the move.