Relaxed control of my home (Part II)

Following Allen’s five steps to mastering workflow, I now try to focus on this question of action and outcome and ask myself, “What is this paper really about?”



First, there is an order card for specialized cleaning products. Reflecting on this information, I decide that the cleaning products already in use work quite well, so I can make the informed decision to toss the card. To me, this is on a very different level than tossing it immediately without Reflection.  Then there’s a little folder, describing the company history as well as all their cleaning products and services, with on the back a compilation of all their offerings together with the URLs, their phone numbers, links to online ordering pages and their company’s address.

Now follows the Organizing step, putting things where they need to go.I first Reflect on what information I may need some day in the future. I grab my mobile phone and on my TheSmarterPlace app go to my home, enter my kitchen, create the asset “range hood” and in the “Contacts” section enter the hotline and customer services’ phone numbers as well as the URL of their website.

Still on my asset “range hood” I scroll to “images” and take a snapshot of the front cover of the folder.  I could get up and shoot an actual image in my kitchen, but I try to fuss as little as possible. Then I scroll to “documents” and take a scan of this page, summarizing all the services. According to Allen’s workflow diagram, this is reference material that does not need my engagement at the moment, but should be retrievable when required. Bingo!

And then there’s the last slip of paper, an elaborate how-to for changing the filters inside the cap. The service engineer had reminded me that for the ventilation to function reliably I should change these filters again in about four years time. A need to take action in four years?  That seems an eternity away right now. What will life be like in four years, what will my kids do then, what will I do?  But then I calm down because for an electronic device this is no reason for deep philosophical thought, it’s just a date at a certain point in the future.

And I Engage: On TheSmarterPlace app I enter a to-do for 5.5.2020 (!) and set a reminder for myself. In 2020 I will get a notification, I will have the phone number or URL to order new filters on hand.  And because I now add a quick scan of this rather complicated looking how-to on filter exchange, I will not have to bother with customer service or search the internet to place all these cartridges in their right places, because, hey, who knows what will be in 4 years?

This process took much more time to describe than to execute; my coffee was still warm after completion, and I now feel I have this asset under control because I have taken all the necessary actions. Also, I have gained a little physical and psychical space. Imagine the freedom if you did this with all your home related papers!

Read part I here >


Relaxed Control of your Home

“The key to managing all of your stuff is managing your actions,” says Productivity Coach David Allen.  So let’s try a little experiment and see how this could work in connection with TheSmarterPlace.

secret control of your home
The secret to a relaxed control of your home. Find out more on

When, after repairing the range hood in my kitchen, the field service engineer left me a handful of papers, I decided to act immediately on them, instead of neglecting them on the kitchen counter top, transferring them at some point in the future to my home office and then – what exactly? Stuff them in a folder and try to remember them, when the next issue arises?

I could go on and apply Marie Kondo’s principles as described in her first book “the life Changing Magic of Tidying”   –  because, after all, I have a wonderfully “konmaried” bathroom –  and simply discard all this paper. Marie Kondo recommends tossing all operation manuals because when you truly “can’t figure it out on yourself try fiddling with the machine, look it up on the internet or take it back to the place of purchase.”  Hmm, did you ever try to take a range hood back to the place of purchase?

I am aware of the fact that Marie Kondo’s method is all the rage and for a lot of papers accumulating in dusty corners I totally agree with her. Nevertheless, I decided to try a more sustainable approach:  I made the experiment to process this handful of papers based on what David Allen describes in his book “getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity” as the five steps to mastering workflow.

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Organize
  • Reflect
  • Engage

So first, I have to do Capture, identify the stuff: I only have that handful of awkward papers, so I grab them as well as my smartphone and a cup of coffee.

Then I have to master Clarify: Looking at the material, I quickly realize that the service engineer has given me doubles, everything in an original and a translated version. This may be company policy, but a total waste and I can toss half the papers in my recycling bin immediately.  Then I scan the remaining ones with Allen’s question “what is it?” in mind. Defining, what we have in hand, what the information means, is the bothersome yet critical question we so often try to avoid answering because we think we just do not have the time to engage with the matter at hand. We feel torn in all kind of directions, too distracted to decide on our preferred outcome of the matter at hand and the very next action step towards this outcome. Sounds familiar, no?  Allan says “most people make those decisions when things blow up instead of when they show up.”

(read how I conquered procrastination in the second part of this post tomorrow).

Life happens beyond your filing cabinet


Declutter and set yourself free ! Five reasons to get rid of household mail and paper clutter.
Declutter your paper piles and set yourself free ! Read these five points and start immediately.


There are five reasons why the digital storage of your paper piles helps you to organize your home better and be prepared for unforeseen events:

1) The digital filing of your home-related documents with TheSmarterPlace keeps them available for you anytime and anywhere on your smartphone. No lost or unavailable papers anymore.

2) The documents are attached to the specific objects on TheSmarterPlace. By digitally filing them you build a home inventory at the same time. Stop procrastinating.

3) Digital filing helps you to declutter your home. Store your Documents exactly where they belong, and they can be retrieved quickly. Goodbye, crates and boxes.

4) Digital filing keeps your documents secure in one place away from fire or theft. They get stored in Swiss data centers where any third parties can not access them. May you stay safe.

5) You can grant access to these documents to your family or anyone you wish to. Share the load!

“This is now such a waste of time, why didn’t I put it on the TheSmarterPlace?”


“This is now such a waste of time, why didn’t I put it on the TheSmarterPlace?” This was only a small part of my friend’s litany when she called this morning. She asked me, to please share her story on our blog to spare others the same kind of frustration.

So, this morning she started to hover and hearing some whiny noises from her vacuum cleaner, she realized that it’s time to apply a new dust bag. „Ha, lucky me,“ she thought, „last time I browsed through the hardware aisle, I bought some spare bags.“ It had not been a quick choice, but rather a studied guess, as to which bags would fit her vacuum. Mind, it’s not a new appliance, so she should know what bags to get, but there are several stores where she shops. They all have different brands of bags, each fitting a particular range of vacuum cleaners. As well as being pressed for time, her little daughter wanted to have a look at the Cartoon DVDs, so she made a quick decision and grabbed a package of bags.

This morning she enthusiastically tossed the full bag and tried to insert one. Hmmm, the cardboard seemed a bit too broad? So she pushed harder, it got stuck and by trying to pull it out again, she ripped out the whole fitting unit…

To cut the story short: she was not able to plug it back in, had to drive to the store, only to hear that they can’t fix it either and would have to send it to the factory which would cost a lot of money unless the guarantee would cover it. “Why didn’t I take the time to scan those two boxes of receipts with TheSmarterPlace? Or at least, take a quick snapshot of the last package of bags and file it on TheSmarterPlace?” To end her very unsatisfying story, she vowed to scan and store on TheSmarterPlace whatever solution she finds to her problem.

Scanning and filing receipts, warranties and similar relevant information on TheSmarterPlace is very easy: Open the app, open your home, go to the room where you store your vacuum cleaner. Tap on “Add Asset”, add the name, take a picture directly with the integrated camera option and save it. Your asset has been created and now you can scroll down to “Documents” and “scan” whatever documents are relevant concerning your vacuum cleaner. Scans get stored in high resolution, so you can show or download and print the information whenever that’s necessary. For the dust bags, it would be possible to scroll down to “Pictures”, and just add a snapshot of the appropriate package. If you take more than one picture, this card turns into a gallery where you can swipe through the images.


Gender equality at home: sharing not only the load but also the information

To talk about gender equality at home is one thing, how to really execute it quite another. It is not enough to have a good intention, but one must also have the right tools and respective information. With tools, I am not only talking about your power drill but also the dishwasher manual, the kind of light bulbs your lamps need, the spreading chart for the fertilizer cart, the pet sitter’s phone number  – you name it.


Your partner may be a pro with the lawnmower, and your daughter may have learned how to launder her favorite t-shirts, but does she know how to clean the filter of the washing machine, and does your son know how choose the right settings on the fertilizer cart?

The big discussions and efforts in gender equality are both laudable and long due. For example the Ariel brand has created such a heartwarming commercial, every daughter watching it will feel her father’s hand proudly brush her hair – a wonderful inspiration. But – my niggly self asks – would this wonderful father and husband, sitting humbly in front of his washing machine, remember which brand of washing powder his wife prefers, if he had not been part of this commercial? Would he even do the grocery shopping next week?

My husband does the shopping and hauling (50/50 yeah!) – but remembering whether its liquid or powdered detergent, for silks and fines or blacks, that’s running low – rather difficult. Is it because “Men are from mars and woman are from Venus”, as John Gray called his book in 1992, or as Rebecca Shambaugh reported a few days ago on Huffingtonpost: “Decades of research and studies have proven that male and female brains are structured differently”.

 Is there a psychological, gender-related explanation?

Although it is my experience that in stressful moments women tend to rush around and try to think of everything as opposed to men, who just seem to focus on the essentials, to hell with the rest, the simple explanation lays in the level of involvement and expertise.

Around our home, I’m the “expert” in the laundry room. Doing the laundry for many years it is only natural that I have gathered a lot of routine and my proper set of tools, read detergents. Some time ago my partner and I realized that he really dislikes doing laundry whereas I’m quite ok with it, so we decided that in contrast to cooking, hovering or bringing the little ones to bed, laundry does not have to be a shared task.

But what about these shared tasks? Often one of the partners does not have all the information to make it a successful job. He’s doing the shopping but doesn’t remember what kind of light bulb he should get for the broken lamp in the mud room. She is calling the plumber but doesn’t know the type of water filter they have installed. Their daughter offers to get gas for the lawnmower but suddenly wonders what kind of gas to get. Of course, this not only relates to couples and families, anybody with a busy day and a lot on their minds forgets this kind of little but important pieces of information.

This is why TheSmarterPlace offers a mobile home management tool to keep track of all these many pieces of information for everyone in the family involved in keeping up the house. Simply create your home, add your rooms and items and start taking the take pictures, scans, and notes from whatever is important.

The structure lets you attach all the needed information (manuals, documents etc.)    directly to the item itself so your daughter will quickly realize, that on TheSmarterPlace she will find the manual for the washing machine in the laundry room, attached to the created item “washing machine” itself. And it’s exactly here where dad can find pictures of the detergents used in his home.

How are you sharing the load? We’re looking forward to your comments.