Last September, I moved a thousand miles up the west coast, from San Diego to Portland (downsizing an entire room and a garage – which is as much a logistical feat as the 1000 mile move).

It took over my life for a couple of months. While I was a big fan of Portland, I didn’t know its neighborhoods very well and so the month before I moved, I planned one full week of neighborhood-sleuthing/house-hunting. Then 30 days later, I put all my household goods on a semi and chased it up the coast in my 4-door hatchback. (I won, although sitting and sleeping on the floor a week isn’t really “winning” per se.)

See the introduction to Plan Your Move with Evernote here.

It was natural for me to organize everything inside Evernote — my go-to hub for my business and my personal life — and it kept me sane and smiling (more or less) – despite the fact that a heatwave followed me EVERYWHERE, from house-hunting in Portland to packing/loading in San Diego to unloading again in Portland. (My movers, and I, were beginning to think I was cursed.)

The upshot: I love Portland. I love Evernote!  Here’s how I did it:

What I Saved in Evernote

I clipped, typed, dictated, and photo-captured:

– A running list of Craig’s List places that I had emailed, organized by neighborhood, and whether I had heard back or not.

– Clipped articles from my late-night web surfing of everything I was looking forward to experiencing in Portland: Portland’s Top 10 Outdoor Wine Bars, Best Pizza Places in Portland, etc.

– Clipped Facebook posts from friends with advice on Portland. I copied & pasted good advice right into a note, and kept it handy when I was scouting Craig’s List ads. How else would I remember I wouldn’t want to be further out than 80th Ave and other insider knowledge.

– Lists, lists and more lists: 

  • vendors who needed a change of address
  • a prioritized packing list
  • a do-NOT-pack list
  • a sell/give-away list
  • a Honey Do list about a mile long of things I needed to fix before I moved out
  • things to buy at Ikea
  • a “Must Have” and a “Like to Have” list of apartment features so that I would tell at a glance whether a listing was something to pursue or not.

– The lease application and the signed lease

– Photos of the places I viewed, and tons of photos the townhouse I lucked into leasing (annotated, of course)

– Photos of paper receipts

– Emails of electronic receipts from Zipcar or the airlines

Basically, everything I touched or saw went into Evernote. Some items (the lists) I accessed multiple times a day — checking lists on my phone when I was on the go, prioritizing them on my laptop each evening for the next day.

Some were things I came across and couldn’t immediately put to use (the Top 5 Pizza Places in Portland) but that I definitely wanted to keep and tag so that it would be easy to put my hands on during my first months in town.

Some I just wanted to keep a record of (like the receipts) without having to hang onto itty bitty pieces of paper: as I would add the tip and sign my name, I’d snap a photo of the receipt, tag and stash it. Out of sight and out of mind, but easy to find if I ever needed it.

Evernote as Moodboard 

In the midst of all this — after I knew how much I was downsizing — I did an Ikea run to get inspired about, and swipe practical ideas for, cute small places. If I saw a piece of furniture or an arrangement that I liked, I snapped a photo.

If I really liked what I was seeing — if it was a potential purchase — I’d follow up with a quick snap of the label, so the dimensions (and the crazy Swedish brand name) would be captured for my 2am mental furniture arranging sessions.

How I organized things in Evernote

I used tags, instead of notebooks, as my primary way to categorize. I had one major tag Portland, but also used todo, receipt, design, want, and others as needed.

Why tags? First, you can put lots of tags on a single note, and each of those tags can act like a container. We usually think of notebooks as containers — things that “hold” notes — but in Evernote, tags act like containers, and they are more flexible. Notes can have many tags, but can live in only one notebook.

To have my Portland tag truly act like a container, I pulled the tag over to the left-hand sidebar so it was a shortcut. Over there, it acted like a notebook, but with all the flexibility of a tag.

Also, making Portland a tag instead of a notebook allowed me to stash notes like receipts in my Receipt notebook, photos of design in my Design notebook WHILE ALSO hanging onto their Portland designation.  Why are Receipts and Designs their own notebook? Because I share them with others, and you can only share notebooks and individual notes – not tags.

I also have a super-important notebook titled @Fingertips and it’s the notebook I’ve designated an “offline notebook” on all my devices. This means all the notes in that notebook are synced locally — to my phone, iPad and laptop — which means that they’re available even when I don’t have internet or data access. Only a few things need to go in there, but I can stash them without losing their Portland designation as well.

How I shared my notes with others

I permanently share some notebooks with others, because we collaborate together (or are just happy to look at things that the other person has clipped). But when it came time to get some important move-related info out of Evernote, I was working with people who did not use Evernote. (I’m a good evangelist, but even I step aside from proselytizing from time to time.) When I shared, I turned the whole note into an email — see the screen shot below — to shoot a beautifully formatted email out with no extra steps. 

With this organization, it was smooth sailing to keep a good grip on all the moving parts of my move (as well as a grip on my sanity).

Looking for more? My friend Jamie used Evernote to organize her move and the buying of her first home (tell me THAT doesn’t come with an unbelievable amount of paper to hang onto!) More tips & tricks are next!

Have you used Evernote to organize a move – or a project with lots of moving parts?