I had occasion to call my cable company for some technical support over the weekend. They’d sent me a new cable modem and the last step of the process was to activate the modem. You could do this online or call the number. Unfortunately, the activation didn’t work when I tried it online, so I had to call. This was complicated, however, by the fact that I was watching both kids that evening and both seemed to require my attention. I couldn’t be running all over the house looking up serial numbers for the support people. Fortunately, I’ve “digitized” information about all of my devices and appliances and when the tech support person asked me the serial number and model number of the cable modem, I simply looked it up in Evernote. No need to go downstairs with the kids screaming around me.
Digitizing Devices and Appliances
Last year I talked about how I used Evernote, Skitch and Penultimate to create a digital version of my house in Evernote. The purpose of this was to have access to information about my house at my fingertips when it proved most convenient. For instance, if I was at the hardware store and needed to know if something was too wide to fit in the stairwell, I could look up my note that showed how wide the stairwell was. If I was looking for a new bookshelf to match my old ones, and needed to know how tall those bookshelves were, I could look up the information in a note without having to run home and measurement.
Not long after that, I started capturing information about my devices and appliances in Evernote. I found that I was often asked about a model number or serial number if I had a question. So what I did was go around the house, snapping photos of the information panels of various appliances and devices. I then emailed the photos to my Evernote email address. Finally, I used Skitch to markup the photos (if necessary) and filed the notes in my Digital House notebooks. Or, put more succinctly:
- Snap a photo of the information panel on the device or appliance.
- Email the photo to your Evernote email address.
- File, tag, and markup the note as necessary.
Of course, you could also create a note and type in the information, but I like the photo for two main reasons:
- It is fast and easy.
- Typing in the information, I might make a typo in the serial or model number, which could complicate matters when I actually need the information.
Here is an example of the note for the microwave oven that came with the house:
and here is the note for my (fairly new) Google Chromebook:
I’ve highlighted a few items in the Chromebook note:
- I generally set the date of the note to the create date that I obtained the item. (Helps when searching by date.)
- These notes get filed in my Digital House notebook.
- Although I blurred out the serial numbers, you can see that text appears very clearly in the note and is also searchable.
Uses for digitized device and appliance information
There are quite a few uses for digitizing this type of information, but three uses have been a big help to me over the last year:
1. Dealing with customer support.
If you have to call customer support (or even contact support online) it is almost always helpful to have the model number and often the serial number as well. Having this information available in Evernote means you don’t have to be near the device when dealing with support. (Of course, sometimes it helps, but not always.) Indeed, I can make some of these calls when I am away from the house because I have access to the information anywhere.
2. Finding documentation for your device.
When we moved into our house in 2009, there were no manuals for the refrigerator or microwave. But since I had the model numbers, I could easily lookup those models online and find the documentation. I then downloaded the documents as PDFs, which, of course, I stored in Evernote.
3. Self-service support.
Sometimes, you don’t want to call customer support but see if someone else online has figured out the answer to your questions. Having the specific model numbers can help quickly narrow down your searches.
Useful for insurance purposes
Having this specific information can also be useful when filing insurance claims. Not only do you have a picture of the device but you also have the serial number, model number and other information that you can easily provide to the insurance company as part of your claim, should you need to make one.
You don’t have to do this all at once. You can tackle a room at a time when you have the time. Once I had gotten all of our devices and appliances digitized, I simply added new devices as soon as I took them out of the box so that I wouldn’t forget later on. And as you get rid of devices and appliances, you can simply delete the notes that were associated with them so that your digital house isn’t cluttered with notes that are no longer useful.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.