Category Archives: Memorabilia

Giving Your Photos and Memorabilia a Reason for Living

photo organizing

Do you have piles of photos stored somewhere in your basement or attic or the back of your closet?  You’re not alone.  Many of our clients hit a wall when it comes to tackling the photos and memorabilia.  It always seems to be the lowest priority until a life event like a birthday or graduation prompts the need for quick and easy access to your loved ones photos.  It’s then that you realize how inconvenient you’ve made it for yourself to view your family memorabilia.

Organizing photos (digital or printed) is a lot like organizing anything in the house – the first step is to determine why you would be keeping them.

Take a few minutes to consider the bigger picture…what do you want your photos for? Do you imagine that you’ll pass the unfinished project on to your kids? Would you like to have some on display or in albums? How important is it to identify people or events for others?

Before you dive into the backlog spend some time framing (pun intended) the picture of your immediate and long-term goals – it will give needed clarity to your sorting and purging.

Figure out what you’re keeping. This takes setting aside time, regularly, to gather and weed your collection.

Divide your photos into 4 categories:

1 – Photos to display, share or put in an album

These are the best of the best; the ones you would be sad if they were destroyed. You may never actually create the album, but it’s important to make the separation in case you or your family member gets motivated.

2 – Photos to keep but not display

The second cut, those you want to store or archive for safekeeping and possible future use.

3 – Photos that tell a story

Even if they are not perfect, don’t automatically toss a great picture if it tells a significant story. They can be illustrative of some specific point in time or mark a milestone.

4 – Photos to dispose of

Come on!  Do you need to keep the 5th copy of a photo you don’t even like? Blurry photos, poorly composed photos, photos of people you don’t even remember can all be tossed.

Next step, determine the keepers.

Set up containers with the 3 separate categories labeled — Album/Display, Archive, Trash — so it’s easy to separate them.  The pictures that tell a story can be tagged with notes and put in the appropriate category.

Once the initial sort happens, you can drill down into more specific categories.  Categories help with retrieval. They help you browse the archive for retrieval or help determine the structure of an album.

Would a picture of Aunt Mary on vacation with you in Hawaii get sorted into Vacations, Aunt Mary and Her Family, the year & month of the trip or …?

There are no right or wrong choices, but you will need to make a choice.

Post-its and index cards, Ziploc bags are great temporary ways to sort printed photos until you arrive at your final organization. Start with broad categories or themes and know that you can come back and fine-tune, if desired, later. To keep the process moving, limit your time with categorizing of each particular photo to a couple seconds. Resist the urge to reminisce; there will be plenty of time for that later.

Power Sort Box

Power Sort Box from Creative Memories for sorting physical photographs

Digital photos need this kind of attention and maintenance also! Don’t kid yourself – the accumulation of thousands of unsorted digital photos will create just as much overwhelm and hassle as the boxes or bags of printed photos taking up closet space. Digital photos can be tagged with multiple categories.  This is a great advantage; it’s the equivalent of having the same photo in 3 or more different places.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tackle bite-sized chunks.  Commit to just one box of sorting, or time yourself and do one-hour blocks of time or enlist an interested party and make a date to do it together.

IMPORTANT! Moving forward, make sure you have a sound system of photo management in place so you’re not contributing to the backlog. For most of us this means managing digital photos. Here are some tips:

  • Figure out how to sync your devices and/or copy photos to ONE master location
  • Make sure you have a backup system!
  • Use additional folders for sorting and/or use tagging to mark a photo as belonging in more than one category
  • Make actual prints of favorites so they can be enjoyed on display

If this article has left you feeling completely hopeless and overwhelmed instead of inspired, it’s time to ask for help! Search the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (www.APPO.com) for a local resource.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Memorabilia, middle-age, Moving, organizing, paper organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Technology

Easy Solutions for Keeping Kid Keepsakes

kid art - 1

Do you have a unwieldy stack of kid creations in your garage or closet? Do you love to see the creativity in the various objects they create then feel paralyzed by the thought “Now what do I do with it?” Rest easy, you’re not alone. In our decades of organizing, kid art and memorabilia is one of the most common clutter challenges we deal with.

Here are 3 tips to manage the overwhelm:

Show it off before stowing it away

Dedicate a bit of wall and surface space to display the most recent creations. It gives time for everyone to appreciate the items and for attachments to wane a little. When new items come in, it’s time to decide whether the older items really make the cut at true keepsakes.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

They aren’t all keepers. Really. Remember, the goal is to keep a representative sample that catches a snapshot of their life. This includes homework. Routine worksheets and tests aren’t nearly as personal as original writing – kids talking in their own words about their lives in that moment. Also, don’t delude yourself that you’ll “make time to go through it later”. Be honest, you’re life is likely too busy and there’s far better uses of your time.

Use the right containers

Oversize art portfolios (available from craft & art stores) work perfectly for the preschool/early elementary years. Regular size art, homework, awards, cards/letters, and school/sport photos fit perfectly in a plastic file storage box with box bottom hanging files for each school year. Definitely have separate containers for each child. Object art does best in it’s own box, tissue wrapped for protection.

Bonus tip: Go digital! Take pictures of your child’s creations and put them in a system – folders, iphoto albums or sites like Picasa. And there are many apps available to memorialize your kids’ art.

Imagine your grown child coming back home to clear out their things after they’ve launched. They find a discreet amount of their memorabilia – a portfolio and a box – with the special art they created in their childhoods and are able to enjoy the memories and revel in their creativity while not being overwhelmed by dusty heaps of tattered paintings and dog-eared papers.

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Memorabilia

Fear Factor: Ghosts from the Past

There you are with the best of intentions, starting to organize your space and suddenly a ghost pops out and scares you away from your project.

This ghost could be evidence of a forgotten task, a memory of a loved one who has passed, papers from a nasty legal battle, or even some article of clothing that has unpleasant memories attached to it. With the passage of time and consistent avoidant actions, our homes can start to feel like haunted houses.

Scary Organizing Challenges

Our clients are usually glad to have us there when these frights occur.

Here are some common ghouls to watch out for and ways to banish them:

  • Clothes in a size you wish you were. The hope of someday fitting back into those “skinny jeans” can be a very strong attachment. If you absolutely can’t bear to let the dream clothes go, at least make sure they aren’t taking up high value space in your closet or dresser. Put them in a tub, labeled, into a low-use space like basement/attic/garage.
    • Now, if you’ve encountered the tub again while clearing out one those spaces it’s time for a real heart-to-heart talk with yourself. If weight loss is a goal, keeping the clothes isn’t what is motivating you to take action. If you take action and meet your weight goal it will be a nice treat to update your wardrobe with some new items rather than pull out those jeans from a decade ago which likely won’t still be in style anyway.
  • Gifts you weren’t thrilled about.  What do you do with items you’ve been given, but just don’t have a use for or actually don’t match your taste? We’ve written a blog post about this topic, but the main thing to remember is that the giver cares about YOU and their best selves wouldn’t want you to hold onto something that didn’t make you happy. Let it go, pass it on, give it to a charity who can find a good home for it…but don’t let it collect dust in the darker reaches of your prime storage closet or spare room or attic.
  • Things you’ve inherited from family or friends who have passed. These items can sometimes feel heavy and burdensome. Like the unwanted gifts, they are attached to a person or past and can’t just be tossed in a cavalier manner. This is where taking time to process them will provide benefits.
    • Determine their value, their importance to you, what they represent and how best to preserve that memory, if that is what you choose.
    • If they have historical value, can they be donated to the local history society or museum?
    • If they have monetary value, can they be sold with the proceeds going to a coveted family cause?
    • Are they holding memories of a precious family experience? Is there a way to recreate the memory of the family experience without having to store a 2-ton piano that is too expensive to make useable or wouldn’t get played?
    • Sometimes inherited items are best dealt with in layers – focus on dispersing the items you and others have the least attachments to; this will at least make more room for the things you choose to keep.

So, if you have encountered some ghosts, take heart and get help if you need to. There is a way to process these frights, reclaim your past and take care of unfinished business.

 

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Filed under Closets, Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Memorabilia, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Bringing Old Furniture Back to Life

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Ever wondered what to do with that special but damaged furniture that has been handed down in your family?

Dana had a conversation with Bernice Rapoport, owner and primary restoration expert, at Geppetto’s Antique Restoration in Point Richmond. Bernice provided some valuable context and practical information.

When is it worth having furniture repaired?

When you love it enough to fix it. Depending on what current styles are popular, many antiques don’t have a lot of resale value so often the motivation to invest in a repair is far more about preserving the piece for sentimental value. Knowing you and your family will be able to use grandma’s favorite writing table for years to come can mean the world.

What alternatives are there to a full repair?

If the piece is useable, sometimes it makes more sense to just give them a clean up or have finishes touched-up to make them more presentable. An example would be a tabletop with some old gouges or scratches. Rather than sanding out the damage and refinishing, some touch-up of the finish over the damage is sufficient. The scratches are actually part of the character of the piece and add to its charm.

How can we best protect our furniture?

  • Don’t place items near heating vents. This accelerates the drying out of both the glues in a piece and the wood itself
  • Keep furniture out of direct sunlight; it bleaches the wood
  • Cane seating: twice a year (you can do it when the clocks change) use a water bottle to spray the underside of the cane seats with slightly warmer than warm (but not hot) water. Let air dry indoors at room temperature. This keeps the natural fiber supple and allows the fibers to tighten up.
  • Rotate area rugs and tables twice a year to allow for more even wear
  • Water rings occur when moisture gets between the wood and the finish. Finishes are slightly porous to allow the wood to move.

We’ve all seen the Antique Roadshows episodes where the appraiser tells the person how many thousands of dollars more their piece would be worth IF they hadn’t refinished it – how do you protect antiques without affecting their value?

It’s important to use period products and techniques when working on true antiques and to know when cleaning or touchup is advised over a full refinishing.

What’s the oldest piece you worked on?

A high back chair from the 2nd settlement to Jamestown from between 1608-1610. The chair had a natural reed rush seat. Really the only work it needed was a cleaning and waxing.

Bring Your Furniture Back to Life

Bring Your Furniture Back to Life

What about modern furniture?

There’s lots of decent enough solid furniture out there, even from places like Restoration Hardware. Overall though, design is compromised for the cost savings of mass production. Handcrafted furniture can last for so long, sometimes centuries, because of the detail that went into it’s construction and design.

Do you have furniture pieces you love but can’t fully use because they’re broken or fragile? Don’t let them languish in your home or garage just taking up space. Explore the resources available to bring them back to life!

 

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Marie Kondo’s Organizing Inspires Lasting Changes

Marie Kondo's book on "The Japanese Art of Tidying Up" offers fresh strategies based on spiritual principles

Marie Kondo’s book on “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” offers fresh strategies based on spiritual principles

There’s been a lot of press recently about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Considering the existing volume of self-help organizing books already out there we were curious why this book has captured people’s interest so powerfully.

The media is abuzz over it, our clients are talking about it, and after exploring it more thoroughly, we are inspired by it.

We live in a culture of consumption that really values volume. Coming from a totally different culture, Marie Kondo awakens us to a Japanese way of looking at our things. At the heart of her de-cluttering approach is the Shinto belief of animism – that objects have energy and a life force that should be acknowledged and honored.

The object of any de-cluttering method is getting rid of stuff. Kondo’s approach changes the focus of purging. Instead of analyzing objects for their functionality in our lives, she trains us to sense the energy within our possessions …and only keep those that inspire or create joy. Kondo’s technique is very spiritual and holistic – gets you out of your head and logic and into your heart and emotion. She’s asking what you want to carry forward with you in your lives.

The end result of the process is an uncluttered home and a clearer relationship with the things you own.

Key points:

  • Sort by category and order matters, start with clothes and end with memorabilia
  • Do it quickly
  • Find if the item sparks joy by holding it and sensing your body’s reaction
  • Give yourself a time limit for the entire purging process- 1 week, 3 months, 1 year…decide first how long you will take for this project
  • Do it now, don’t delay

Are you feeling inspired to try a new approach? Practice by holding an object and sense how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t spark joy, can you let it go? This exercise will get you in tune with the relationships you have with your stuff and move you towards a home you love.

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Office, Paper, Perspective, Strategies

3 Words That Will Change Your Life

Practicing DO IT NOW builds a special kind of muscle ... one you'll be proud of!
Practicing DO IT NOW builds a special kind of muscle … one you’ll be proud of!

Have you ever had a morning like this?

  • You wake up, go to make coffee but realize you’re out because you didn’t stop by Peet’s yesterday after work.
  • You have to dig out a work shirt (now wrinkled) from the pile of laundry on the couch because you didn’t feel like folding them when they came out of the dryer last night.
  • You go to do your daughter’s hair before school but there are no hair clips in the bathroom – she finally finds one on the coffee table after 5 minutes of searching.
  • At the last minute you realize you need to return a form to school – and spend 10 minutes scrambling through the last 4 piles of papers left around the house that you meant to go through.

Sounds like an easy and relaxing start to the day, right? NOT!

This is going to sound too simple but these 3 words could drastically improve the flow of your life:

DO IT NOW

The little decisions and actions you routinely delay have a cumulative effect of creating clutter…and lots of inconvenience and stress!

Here are some common areas people delay decisions and actions:

Kid memorabilia – It all seems so special. So you keep it all and because of our busy family lives, it just ends up in a heap, getting dusty and dog-eared. Once it comes home make a quick decision – does it go on display? Go straight to the memorabilia box (you have one, right?), or straight into recycling (yes, behind their back if need be)?

Junk mail – Are you in a rush when you retrieve the mail, leaving it in piles around the house, half processed? Instead of setting the fresh pile of mail down to go through later quickly extract the obvious junk mail and throw it straight into recycling. If you truly can’t get to it immediately, having one unprocessed mail-dumping station enables you (or your partner) to deal with it when you have the time to do it right.

Putting things away – If you’re passing through one room on the way to another, keep an eye out for things you can take with you and put back in their proper homes. This keeps general clutter to a minimum and prevents the need for a big chunk of time to get picked up – especially before cleaning day.

Keep the fridge fresh – How many times have you picked up a jar of something in the fridge to find it’s expired and put it right back to deal with “later” because you want to rinse it out and recycle the jar instead of just dumping it in the trash? Instead, clean out the jar right away or set the jar in the sink to be dealt with the next time dishes are done. The next time you open your fridge and find all the food inviting, you’ll thank yourself!

Weed regularly – I’ve seen many a client survey the contents of a closet or drawer saying “oh yeah, I could get rid of that” or “probably half this stuff could go…” As soon as you realize you’re never going to wear that shirt again or you really could let go of that figurine you‘ve always hated, get it into a donation bag right away. Letting potential donations accumulate in closets and drawers clogs up valuable storage space with unused clutter.

This sounds easier than it is – it takes a lot of consciousness and follow-through.

Just because we’re organizers doesn’t mean we have it all down; we have to practice at it also. But following this philosophy even some of the time will definitely make life easier.

Think of your future self – will doing it now save you headache later? Then DO IT!

Do you have a funny story of the domino effect of putting things off? Share it with us!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Memorabilia, Office, Paper, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies, Time Management

The Hidden Costs of Clutter for Women

Decluttering is good for your health!

Decluttering is good for your health!

You’re probably familiar with the notion that clutter is expensive – costing you money in buying things you already have and costing you time from inefficiency. Turns out clutter can cost you your health as well.

A recent study by researchers at UCLA’s Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) shows a link between women’s stress hormone, cortisol, and the amount of clutter in their home. According to the study:

“Mothers who use key words in their self-narrated home tours indicating that the home is messy or cluttered actually experience a higher rate of depressed mood toward evening, based on cortisol measures over a number of days.” Life At Home In The Twenty-First Century, Arnold, et. al.

The groundbreaking 4-year study looked at the living habits of 32 families with school age children in the Los Angeles area. The objective was to get a real picture of how middle-class families live.

An article and video from KCET highlights a few interesting facts from the study:

  • The United States has 3.1% of the world’s children and purchases 40% of the world’s toys
  • Our society has the most material possessions per household in global history
  • 75 percent of Angelenos are parking their cars in the streets or in the driveways and they’re using their garages as storage units
  • Family photos on display: an average of 85. Home offices: typically, over 2,000 non-paper items. Garages: 50 to 700 objects. Refrigerator doors hold an average of 52 doodads.

So what’s our take away? REDUCE THE VOLUME! Any effort you make to reduce the volume of stuff in your home will boost your mood and lower your stress level.

Meet the challenge! Grab a donation bag, see if you can fill it and drop it off this week.

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Living Room, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies