Tag Archives: basement

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.

Leave a comment

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

Tips for Maximizing Your Storage Space

Most of us have stuff in storage, whether it is in a commercial storage unit or a closet in your house, we have things to store. I figure even The Minimalists have items in storage of some sort.

How do you maximize the space you have to avoid paying monthly storage fees or to minimize the storage fees you pay by renting a smaller space?

Here are a few tips for making the most out of your storage.

First: Do a little purge

Figure out your have-to-haves as opposed to your nice-to-haves. Do you really need to keep that snowboard, if you haven’t been to the snow for 10 years? Would it be easier just to rent ski equipment if you decide to take a trip to the mountains?

Doing a purge doesn’t mean you have to go through everything you’ve been storing. Take a quick look around and see if there is anything easy to get rid of. Is there a carpet that is so stained you’ll never use it again? or are you holding onto art that you’ll never hang on your walls?

It’s not very methodical, but every item you remove makes space to see and evaluate what’s you really want to keep.

Once you have done a sweep of the items you know you won’t keep, you can go through boxes individually, but for the quick and dirty method, just rearrange the space to make full use of it.

Second: Use containers for storage

Boxes are easier to stack than small loose items. Whenever possible, box and label items that can be stacked or put on shelves. Clear plastic tubs are great because you can easily see what’s inside.

Third: Maximize the use of the space

Use vertical space, add shelves, use rollers or wheels under things to make things moveable. These rolling metal shelves come in different sizes.  The shelf heights can be customized. Find them at Home Depot, Costco, The Container Store and even on Amazon.

These plastic shelves are inexpensive and easy to move around.


Fourth: Arrange the room

Packing the room according to your access needs is essential. Group items toward the front that need to be accessible…even if they aren’t exactly in the same category. For example, you might need access to your summer equipment more often than your Aunt Gertrude’s ashes (yes, we find those in storage units.) Seasonal items take priority over memorabilia.

Consider whether you need walkways to get to things or can items be put on rolling shelves and stack the shelves right next to each other – knowing you can roll them out to get to the back.

Fifth: Label

In addition to labeling any boxes and tubs it can be useful to label whole shelving units or zones within the space.

Tip: Use shelving on wheels so you can roll things out and get access to items in the back…instead of having to unpack the whole unit to get to something at the back wall.

Tip: Use as much vertical space as possible. Shelving enables that but if what you’re storing doesn’t make sense to store on shelves such as rolled carpets, framed pictures or skis, see if you can hang things on the walls or from the ceiling using brackets or hooks.

Handy items to keep in your storage unit:

  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Labels and/or blue tape
  • Large magic markers/sharpies
  • Box cutters/scissors

What to bring with you when you go to visit your storage:

  • Storage unit keys and access code
  • Camera/phone for inventorying
  • Toolkit with battery operated drill
  • Brackets/hooks
  • Sturdy plastic bins or boxes with lids

Remember to balance the true value of your items against the ongoing cost of storage Most likely, you are paying $1200 a year to store these items in a commercial storage facility.  You might intend to have items in storage for a short time, but statistics show that we keep things in storage much longer than originally planned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garage, General Organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies

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.

Leave a comment

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

Fear Factor: Gross and Scary Spaces

Halloween conjures up images of ghosts, death and hidden fears. The hidden (or not so hidden) fears of many of our clients is what holds them back from tackling organizing projects.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll cover the most common fears and how best to banish them…or at least make them manageable!

Fear #1: The “Ick” Factor

cobweb 1

Could you offer your attic/basement/garage as a haunted house for Halloween? The dark corners, dangerous obstacles, cobwebs (& spiders!), even foul evidence of other furry critters visits. Let’s face it – not many of us relish the thought of digging through the “ick” necessary to get some storage spaces de-cluttered. Often though, the fear of the ick outweighs the actual reality of what you’ll encounter.

  • Work in a well-lit space. If the space doesn’t have it’s own good lighting add in some temporary clamp-style work lights so you can actually see into the corners and what you’re dealing with (though that may scare you more).
  • Come armed with safety and cleaning supplies. The arsenal: disposable plastic gloves or kitchen dish gloves, dust masks, heavy duty garbage bags, broom, dustpan.
  • Don’t fear the beasts. If rodent droppings are present it’s important to NOT sweep them up dry. Vacuum them up and/or spray the area with a light bleach-water solution then wipe them up and throw away. If you’re lucky enough that the creature causing the mess has also chosen to expire in your space, kitchen tongs wrapped in paper towels make a nice way to transfer the body into your heavy duty trash bag. If you don’t find the critter you may need to set traps or call in a professional exterminator.
  • Be ready to unload. Once you get going, lot’s of scary things are going to be released from your space: hazardous waste, dead compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries, scrap metal, re-useable hardware and building supplies. Have some dedicated boxes or bags ready and do your research ahead of time to know where to take different kinds of items (your local organizer will know all the spots, just ask!). Make space in your car ahead of time so the boxes don’t sit around for months.

Next up…tackling those scary, complex papers that make the bottom of your stomach drop!

1 Comment

Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, home organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Clutter = Gratitude?

Toy clutter is just one component of a too full house

Toy clutter is just one component of a too-full house

As kids move forward through life they leave in their wake a plethora of disposed, outgrown, and cast-off objects:

  • Too small clothes and toys
  • Sport and hobby equipment from past interests
  • Art and school memorabilia

Often we see these things cluttering up closets, rooms, garages and attics. We see families struggling with feelings of overwhelm trying to stay abreast of the flow of incoming kid stuff. We see these objects triggering feelings of nostalgia and sadness  in older parents whose kids have moved on to their own lives.

Next time you’re tripping over last season’s soccer cleats, take time to be grateful for what has been and what is to come.

How do you hold in tandem the perspective that all that kid clutter is a pain to deal with but is also a sign of abundance, a trail of a rich life?

Although the negative effects of clutter are evident, there is another perspective as well.  The whole reason for our “stuff” is to facilitate our lives.  These things are evidence of a rich and varied life – active family members, interest in the outside world, and an engagement in the learning process, for example. They are signs of the ability to provide for our families.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, take time to acknowledge the gifts that come with the clutter.  And, then ask your grown kids to take some of the stuff out of their old bedrooms.

Leave a comment

Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Memorabilia, Perspective

Making the Most of an Empty Nest

Your children have flown the coop.  What do you do with what they've left behind?

Your children have flown the coop. What do you do with what they’ve left behind?

Once your child is truly launched into the world as an independent adult, the challenges and opportunities of being an empty nester arise.

 Challenges:
  • how to make them feel welcome in the home without keeping their room untouchable – a shrine
  • how to set up the space so it can be used when they aren’t there but easily host their visits
  • what to do with memorabilia – what to display vs. store vs. jettison
  • what to do with useable but unneeded items in general

Opportunities:

  • Create new space to re-purpose for hobbies, exercise, guests
  • Provide extra income by renting out space
  • Help your child transition into adulthood. Re-defining “their room” re-inforces the idea that they are creating their own lives.
  • Re-claiming “their” room for general use reinforces their autonomy

 

Clearing out space helps you to take stock of the memories and the gifts you shared with your offspring.  You can step back and appreciate the work you put into being the best parent or caretaker that you could be.  What you’re left with is discerning what you own, what you want to use the space for and what new adventures might await you with this opening.

So how do you go about it?

  • If possible, have a conversation with your kid to discern what’s important to them and invite them into the process
  • If you can’t imagine tackling the whole room at once, can you approach one drawer, one closet, or one corner of the garage
  • Think of who else can get benefit from outgrown soccer shoes or an unused weight set.  You can pass on these outgrown tools of parenting to someone who could use the boost.
  • Be kind to yourself and take your time. The emotional impact of this change can be daunting and those emotions can slow the process

This isn’t usually a “fun” process, but going through it to the other side can open up new avenues for bringing in richness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Empty Nest, General Organizing, Kids, Strategies

Where Do You Start?

alt text

Lost in a forest of clutter and tasks? Don’t despair!

Ever get that “lost in the forest” feeling when facing starting a project or thinking about all the things you have to do? We lose perspective and feel overwhelmed because we get lost in the details. Suddenly every task feels urgent and it isn’t clear where to start or how anything will ever get done.

  • Example: I need to submit my vacation request to work for the next 2 months by the end of the week, my kids have 2 different soccer schedules, the school calendar, my husband travels for work and has mileage points expiring soon that we want to use for a vacation – where do I start?

 1. Establish a timeframe to evaluate

Do you need to figure out what to do in the next hour or are you trying to figure out a much larger project? How far back do you need to step to get the perspective that will help you move forward?

Large scale time: what kind of life events are coming up? Graduations? Births? Changing schools? Moves? Small scale time: the next half hour, or the current day, or this week.

There’s no one right answer for every person – it’s individual to each person and the situation you’re trying to work on.

  • Start here: The most important time frame is between now and when the mileage points expire; then the time frame that the request covers – the next 2 months.

 2. Decide what your immediate goal is.

Once you narrow your timeframe, think through what the main goal is for that timeframe. What is most important to you?

  • Start here: Figure out if a vacation is even possible before the points expire, given the family schedule constraints.

3. Decide which tasks are most important to achieve the goal

Brainstorm a list of all the steps to get to the goal. Then identify which ones are most important to do and decide what order makes sense. The result should tell you exactly what your next steps are!

  •  Start here:
  1. Print out or view a calendar of the timeframe in question
  2. Eliminate any days that have kids’ soccer or husband’s work commitments
  3. Review school calendars for possible holidays/commitments during the timeframe
  4. Review available days to decide which would work best for vacation. Confirm with husband.
  5. Complete and submit vacation request
  6. Start planning vacation!

 

2 Comments

Filed under General Organizing, Strategies