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This Is My Story

This Is My Story

My paternal family in 1939 (my father is the little boy on the front!)

This Is My Story

It has taken me about ten years, but I just finished scanning family photos dating back to 1919! Pictures are my thing. After my parents’ death, I called everyone I knew and held an open house where everyone was free to get whatever they pleased from home. 

My parents were well-known, much loved, and deeply respected people. There was never a doubt in my mind that their possessions too were to be deeply cherished.

There was only one exception to this free-for-all opportunity: nobody could touch a single picture. Those were the only things I valued, wanted, and needed. Photographs were utterly off-limits.

Picture Overload

My father loved documenting everything and everyone in our lives. As a result, there was a room full of photo albums in my parents’ home. Dad always ordered duplicate photos to gift to every person that had the good fortune of appearing in any of his pictures (as in everyone we knew!).

When the time came to move the photo albums, the cost of this adventure was over $2,000. But the process of selecting the pictures to best represent our life history together was impossible to rush. I knew this, and I paid that money with joy.

A Longer Process Than Anticipated

For many months, those photo albums were all over around our formal living room that had remained unfurnished since we moved in. There were over 400 photo albums! 

As time went by, I selected the photos that meant the most to me and created brand-new albums with them. Then, some months later, we built our new media room, and we made specific cabinets just for these photo albums. 

I started scanning all those pictures at a rate of about one album a month. Then, I classified albums by year, which helped me create digital folders. Finally, I organized all my scanned photos that way in electronic format. 

And yes, I discarded all those albums and all those prints once these were scanned and safely backed up.

Tears, Joy, Laughter, Memories

The process was deeply emotional, intense, and satisfying. I saw things I’d never seen before. For example, I saw my twin sisters, who died shortly after birth for the first time. I had no idea there was a single picture of them!

Like that, I went through every facet of the emotional spectrum with pictures of relatives and friends, young and old, dead and alive, reviving the many adventures we had as a tribe. And so many stories came back to me while others came alive for the first time. People, parties, music, dance, meetings, joy, food, drinks, and laughter continuously filled my parents’ home.

Oh Wait, There’s More!

As soon as the prints were all scanned, I remembered my neglected box of slides and movies. The slides numbered over 3,000. I knew of specific, cherished moments of my life in those slides. 

The scanning process was labor-intensive but easy. However, the emotional voyage was something else.

Telling The Story

So after about ten years (I can’t believe this took me so long!), I finally finished scanning and organizing all those pictures and slides electronically by year. 

I enjoyed sharing some of these pictures with very special people from our past along this journey. I have discovered that images grab people’s hearts and make unforgettable and deeply appreciated gifts. So many relationships from the past resurfaced! This process touched many hearts.

These days, pictures live inside our phones or in less than carefully maintained photo albums. But unfortunately, they do not tell a story that way. Our kids don’t know about our childhood and youthful adventures. It is hard for them to grasp that we were once their age, with insecurities, excitement, drama, romance, and stupidity, just like them! 

However, reconnecting with our past brings all that emotion, color, adventure, and joy to our present. And guess what? It turns out our children are the most excited cheerful consumers of these stories.

Knowing our family history makes us more resilient as human beings. Pictures are invaluable to the process of recounting our stories. We need only to listen with the heart for a moment.

So that is my story. What’s yours?

My Best Client Sessions Are In The Bathroom

My Best Client Sessions Are In The Bathroom

One way or another I tend to end up having my best client sessions in the bathroom.  It is interesting (and sometimes hysterical) how consistently and naturally this happens! Let me explain.

There is a lot to be explored about how people use their space and how they move around. As an Organizer, it is important for me to retrace the clients’ steps throughout their space and understand their routines to see areas of opportunities to improve their systems and their lives. Only by retracing my clients’ steps and moving in their spaces the way they do or having them show me how that happens, can I best notice their roadblocks to efficiency or where their systems fail. This is how amazing solutions come to life.

When clients understand the importance of this, they get on board. Sometimes they get so excited, they take me by the hand and want to show me how they do virtually everything around the house. So, even though this happens all over the house, the fact is that most of the time we end up in the bathroom!  

And We End Up In The Bathroom

One example of a bathroom meeting is about the shower caddy. I personally have always been against typical shower caddies that we hang on showerheads. With those, you would have the water streaming in your face while you reach out for your products. Do you shower facing the shower or with your back to the water stream?

It seems this is a debate comparable to which is the correct way to install the toilet paper roll. If you don’t like the traditional shower caddy, for example, you will need a different solution. Maybe the corner tension pole with baskets is for you. But wait! What if you have high or vaulted ceilings or crown moldings in the bathroom ceiling? There might be unforeseen challenges, but I will always find a solution! It is important that we walk the walk together. 

As an Organizer, the right way will be the way that my clients prefer. But whatever that way might be, being aware of how they move around and use their space allows me to see where I can improve their systems or suggest alternatives to make life easier. 

This Truly Happened

Oh… but timing and context can make this really interesting! I can’t help but recount one of these bathroom adventures. 

A man called me once to help him develop systems, especially in relation to his clothes, bathroom, and laundry routines. This was a very interesting multi-level, high profile, bachelor’s apartment. Because he needed systems in those areas, it was important to explore his routine and habits regarding his clothes. We started the tour of the place and eventually made our way to the third story, where his major area of concern was; the closet/bathroom area. Sure enough, as fate would have it, his girlfriend arrived in time just to hear me say: “Would you like to undress in the bedroom instead of here in the bathroom? Luckily, she knew her boyfriend had hired a Professional Organizer. She was absolutely gracious. Then we started talking about where she would undress! The system needed to work for both, after all.

I love my job! Although every case is different, it seems like we always end up discussing productivity and efficiency in the bathroom, though.

Your Digital Afterlife – Do You Have A Plan?

Your Digital Afterlife – Do You Have A Plan?

Your digital afterlife or your online presence after death is something people don’t think much about, even less have a plan for it. The concept of digital presence after death has been a discussion popping up more and more with Professional Organizers over the past several years. If someone passes or is incapacitated, life around them still goes on, and things need to happen -whether paying the mortgage and cell phone bill or contacting the insurance company.

Every day, our online presence becomes more a part of how we do business and interact with others. When the person-in-the-know is no longer in control of those accounts, it is not as simple as opening up a drawer in a desk and knowing what comes next.

It’s Not Always That Obvious

Some things are not necessarily obvious when someone passes away:

  • What should happen to the various social media accounts? Google has an “inactive account manager,” Facebook has “Legacy Contact,” and Twitter has a policy that family members can utilize. But it would be best if you planned for these. And what about the sites that do not have policies at all?
  • Are all their digital photos in a cloud account? Who owns what in terms of those pictures? How can a family member access these after the death of a loved one?
  • How about the iTunes library? Amazon Kindle Library? (Did you know you do not own these and cannot transfer them?)
  • What happens with email accounts? What should happen to old emails? Who can access the account?
  • Can someone even get into the laptop, the computer, the phone?

Our Turn

I am the person in charge of paying the bills at home. So I started cataloging accounts, passwords, and details about payments processes. I created a living document that evolves and needs real-time upkeeping.

My husband and I both have a list called “in the event of my death,” which describes the steps, in sequential order, to handle everything in case one of us dies. For example: “People to personally contact before posting the news on social media” or “How to handle social media accounts,” and “What to post to professional networks.”

This file is protected and backed up, and my husband knows where to find it and how to open it. But there’s more to ensure that the backup executors know about this file and how to access it.

Where To Start?

An excellent place to start gathering a list of items you should be tracking is GYST. GYST or “Get Your S___ Together,” is a great website to help you think about organizing all aspects of planning for death, not just digital details.

Digital Beyond has a robust list of online companies in the market for managing post-death information. Many of these companies can help you store the information that you are gathering. Digital Beyond also maintains a list of states that have enacted laws related to digital estate management. They also offer sample legal language for you to include in your Power of Attorney or Wills to address control issues.

Your Afterlife Plan Needs Maintenance

This process isn’t something you do once and leave aside. It requires essential upkeep:

  • Update the passwords if you’ve changed them (This is assuming you’re not using a password management system that records changes automatically)
  • Add new accounts as you open them and delete those you close
  • Make sure that the people who need to know where this information is, know how to access it

A Conversation That Should Not Wait

The online presence after death isn’t just a topic for addressing with aging parents; this is something that impacts everyone at some point or another. Therefore, it is rather urgent to have plans of this nature if these don’t exist.

Please do not wait until it is too late and do not delay this conversation, as unpleasant as it can be. It is in your best interest (and the interest of yours), to make these plans thoroughly and on time.

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

What’s Your Story?

Generation Y (The Millennials), and Generation Z, are the most photographed people in history. Yet, these individuals see their pictures the least in the context of their life history. Why? Because everyone takes millions of images that remain in their iPhones forever, without any proper backup, rhyme, or theme. Therefore, what’s your story? Let’s discover this by organizing pictures.

But Why?

Many people struggle with clutter and find loose pictures from years past, gathering dust, disorganized, among many unrelated documents, or stacked in plastic bags in the most unimaginable places.

But knowing our life stories and family history gives us resilience and enhances our self-esteem. Pictures tell our stories. Pictures are important. We need to provide those photographs with the respect and importance they deserve.

Let’s Do This!

But how do we reconcile the forgotten past (printed pictures in plastic bags) with the high-speed present (images hidden in our iPhones) to make them come alive and tell our stories? First, we need to organize the pictures!

So, here’s a detailed guide for you to organize all your pictures. Let’s begin.Picture organization 300x225 - What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

1. Gather all print pictures

Find these pictures all around the house, office, car, and relative’s homes. You might want to undergo a thorough home organization process of your home to start (this is how we find most pictures!). 

Do not forget to round up all those old photo albums and scrapbooks. Photo albums are rarely ever complete or coherent. Include all your framed prints; displayed and hidden in closets and drawers. Gather them all. 

2. Remove prints from frames and photo albums

Remove all those pictures from albums and scrapbooks because chances are those hard copies are the only ones in existence. You might want to use a product like Un-Du to ensure album pages glue does not ruin the pictures while removing these.

Remove all pictures from their frames. Let these frames go by donating or discarding them. Place all empty frames you wish to keep in a box or bin. This box shall live wherever you keep additional home décor items. A hallway closet is an excellent place to store these things. Removing pictures from frames and merging those pictures with the others allows you to effectively preserve them without the added bulk of these frames that probably do not work for your space any longer and in the context of the story you are telling.

Consider that once your pictures are safe in digital form, you can easily decide what images might enhance your walls or surfaces. Then, you can choose the best sizes to print those pictures and get a similar collection of frames that will be compatible with your home décor and the picture grouping. In the meantime, your goal is to have all your pictures safe in digital form and a chronological context.

Picture Organization Tells The Story 1 300x200 - What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures3. Sort pictures by year

Gather all those loose pictures and classify them by year (and, if possible, by month). If not possible to precise the year, start with a decade then. Then, after establishing the chronological order, sort by them by event, if this is an important criterion.

4. Store pictures in plastic bags

Divide and store pictures in plastic bags (for the moment, plastic is not suitable for photos in the long term) and place your labeled bags (with the year) in a bin or a box that will ONLY contain pictures grouped in this way. 

5. Digitize all prints

Photos are an essential category to digitize. Having all pictures in digital form has the following benefits

  • To have all of your images in one single format so that they can complete the story
  • To enhance and repair pictures
  • To use the photos in projects such as crafts, photo books, scrapbooks, imprint them on mugs, blankets, or other gifts
  • To intentionally select images to display at home or office 
  • To control the size and format to show your enhanced pictures
  • To change your display as often as you like
  • To share all of your images online with everyone 

So, create electronic folders in your computer according to the year, event, family, or person – Whichever way makes sense to you. But these files will be the framework of your project.

To digitize your pictures, you may get the equipment to do this yourself, send your photos to one of the many companies that offer the service, or contact a Professional Organizer to help you with this. Some organizers belong to the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO).

6. Evaluate photo editing needs 

At this point in the process, you should evaluate if any of your print pictures should undergo a restoration process or other kinds of editing.

For simple editing, you might want to get one of the many software programs available such as Adobe Photoshop, Mylio, Forever, Historian, Google Photos, Flickr, and Shutterfly.

However, if your pictures need restoration, you should probably contact a member of APPO. They will be sure to help with this. But, more importantly, they will offer a white glove, personal experience you won’t find anywhere else.

7. Other media to digitizePicture Organization Tells The Story 2 300x200 - What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

If you find videos, reels, negatives, and slides while searching for all your scattered, loose print pictures, you want to digitize them as well! In this case, chances are you need professional help. Again, APPO professionals can help you. You can also opt to use the services of companies that will convert all that media into digital files and return that along with the original material. Just Google the service you need, and many options will show up.

In my case, I had to scan pictures and slides. I bought a $30 “contraption” (LOL – love that word!) that allowed me to stabilize the iPhone and slides. I also purchased a $29 app (Photomyne) to scan and optimize these slides. The process was time-consuming but straightforward.

8. Combine them all!

Combine the photos from all digital sources you have (iPad, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and others) with your scanned photos (prints scanned). Do not forget pictures in Shutterfly, iCloud, and other places you might have shared photos to in the past. 

9. Back up the mess! 

Yes, you want to back up all that mess before you even organize it. You do not want to risk losing any of it.

10. Organize the new digital collection

Once all your pictures are in digital format, it is time to prepare digital folders by year and month within each year (or whatever criteria you wish to use) to organize all those pictures. 

Picture organization 300x225 - What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

11. Eliminate duplicates

 It is common to have several copies of the same digital pictures. Some apps that make getting rid of duplicates easy are Duplicate Photos Fixer ProQuick Photo Finder for Windows, and Duplicate Sweeper.

12. Rename photos in a consistent manner

Rename all pictures in your digital file once prints have been scanned and merged with your other digital images. You want to have the images free of duplicates before you rename them. 

 

Consistency is the name of the game to rename the pictures coherently. Here are some examples of ways to rename the collections: 

  • YYY-MM-DD-Event
  • Event-YYY-MM-DD
  • Surname-Last Name, First Name

13. Backup again

Avoid losing your life story by employing two or more backup systems for the pictures once these are organized. The most common backup systems for photos are external hard drives and the Cloud. 

14. Discard original prints

Once the process is complete, you can discard the prints. When you digitize your print pictures and toss originals, you recover all the space these take. You can let prints photos go by sending some to others appearing in the images, friends, or family members with interest in them.

Okay, this is the Organizer speaking. Experts in the field of photo preservation and photo organization will tell you about the many ways in which you can (and should) preserve your print pictures as well. Their information is extensive. I will limit myself to say that if you wish to keep your print pictures consider two things:

  • Your entire collection comprises the print photos (now digital) and the pictures initially in digital format. Preserving the prints will only tell part of the story. The complete story lives in your newly created digital collection.
  • To adequately preserve your prints, use special boxes that are acid-free, lignin-free, archival safe, and photo safe.
  • Should you wish to create photo albums or scrapbooks, use copies of the prints so the originals remain safe in the specialty boxes. Although a better alternative would be to create photo books, you only need the digital photos, and you can include comments and narratives that help tell the story much better.

15. Have a system moving forward

From this point on, have a system designed to quickly, efficiently, and systematically incorporate all new pictures taken (let’s say, every month) into your primary digital collection, adequately labeled, following the rest of the collection’s scheme. Keep in mind pictures you get as print only, should be transferred to digital as soon as possible. For a one-time scanning of a picture or two, any average printer these days might get the job done. Avoid gaps in your story!

Happy Storytelling!

The digitizing process can be daunting and the organizing part of it even more, especially if you don’t have the time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help! In addition, some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.

 

Professional Organizer Vs. Mari Kondo

Professional Organizer Vs. Mari Kondo

What This Is About

It has taken me an excessive amount of time to write this piece. I had allowed the cloud of dust to settle. In the meantime, I have been learning about the subject, filling in the information gaps where I deemed appropriate. So here is what I’ve got on Professional Organizer Vs. Mari Kondo.

The way I see it, Mari Kondo helps you get rid of the clutter and teaches you how to fold your shirts and underwear in a very particular way. Still, her method is not about professional organization. Some KonMari certified consultants are Professional Organizers. But following the KonMari process alone is not enough to call someone a Professional Organizer.

The Need That Each Serves

Please do not take me wrong. I’m not at war with Mari Kondo. On the contrary. I think she brings a lot of attention and value to our industry. But having said that, she serves a specific portion of the market. What she does is not equivalent to what a Professional Organizer does.

If you need to declutter your space, you can choose between the KonMari method or a Professional Organizer. However, if you want to find the root cause of your disorganization and need systems to maintain the order to go forward, you need a Professional Organizer. Unfortunately, Mari Kondo can’t help you there.

Let me present a couple of criteria to compare how the KonMari method differs from the Professional Organizer’s approach.

Scope and Focus

Organizers typically follow a method that involves evaluating, classifying, purging, allocating, containerizing, and labeling spaces. As part of this process, they emphasize improving the productivity of the client and the efficiency of the space. To achieve that, Organizers implement systems and processes. 

On the other hand, the KonMari method focuses on decluttering the home using the classification of items. Her process does not address the organizing details. Indeed, Mari Kondo does not focus on systems or processes to enhance the efficiency of the space or maintain the order achieved.

Ideal Clientele

Mari Kondo does not address the root cause of disorganization in a home or a person’s life. Therefore, it is logical to presume that her process does not work for people whose clutter problem is “not about the stuff.”  Should these individuals follow the KonMari method, the chances are that shortly after, they will be cack on square one. 

Organizers train in a wide variety of areas to best help their clients. Therefore, it is essential to look for that Organizer best suited to each person’s needs. A good Professional Organizer seeks to find out the root cause of the problem, transfers skills, and designs systems to make their client’s life easier.

Aesthetic Value and Design

The KonMari method emphasizes reusing what the client has available to organize and containerize the client’s items after decluttering. The process expressly avoids the purchase of containers and systems. Not buying additional equipment or supplies could be an advantage when considering project costs. However, things have changed recently with the new merge between Mari Kondo and The Container Store. 

Nevertheless, as humans, we are more inclined to maintain the organization of areas that look neat and that are pleasing to the eye. An organized place should be decluttered and functional but also aesthetically pleasing. An organizing design does not need expensive organizing products to look fantastic. However, it requires careful consideration of style and form. And random repurposed containers might not achieve great-looking results.

Room by Room Vs. Categories 

One of the fundamental KonMari principles is organizing the whole house using a process based on categories, placing together all items from the same type to evaluate them at once. Some see this method as more definite, fast, and conclusive than organizing room by room.

But Professional Organizers agree with the organizing by categories! One hundred percent! We all want to place similar items together before the client decides what to keep. The difference lies in what happens next with each category once the client has decided what to keep. 

Organizers Go Further

Organizers take it a step further, clarifying the purpose of each room to assign items to their logical place. But yes, we completely agree-this should be a whole-house approach. 

And the whole-house approach is inevitable anyway. People love to spread their things all over the home, regardless of item type or home space purpose. So, we need to search the whole house to bring together all items in the various categories.

Once And For All?

As they say, the KonMari process is a “once and for all solution.” But organizing is a life skill. There are habits to be learned and exercised throughout our lives to keep an organized space. 

The order does not magically happen “once and for all.” People change, fail, recover, let go, and come back. We are more complex than “once and for all.” Without addressing disorganization’s root causes and the human condition, how can anyone sustain the “once and for all” claim?

When clients work with a Professional Organizer who shows them how much easier life can be by using the “logical place for things” and the “one home per category of items” approach, they usually adopt new habits.

In Conclusion

We are not opposed to the KonMari method – it works in specific situations and for a particular type of client. However, people should understand the fundamental differences between the KonMari way and what Professional Organizers do. 

It is time that people in need of professional organization services stop thinking they don’t need a Professional Organizer because they read the KonMari book. Those who truly need a Professional Organizer will see no progress with the KonMari method. On the other hand, people who do not grapple with disorganization or any underlying clutter situation will be happy, experiencing joy with what they keep and gratefully saying goodbye to their discards.


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