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Organizing Kids’ Memories

Organizing Kids’ Memories

All those school projects, papers, and awards are everywhere, and you can’t find it in your heart to let them go.

Organizing kids’ memories lets you declutter your life and enjoy those mementos better. I will show you how.

First, gather all your children’s projects, artwork, school papers, trophies, awards, and the like. Go through every space, drawer, closet, and room in your home. Leave no space unchecked. Take all this kid-related stuff to a single place in your home to collect them together.

However, stay hyper-focused during this gathering process. Don’t get distracted by other things you might find. Your focus is crucial! Getting distracted is what trips people through this process, and then they get confused and can’t finish half the job.

You will have many miscellaneous items once this material is in one place. Now subdivide this big pile by child (if you have two or more children).

After having a separate pile for each of your children, sort each one by year.

When you can’t recall the year of this creation, assign some chronological order as best as you can.

You will have several groups of items per each of your children. Now follow the steps described below for each year per child. You must work on one group (year or stage) for one child at a time.

Horseshoe child's art creation

Photograph Non-Scannable Items

Take good pictures of everything other than paper, like artwork pieces, medals, trophies, etc. As you take each photo, include a post-it note with the child’s name and the item’s date.

Place this post note at the bottom of each article so you can crop it out of the picture later.

Then, when ready to work on a project with these pictures (like a photo book or scrapbook), crop the note out if you can tag or caption the image.

If taking pictures of these items suffice, you can let go of the physical object.

When dealing with trophies, medals, and awards that are necessary keeps, find a suitable location in the home where you can gather and display these items in a cohesive, aesthetic way. You want these things to look intentional within your home..

The Written Work 

Group items related to written work like stories, poems, analyses, and the like. The idea for these is to make binders or books later on. But, for now, organize the material to create these books later.

The “Warm & Fuzzy” Box

Regardless of your most ruthless efforts to eliminate clutter, there might be a few (a few) small items that you or your child can’t simply let go of, even when you have them in digital form as well. That’s where the “Warm & Fuzzy” box comes in.

Everyone should have a “warm & fuzzy” box, by the way. This is a nice-looking box, basket, or container with a lid that includes items we keep forever. Those items take us back in time, making us laugh and cry every time.

Therefore, it is crucial to be selective with what we include here. Not everything makes it to the coveted “warm & fuzzy” box material status. Remember that!Kid's art

Paper and Flat Media

Loose papers, awards, recognitions, messages, etc., on paper, are scannable media. As you do this, name the electronic file with the child’s name and the year they made it. This process is equivalent to the Post-it notes you applied to items photographed.
Scan everything using your printer/scanner, iPhone, or any equipment you might have or can purchase. This equipment is not that expensive anymore. However, having a reliable scanner at home would be an excellent investment.
Stories, poems, essays, and other items you put together to make binders or books (step 3) should be digitized, ensuring a safe record. If you do, ensure that pages of the same item remain together in sequential order.
You will manage the scanned material like you did with the pictures. So, think of each scanned paper or project as a digital image comparable to the photos.

Rinse and Repeat

Once you finish working with all the mementos of a child’s years, repeat the process with each of your other children, working a year or a stage at a time.

In my case, we have three children, and for each one, I divided their electronic files into four main stages: infancy, elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Note that pictures or souvenirs from extra-curricular activities and summers get included in one of these four stages, depending on the year.

Create Digital Files

Download all the photos you took of non-scannable items into an electronic file. You could name this file “Kids’ Projects” or something like that.

Then, create a file folder per child and move every picture related to a particular child into their electronic folder. After this, you may subdivide each child’s electronic folder into years, stages, or any way you want to do this.

Remember to add all images from your scanning process to your digital folders.

From Now On

When you gather all those projects, awards, and papers from around the home, consider it a clean slate and a new beginning. Pay attention to how you manage your children’s documents, projects, and awards. The key is to stay on top of things. Here’s how you do that.

Every day, when kids come home from school or extra-curricular activities

  • Note important dates and deadlines and place those dates on the family calendar.
  • Post any school reminders for your children on a magnetic or chalkboard where they can see them every morning. 
  • Discard those notes or papers. Those are the miscellaneous papers you tossed in Step 1 above.

The Artwork

When children bring home artwork pieces, trophies, medals, and other non-flat items:

  • Photograph these as soon as they get home (so they look their best and you don’t forget to do this). 
  • Save these pictures in the child’s electronic file. Name the file with the child’s name and year. 
  • Add subsequent art projects during that year to that same file.
  • Create a new file with the child’s name and year every year. 

You or your child might want to display such an item for a while. That’s great! Just ensure you place this item in that particular location you designated for this kind of thing. But, again, you don’t want their projects to look or feel like clutter.

In any case, taking those pictures early on gives you and your kids the freedom to let go of the item after displaying it for some time.

The Paper

Scan all paper items and flat media such as report cards, academic evaluations, school pictures, stories, essays, and poems as soon as they come home.

If you can’t process these items immediately, park these papers in a bin close to the scanner and assign a day of the week or the month in your calendar (yes, do it now!) to periodically scan them. Of course, discard originals as soon as you digitize them. But should you need to keep it, place it in a file with the child’s name in your filing cabinet.

Now You Tell The Story

It’s a lot of work, I know. But consider that all this work needs to be done just at the beginning of the project because you did not have a method to deal with all this stuff. So, once you follow the initial process, you only need to stay on top of it. 

But why do all of this in the first place? First, this solves the overwhelming number of papers and artifacts cluttering our home space. Second, this process allows you to have all that worth-keeping material organized and ready to create meaningful stories of each stage of your children’s lives. 

Telling a story is the real purpose of keeping all these projects, pictures, and awards. Having all those papers and items with no order all over the house does not tell any story nor inspire anyone to create one. This material is meaningless when scattered around or carelessly stored in a bin somewhere. 

On the other hand, memories in book form, like photo books, are easy to keep neatly on a shelf or library and are a joy to share. Our children will be able to see and enjoy their path through life and share this fantastic legacy with friends, family, and their children.

Also, imagine the storage space you will recover when you let go of physical items and original papers! However, you might think throwing all that away is what you do not want to do. But how often has anybody enjoyed those things since you put them away? Is there space in your home to display them all? Are they all worth exhibiting? Do you want your home to look like a kindergarten classroom? 

When your child created a project, you displayed it for about a week. But eventually, that project and so many others started cluttering your home and your life. So, this way of purposely and intentionally working with your children’s stuff will take you where you want to be.

Looking Beneath Your Need to Keep the Stuff

If you feel it is too hard to let go of those physical objects and original papers, even when they are safely digitized, what you are trying to keep is the feelings they evoke. It is not about the item itself.

Images of these items can still satisfy those feelings without drowning you in “stuff.” Instead, having these memories accessibly organized enables everyone to enjoy and share them for many years.

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

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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 proper backup, rhyme, or theme. Therefore, what’s your story? Let’s discover this by organizing pictures.

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 Begin

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.

Photo organizing | Picture organization

1. Gather all print pictures

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

Remember 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 those hard copies might be the only ones. You should use a product like Un-Du to ensure album page 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 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.

Old framed pictures | Picture organizing3. Sort pictures by year

Gather all those loose pictures and classify them by year (and, if possible, month). If it is impossible to pinpoint the year, start with a decade. Then, after establishing the chronological order, sort them by event if this is an important criterion.

4. Store pictures in 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, and 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 makes sense. 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. 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 should 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 contact a member of APPO. They will be sure to help with this. But, more importantly, they will offer a white glove, a personal experience you won’t find anywhere else.

7. Other media to digitizeWhat's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

If you find videos, reels, negatives, and slides while searching for all your scattered, loose-print pictures, you also want to digitize them! In this case, you need professional help.

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!) 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 (iPads, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and others) with your scanned images (prints scanned). Remember pictures in Shutterfly, iCloud, and other places where you might have shared photos.

9. Back up the mess!

Yes, you want to back up all that mess before organizing 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.

11. Eliminate duplicates

You might expect to find several copies of the same digital pictures. Some apps that simplify removing duplicates 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 photo backup systems are external hard drives and the Cloud.

Photo Organization by My Space Reclaimed, LLC

14. Discard original prints (wait, what?)

Yes! 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 printed photos go by sending some to others appearing in the images, such as friends or family members with an interest in them.

Okay, this is the Organizer speaking. Experts in photo preservation and photo organization will tell you how you can (and should) preserve your print pictures. Their information is extensive. I will limit myself to saying 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.
  • Use special acid-free, lignin-free, archival-safe, and photo-safe boxes to preserve your prints adequately.
  • Should you 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. Digitize print pictures as soon as possible. For a one-time scanning of an image 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 even more, especially if you lack time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help! In addition, some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.