Archive for the ‘Photo Organizing’ Category

What to do with your stuff when later becomes now

Posted by

When it comes to the stuff in our homes, I believe a  continuum exists between two points  –  keep everything and save nothing. Most people fall somewhere in between.  Yes, there are extremes at both ends – those with a tendency to acquire an excessive amount and those with an equally extreme tendency to rid themselves of anything of value, sentimental or otherwise. But for most people, myself included, we all have sentimental attachments.

The other day I was wandering through my home and thinking about what I absolutely had to keep if I ever had to make the choice. As a professional organizer, it’s an exercise I practice regularly as a way to empathize with my clients.

It turned out the things I really felt strongly about were the items I have the most sentimental attachment to.  None of it was furniture, thankfully.  Mostly letters from my parents and close friends that could never be replaced. Photographs (the paper kind) from my childhood and “keepsakes” that I don’t need but that don’t take up much space either. I also have some written work that would be difficult to replace unless I took the time to scan it and for me, that’s not worth my time.

My husband has a box of important stuff related to his daughter, my step-daughter. And of course, I have a small  “treasure box” of memorabilia from our life together.

The only time I know I would go through this stuff is if I were moving or downsizing. Otherwise it stays hidden, for the most part.   But what does it mean not to have these things? Would it feel like my life had ended? What happens when you keep things with the intention of looking at them later and then find later is now?

Even if it comes unexpectedly, now should be when you get to re-read the letters, sort through the photos, recall the memories and maybe even tell the stories.  But now is often competing with time itself. The house has to be sold. The move has to happen. The remodel is about to start.  Sometimes, sadly, the owner of these things is no longer around for the task.

As an organizer, this is the most poignant part of my work; When I realize the meaning of that photo, award or stuffed animal toy only exists because of the person who imparted that meaning.  When it belongs to someone else, you can impart your own meaning, but then you are left with the same dilemma: Keep it or let it go?

I find it’s useful to consider the truth of these questions when later suddenly becomes now.

  • Would my life really be over if I let these things go or would I just feel that way?
  • Is everything meaningful or could I pick out just the things that are most important to me?
  • By keeping everything, am I placing a significant burden on my family to deal with later?
  • Am I keeping everything as an excuse to avoid creating new memories?
  • If this or that item should disappear would I miss it or attempt to replace it if I could?
  • Would taking a picture of it allow me to let it go if I had to?
  • Is there anyone who I know for certain who would want it (be careful with this one since you don’t want to obligate someone to take something they really don’t want).
  • Do I really love it or am I keeping it to satisfy someone else’s (perceived) need – such as when you keep it not because you like it but because it was a gift from someone you care about.

Life is like walking through a wonderful art museum. You get to admire and spend a little time with the art work that resonates the most with you. You may even be able to take pictures or buy postcards. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to keep what you saw. You do however get to remember how you felt.

Can you part with your pictures? How about 90% of them?

Posted by

Editor’s Note: In almost every home we organize. we come across literally hundreds of printed photographs, both old and new, and our clients always tell us how important they are and that “some day” they will get them organized. We are delighted to feature a guest blog from Nikki McKenna, the founder of Storytag who offers some fabulous tips on how to finally get your photos organized once and for all. Read on…

Nikki McKenna Founder StoryTagIf you are like millions of Americans, you have boxes and boxes and boxes of pictures in a closet somewhere. You know they contain thousands of precious memories of your family through the years but you may also know that as time goes on so does the risk that pictures are lost, memories fade or disaster strikes to damage them. Digitizing these images is a must if you want to pass these memories on to generations, but where to begin? The cost of digitizing 1,000 images is around $500 and many families have more like 10,000 or even 20k. That can be a bit prohibitive. So, then, let’s start by recognizing that you will get just about ALL of the value of your pictures if you pare it down by a factor of 10. If you need some helping being convinced of that, please reach out! But then, how do you decide to pass on 90% of those precious pictures? Here are a few tried and true tips:


  1. Start with some focus on what you really want from that “pile” before jumping in. It makes a difference in how you organize! Do you see these images as a way for your story to live on? Are they precious memories for your family to share? Are they pictures that you know you will want for future projects (e.g. scrapbooks, slideshows or wall space)?
  2. It will help to think about three (3) categories: Album, Box and Can (e.g. trash can). We call these the ABC’s of photo organizing. I borrow from a William Morris statement often used by many traditional organizers that encourages us to keep only that which is beautiful or useful. Beauty, as it pertains to our images, refers to those that strongly evoke the feelings of a memory we want to remember. Useful, as it pertains to our images generally means they document facts of our past we want to remember. Roughly speaking, the beautiful falls into A and the useful usually falls into B. Otherwise, it’s the trash can.
  3. We take pictures to remember, so as you cull them down, think about what the image actually helps you to remember that other pictures don’t. Is it the one picture that has all of the people at your wedding? Keep it. It’s useful. Is it your favorite picture of your grandpa and you when you were on the boat together on that camping trip? Keep it. It’s beautiful. Are there 20 other pictures of your grandpa and you on that same boat on that same camping trip? Consider tossing those.
  4. When deciding to keep an image or not, think about whether you could have remembered the image before you saw it. Pictures that stood out in your mind even while being in a box very likely captured something important in your life. They very likely have beauty for you. If you didn’t remember it, and it doesn’t document something specific, consider tossing it.
  5. Notice that you can’t capture everything with any number of pictures and decide to write your memories down! Just ten pictures that have the story are worth more than 10,000 with no description or names. As you are sorting, quickly write down those stories. Then, keep the momentum by keeping a journal for your present.
  6. Take your time. You can only eat an elephant a bite at a time; so set aside a manageable chunk of time every week to do a bit. I assure you, you will get there.
  7. Have fun! You are reliving old times. And, rest assured that it’s a project your whole family will love you for.StoryTagLogo

Storytag is a full service solution to help our clients get their stories booked. We employ a unique interview process, image selection, custom design and book printing using only the most qualified suppliers to combine story with images into a memoir that will be enjoyed for generations. Our mission is to help families all across the country preserve their stories with respect and artful aesthetics so that they can all experience more often their own legacies of joy and love and loss and each and every one’s unique meaning of life.
facebook: storytag
pinterest: storytag
twitter: @mystorytag