Posts tagged ‘organizing’

November 10, 2010

What to do with all those papers that come home from school…

I love this cat picture. Is he cute or what? I pulled this watercolor out of my daughter’s “elementary folder of school stuff” today, so I could scan it and address how to handle all the stuff that comes home from school.

If you have a child in school, especially in elementary school, you are probably overwhelmed with all the papers they bring home.

Their first story, their drawings of your family, the sweet notes they write… it all seems important. Parents often come in two types. There is the kind of parent who saves everything, and the kind who saves nothing. I’m fairly schizophrenic, one day being parent number 1, the next parent number 2. But, because both of these solutions are rooted in being overwhelmed, I’d like to suggest a middle road.

First, let’s layout some of the types of stuff (more officially called memorabilia) that comes home.

  • Tests, Report Cards & Worksheets
  • Creative & Report Writing like this…

The above scan is the first page of a story my daughter wrote in Kindergarten with no spelling correction (duh.) I wish I could say that I found this teaching method (you know, letting them be creative and not correcting spelling) was successful, but to this day, as a 7th grader, spelling is still a very low priority in my child’s writing. But I digress, that is a topic for a different day, and probably a different blog.

  • Artwork like this… love the owl with the night sky also.

  • Notes & Cards like this…

Yes, I do love her with all my hart and heart!

Obviously, these are all items I kept.  They are sweet, emblematic of the age or year, or I just plain liked them. However, there was plenty of art, notes and stories that went in the trash (mostly when she wasn’t looking.)

So, what to keep? I think as always, it comes back to story.

What is your child’s story this year? Are they mastering writing? Have they blossomed as an artist? Does this item help tell the story best?

If so, then by all means keep it. If not, toss it. It’s always better to toss the undesirable stuff sooner than later. I took a class on Organizing Paper Clutter at Simplify 101 and the BEST thing I learned was that much of what we call clutter is simply the result of delayed decision-making. If I can decide now, it can go to an appropriate storage place or go away! Simple.

But, if you are going to keep the memorabilia, then how will you store it?

Memorabilia that is letter sized or smaller is easy. I have an archival expandable folder (sorry I don’t have a recommendation, the one I use is no longer available) for tests, report cards, thank you notes, certificates and writing assignments. For elementary school, I filled an entire folder. I’m thinking that middle and high school will fit into a second one.

If the artwork or project is large like the owl art, you have a couple of choices. There is large flat portfolio type storage and if you have a budding artist on your hands that may be a good option. If anyone has any recommendation for this type of storage, please leave a comment.

If not, then taking photographs of the art may be the way to go. I photographed the owl today.

***TIP*** In order to avoid using flash, I put the art on a black piece of foam board and took it out to my front porch, which meant I had soft, indirect light. I laid the foam board on the porch floor and stood above it, making sure the camera strap and my toes didn’t get into the picture! It isn’t as perfect as a scan might be, but it was a whole lot easier.

If you are looking for more ideas for your kid’s artwork, check out this post. Read the comments section for lots of different ideas. I like this blog post also. The best tip on the second post is to add your child’s name (hadn’t thought of this since I just have one!) and their age to the back of the artwork. (I really wish I’d done that with the larger pieces.)

Do you have a system you love? Please share!

September 17, 2010

Where Do I Begin (the eternal organizing dilemma)?

A new twitter follower said, “I really would like to do ‘something’ with my photos, but I don’t know where to start!”

She is overwhelmed and I know she is not alone. Once I get overwhelmed, I go into avoidance behavior. (if I pretend it’s not there, maybe it will go away…)

Of course, I know that the avoidance weighs on me, and whatever I was trying to avoid becomes bigger and more powerful.

I say, take back the Power!

Most of the time, once I tackle the project I’ve been avoiding (the task I’m usually avoiding is cleaning my desk), I realize that I made the project bigger and more insurmountable than it really is.

Your photos are no different.

So, here are a few small suggestions for getting started doing SOMETHING with your printed photos. (we’ll cover digital photos in another post)

Although Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind”, I’m going to suggest that to keep from being overwhelmed, you do step one and two without worrying about the end result. And as you do the first two steps, you may find some inspiration sneaking into place…

One, gather your printed photos in the same temperature-controlled place (see my last article about getting Hurricane Ready… you could insert all other types of disasters here, natural and otherwise.)

Two, buy some type of photo safe container and put the photos in it. They don’t have to be organized, just safe. In my previous post, I recommended a product that I like and sell, however, whatever you choose to purchase, look for these two qualities:

  1. the container should block light (light damages photos so, no clear plastic containers)
  2. made from a material that is non-reactive to photos. (If you want some nerdy details, here is a great link to the National Archives Website)

Once you’ve completed Step 1 & 2, you can begin to think about this question, “What is it that I want to do with my photos?”

If the answer is I’d like them organized in the boxes in some fashion, then that is your next step. Although arranging your photos in chronological order is very tempting, it is the most time-consuming and perhaps the least useful.  Consider arranging by family member, holidays and events, or use Stacy Julian’s Library of Memories approach, it’s up to you! Make it easy, make it fast and don’t sweat over each photo.

If the answer is I’d like to create photo albums, then, ask yourself this question, “Which of these photos means the most to me right now?” If you hear yourself saying “I should”, unless the should is intimately connected to the photos that mean the most, don’t go there! The photos which are most important, that provoke an emotional response are a sure bet for a great album that you can finish. If you have even just one album (scrapbook or slip-in style) of photos you really love, you’ve accomplished something genuinely worthwhile.

If you still feel overwhelmed, get help. Leave me a comment and I’ll see if I can help!

September 13, 2010

It’s Hurricane Season… where are your photos?

It’s officially hurricane season (it has been for a while) and as Scott Simon of NPR tweeted earlier today, a Hurricane named Igor seems a lot scarier than Hurricane named Earl. But, no matter, it’s past time to have a Hurricane Plan. So here are my thoughts.

Flashlights with Fresh Batteries – Check
Enough Fresh Water to Last Several Days (One Gallon Per Person/Per Day) – Oops, I’ve got some but not enough, better put that on the to do list.
Battery Operated Radio (or one that we can wind up to listen to) – Check (thanks to Georgia Public Radio!)
And of course, there is more… but

I think you get the drift (please check here for a comprehensive list of hurricane preparedness tips), because what I really want to talk about is your photos.

First, do you know where your photos are?

Are they scattered all over the house, tucked in drawers, baskets, etc? If they aren’t in a central location – that should be. This is step one.

At Least They Are All In One Place!

For physical photos, I use a Power Sort Box by Creative Memories and Photo Albums. I’m a Creative Memories Consultant, so that is a given. But even if I weren’t, this is a box I’d want.  It features dark storage (benefit = your photos are protected from light, photo’s natural enemy), the material is photo safe (benefit = materials won’t speed up degradation of photos) and it holds 1200 photos (benefit = just enough photos that you can carry it comfortably) with a lid that clasps (benefit = if it drops, the photos mostly stay in place).

If you have to evacuate, you want to access your photos quickly and easily. I probably have too many albums to load all of them in the car, so I’ve been giving some thought to which albums I’d take. I’ve decided I’d take the albums which have “film” photos in them, such as my wedding album, my 12 year old’s baby album, and her first school album. I can’t replace those.  If I can get the dogs and cats to cooperate, I may try to find room for more! Of course, I hope it won’t come to that, but, it’s good to consider these questions now, while my brain isn’t in panic mode.

This Is More Like It!

So, what about all those digital photos?

First, backing up is ESSENTIAL! I use Memory Manager (from Creative Memories… big surprise) and here is the simple reason. It works really well and backs up automatically every time I shut down. In 2005, I lost about three months of photos (on a new computer which completely died). Never Again! As soon as I got my replacement computer I bought an external hard drive and forever after have used the “shadow copy” feature of Memory Manager.

I figure that part of my evacuation plan will be to grab my external hard drive (much easier than trying to grab a tower. Additionally, I am using Mozy to back up to an offsite location. This way I have three copies of all my photos – my originals, my shadow copy and a copy that is not in my house.  Occasionally I back up to CD, but I do this less and less, since I have the other options. There are other great options for offsite photo back up including but not limited to the Creative Memories Photo Center, Shutterfly, and Flickr.

Do you have a hurricane plan for your photos? I’d love to hear your tips… please share your suggestions!

September 7, 2010

Hooray For Evernote

First, a quick thanks to Ali Edwards for my headline!

Today, I added my 100th note to Evernote. Hooray!

And. I. Love. It.      A. Lot.

Not my 100th note, but Evernote!

If you came upon this post because you already love Evernote, you know that 100 notes is laughable, most people have thousands of notes, but I’m just getting started, and celebrating a bit early!

I downloaded it several months ago at the suggestion of Noell & Izzy Hyman from Paperclipping Roundtable, but I never got around to using it. Recently, they mentioned it again and I remembered I had downloaded it to my iPhone. I sprang into action and completed the process of getting downloaded to all possible machines. It works on my iPhone, my laptop and my desktop (and of course, they all sync!). Their logo is an elephant because it remembers Everything in a completely searchable and organized format. I also just realized I haven’t mentioned that it is FREE! Yes, there is a premium version, but I haven’t needed it yet. If I ever do, I’ll happily fork over some $$ to the folks who have created this great product.

Evernote‘s marketing is way more fun and entertaining than I could ever be, so pop over to their site to check it out.

But, what I can share is how I find it so incredibly helpful:

  • Notes for my girls book club… instead of bookmarking the questions I find online for discussion, I get Evernote to “clip” the info and send it to my Evernote account. That way, I don’t have to print notes and I will have them handy on my phone when I’m away from home. It also means I don’t really need a decent internet connection because once my phone syncs to my account the information is residing on my iPhone, not in the cloud! Hooray!
  • Recipes… Evernote rocks as a searchable database for recipes. If I didn’t use it for anything else, this alone would make it worth having. I’m planning a dinner party with a middle eastern theme and as I’m searching and finding recipes, I send them to Evernote via my little elephant icon in my browser. Once in Evernote, the note goes into my Recipes Notebook with the tag “Middle Eastern Dinner”. I think I can remember that! I also add a few other tags, like chicken or lamb, olives, couscous, you get the idea.
  • Notes from/for Shopping… Another incredible use. I use this folder to store my electronic receipts, in stores, I take pictures of products and their prices (so I can figure out the best place to buy the stuff we use a lot). The camera integration works very smoothly and I have the very oldest iPhone.
  • Oh yes, the point of this blog… I use it to keep track of Scrapbooking & Card ideas… I see a design I like & POOF, I push the Evernote Elephant and WHOOSH, the picture goes to my Holding Notebook. Once I get back into Evernote‘, I tag and move it to my Scrapbooking Ideas notebook. Then, when I’m stumped for an idea later, I’ve got a bunch of ideas to inspire my creativity.

And on a final “note”, after listening to the Evernote podcast today, I decided to switch to Google Chrome. The ‘webclipper’ feature was recently updated and has more functionality than in Firefox which I was using.

What do you use to keep your ideas, notes and other “stuff” organized?