Author Archive for Caren

10 Reasons to Digitize Your Printed Family Photos Before It’s Too Late

  1. Your past is important – not only to you, but to your children, grandchildren and other relatives. Your photos represent important pieces of your family history.
  2. All photographic materials deteriorate with time.
  3. Old slides and negatives tend to color-shift over time.
  4. To view your slides, you have to dig out your old projector (if it still works), or a slide viewer, in order to enjoy them.
  5. If you have old negatives, you really can’t view them at all – unless you have a rare genetic ability to invert colors on your own.
  6. They take up less space.
  7. Once they exist as digital files, all of your old photographs can be easily shared.
  8. Uploading your scanned photos onto your computer turns it into a time machine. All those treasured (in some cases – forgotten) memories can be pulled up at a moment’s notice, to be enjoyed and shared.
  9. When they exist in digital form, these treasured artifacts can be rehabilitated as much as needed. So, even if your memories have faded, the photos of your past can be viewed as though it all happened yesterday.
  10. In today’s digital world, it just makes sense.
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Give the Gift of Your Family Story

My great grandparents at their 60th wedding anniversary 1958 at the Bradford Hotel, Boston, MA

In this season of gift giving, one of the best gifts you can give to your family is your story.

In the summer of 2001, Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush, two psychologists at Emory University, conducted a study to test Duke’s wife’s hypothesis that “The children who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”  Duke and Fivush developed a list of 20 questions that they posed to four dozen families.  They then compared the results of the children’s answers to a battery of psychological tests that the children had taken.  The study’s conclusion was that the more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger sense of control they had over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

A few months later, after the 9/11 tragedy, Duke and Fivush reassessed the same group of children and once again they found “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”   The children who had the most self-confidence had what the researchers call a strong “intergenerational self”.  They knew they belonged to a larger family.  Just like successful companies, they possessed a core identity.

The study concluded that if you want a happier family and children with a stronger sense of well-being and self-confidence, then you should develop family traditions and tell your family’s story – the good times and the challenges – and because of the telling and sharing of these stories, your family will thrive for many generations to come.

My grandparents at their condo in Bal Harbor, FL

So, as your gather with your family during this holiday season, tell your stories of the past and the present.  Write them down and collect the photos that best illustrate those stories.  Create your family’s story book.  Continue to retell these stories each year.  And continue to update your family’s story book each year with the new stories and the new photos.

As a friend wrote in her family Christmas letter this year, “Our message to you is this – ask the questions now while your family members are still with you.  Give yourself and your family the gift of stories before they are long gone with the memories of your loved ones.”


“The Stories That Bind Us” by Bruce Feiler, New York Times, March 15, 2013.
“The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?” By Marshall P. Duke, Huffington Post, May 23, 2013.

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5 Steps of a Photo Organizing Project

When I began my journey as a personal photo organizer, I also began to organize my many years worth of photos.

I have always very good about getting my photos into the slide-in style albums or organizing many of them into fancy shoe boxes.  However, the ones in the albums aren’t labeled very well with dates and locations.  Note to readers: make sure you label your photos with a photo safe pencil.  After I became a Creative Memories consultant 16 years ago, I put many of my new photos each year into either traditional or digital photo albums.  Any photos that did not make it into albums are labeled and stored in photo safe archival boxes.  But, I still have lots of my photos, as well as my husband’s photos, stuffed into boxes, old albums or envelopes without much organization to them.  So, I embarked on my own photo organizing adventure following the ABC’S of Photo Organizing, developed by APPO’s founder Cathi Nelson.

Here is the plan I have been following:

Step 1: Dig out all the boxes from the closet under the basement stairs and place them all on a table.

Step 2: Separate the albums from the envelopes of photos and label them by date (as best I can), occasion, person, etc.
Step 3: Set up my photo storage boxes with labels that correspond to the labels from Step 2.
Step 4: Pull the photos out of the albums and put them into the photo storage boxes.  While I am doing this I will sort thru and pull out all of the “C” photos – those to be tossed into the trash can.
Step 5: Scan the “A” photos and store them in Forever or create a photo book.
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Scrapbooking Fundraiser for the Windham Theater Guild

12-eventheaderdecJoin us for a day of scrapbooking fun!

Where: Windham Theater Guild, 779 Main St, Willimantic, CT

When: Saturday, January 28th – 10am to 10pm

Cost: $40 – all proceeds to benefit the Windham Theater Guild

RSVP: or 860-878-0172

What’s included:

  • Your own 6ft table with a cushioned chair
  • Use of Creative Memories cropping tools including the Border Maker
  • Use of Idea Books
  • Creative Memories album pages, tape runner refills, and some decorative paper packs and stickers will be available for purchase
  • Concession stand will be open with water, soda, wine, beer and snacks for sale
  • Pizza will be available for dinner
  • Refrigerator available
  • Wifi and electricity available – bring an extension cord if you need electricity

Tastefully Simple and Mary Kay products will be available for purchase from my friend Laura Purdy.

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Spring Cleaning Your Photos

Spring has finally bloomed here in southern New England.  Spring is a beautiful season when everything outdoors starts to wake up after a long winter, when the grass and the trees start to turn green and the plants open up with their rainbow of colors.  As we all come out of our winter cocoons, we start the annual tradition of spring cleaning.
Wikipedia defines spring cleaning as “the practice of thoroughly cleaning a house in the springtime” and is used to refer to “any kind of heavy duty cleaning or organizing enterprise”.

245My spring cleaning is usually done outside raking the gardens and cleaning out the garden beds to get them ready for planting and to make way for the perennials.  This year I have also set a goal to start the process to organize all of my husband’s printed photos and to digitize his photos and mine.

Yes, I have all of my photos nicely put into albums and photo organizing boxes, but they are taking up a lot of space and it does take some time to find what I am looking for.  So, I have started going to go through all my old photo albums, removing the photos,  and labeling them in preparation of digitizing them into folders, and then uploading them to Forever for permanent storage.

forever logois the only online preservation site for individuals and families to collect, curate and celebrate their digital memories. And, they guarantee that these memories/photos/stories will be preserved, protected, and available for your lifetime plus generations beyond.

“We guarantee that the memories you store with Forever will be preserved, protected, and available for your lifetime plus 100 years, with a goal of keeping your content safe and available as you have determined for many generations beyond.”

Forever is SECURE – Forever Guaranteed Storage is backed up in multiple places across multiple regions, ensuring you will never lose any of your photos. Over time, they will even migrate your files to newer formats as old formats become obsolete.

Forever is PRIVATE – With Forever’s clear privacy settings, you can easily share your photos with friends, family or keep them private. Your memories are not for sale. Unlike some storage services, you always maintain full ownership of your photos.

Forever is PERMANENT – Forever ensures your life stories will be preserved. You are in control and decide how your account will be shared for generations. If you wish, assign account managers who will have access and control in the future.

Forever is ACCESSIBLE on any device (PC, Apple, Android) anywhere.
To learn more about how Forever’s terms of service are different from other online photo storage sites, please watch this.  You’ll be surprised to learn that your photos may not be as secure and accessible as you thought they were.
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Preparing for Summer Vacation – Creating a Vacation Organizer

vacation-organizerHas it ever happened to you that you get back from your vacation with all kinds of brochures, maps, ticket stubs and receipts that end up in a pile or an envelope somewhere that you can’t find when you want to? Or that you want to organize your photos into a memory album and can’t remember which day you did what?

I have a solution for organizing all your vacation memorabilia and photos into one location and you can get it set up before you leave the house. Here are my step-by-step instructions on how to create your vacation organizer:

  1. Purchase a multi-pocket accordion-style plastic folder. I got mine at Staples for under $10. Make sure it has enough pockets for the number of days of your vacation plus a few extra for items I’ll tell you about. If you are going to be away over a week, you might want to consider doubling up dates in a pocket.
  2. Starting at the front, label each pocket with each day and date of your vacation. If you are doubling up, then label each pocket with two consecutive days. Example: Friday, August 3; Saturday, August 4, etc.
  3. Label two additional pockets “receipts” and “maps”.
  4. Place a 4×6 index card in each of the daily pockets for each person traveling with their name at the top plus one extra titled “What we did today”.
  5. Place the information about your reservations (plane, hotel, campground, rental car, etc.) in front of the first pocket. If you are traveling out of the country and need a passport, place those in this pocket as well.
  6. Place maps of the area you are visiting in the pocket labeled “maps”.

Here’s how to use your vacation organizer while on vacation.

  1. Each day of your vacation, place brochures, ticket stubs, post cards, and any other memorabilia you collect during your day in the appropriate date pocket.
  2. At the end of the day, write down what you did and where you went that day on the “What we did today” card. Ask each person traveling to write their thoughts and observations for the day on their index card for that day.
  3. At the end of each day, place your receipts into the receipt pocket.

When you return from vacation you will have everything you gathered along the way in one place plus you will have a record of what you did and where you went. If you like to print your photos, you can also put them into the appropriate date pockets. Now, when you are ready to create your memory album you will have everything pre-organized and you will be able to put the photos and the memorabilia in the correct order. Or, if you decide to hire a personal photo-organizer to make the album for you, you can just hand her your folder with everything organized and ready to be made into a beautiful memory album.

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The First Snow

Last week we had our first snowfall of the 2012/13 winter season in Connecticut and, of course, I took a picture.  Every year I always take a picture of the first snowfall, and because of that, I have a record of the date of the first snow fall from my photos.  Even though the photos are usually of the same scene, they all have different dates.  It’s fun to keep track of the varying dates and wonder why they are different.

As I thought about this, I realized that every year I also take a picture of the old, large magnolia tree that is outside my office window when it first blooms.   As I look back on my photos of the past years I can see that the tree doesn’t bloom on the same date every year.  I wonder why?  Is it a meterological thing?  Does it have to do with the amount of rainfall? or how cold the Winter was? or how warm the Spring is?

What do you take pictures of every year that lend themselves to some type of variation?  The photos could show a variation by date or they could show how children grow or how our hair style changes.  Once you find them, you might want to display them in a special way to show the variations or to just enjoy them.  Or start a tradition of taking a photo of the same object, person, or event every year and then notice the variations.


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Organizing your photos is like gardening

Organizing your photos is like gardening – if you chose to weed the garden and feed and prune the flowers you will have a beautiful garden that you can enjoy.  If you ignore the weeds they will eventually overtake the flowers and if you don’t water and feed the plants they may wither and die. Either way, you will not be happy with the result.

The same is true with photos.  If you want to enjoy your photos and have them available for your family and friends to enjoy now and in the future, then you will sort and organize them, write down the stories that go along with them, and put the special ones into photo books.  If you ignore them then someday their meaning and beauty will be lost.

If you want to have a beautiful garden you can chose to do all the work yourself or you can hire someone to come in and help you.

If you want to enjoy your photos you can take the time to sort and organize them yourself or you can hire someone (a personal photo organizer) to come in and help you.

If you are the “do it yourself” type of person, here are some tips for tackling your project.

The first thing you will want to do is to take inventory of where all your photos are stored – boxes, bins, drawers, closets, camera, memory sticks, cell phone – and, if you can, put them all in one physical location.  If your photos are still on a camera, memory stick or cell phone then download them to a computer into a photo management software package.  I use Historian by Panstoria and I love it!

The next step is to sort your photos using the ABCs of photo organizing.  You should do this for your printed and digital photos.

A = Album – These are your best photos; the ones that you want to put into an album or display on a wall.  They can be of a special occasion, vacation, a child’s memories of growing up, the year in the life of your family, etc.

B = Box and Backup – these are the photos that are important to keep but that you don’t need to see everyday.  They should be printed and organized into an archival storage box and backed up digitally to an external hard drive and/or the cloud.  They can also be scanned to a DVD and Linea for long-term storage.

C = Can (trash can) – These are the photos that can be thrown away (yes, it’s ok to throw away or delete photos).  They are the duplicates, photos of poor quality, photos you can’t remember why you took, or old photos that no longer have any meaning to you.

S = Stories – There was a reason you took the photo in the first place, so there is most likely a story that goes along with the photo or photos.  Write down the story on the back of the photo (using a photo-safe pencil) or on a separate sheet of paper or on your computer.  These stories should be stored with the photos or added to the photo book you may be creating.

As you are sorting through your photos, you can also organize them into themes such as by family member, vacations, special occasions, schools days, pets, holidays, family traditions, sports, special places, favorite things, etc.  This level of sorting can be done for the A and B photos as you go along.

If this is too overwhelming for you or you just don’t have the time, please get in touch with me to help you.  Preserving photos and their stories is important to me and I want to help as many people as I can bring their photos back into their lives.

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Where are your summer vacation photos?

Are they still in your camera on the memory stick or on your phone?  Have you downloaded them to your computer?  If you have, great!  If not, now would be a good time to go do that.

Are you using some type of photo organizing software on your computer?  Are the photos on your computer in folders by date or do you have them organized by subject and/or person?

Have you backed up your photos on your computer?  Have you printed your photos?  Did you know that one of the best ways to back up your photos is to print them?  And, by the way, you should back them up at least 3 different ways, but that’s a subject for another blog.

With all the electronic gadgets and gizmos we have today along with FaceBook and Twitter, I don’t think we really take the time to sort through our photos anymore to share and preserve their stories or to display them for friends and family to enjoy.  Do you know that every 2 minutes today, we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s?  Quite a staggering statistic!  As wonderful as technology is, it has its downside as we are taking more photos than we know what to do with and we are, therefore, taking our photos for granted.

Have you ever stopped to think about why you take the photos you do?  Is it to remember or savor the moment so that we can share it and the story that goes along with it later? Are you sharing those moments or are they locked up in your camera or phone?   Those memories documented in those photos are important to us, to our children, and to future generations.  We need to preserve them in a way that will let that happen.

If you are the story teller in your family creating scrapbooks and photo books and keeping your photos organized, then I applaud you and thank you for your family.  If you are not, then perhaps you need some help getting started or having someone do it for you.  That is where I come in.  As a personal photo organizer I can help you organize printed and digital photo collections; setup backup systems; scan and digitize photos, memorabilia, slides and other media; and I can create photo books and albums or teach you how to do it yourself.  Please let me know how I can help you.  Or if you know of someone who may need my help, please let me know.

It’s time to get those photos out of the camera, out of boxes and back into your life!

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Don’t fret about discarding sentimental clutter

I just read an article by Gretchin Rubin in the August issue of Good Housekeeping magazine about her latest project to clear clutter from her home.  It is an excerpt from her new book Happier at Home.  In the article she talks about how she felt a powerful connection to sentimental things she associated with her daughters and, therefore, found it hard to discard them.  That got me thinking about an idea of how to solve her dilemma:

Take a photograph of the special item!

Write down on a piece of paper or index card why that item is so special or has such sentimental value and take a photograph of the index card.

After finishing your de-cluttering project, take the photos of all your special items along with your descriptions of those items and make a special digital photo book to preserve those memories forever.  If you have a photo of a family member with that special item, then include that photo in the book as well.

You can also do this with all the childhood memorabilia such as children’s art work and school projects.  It is a great way to preserve those memories is a special book for each child.

No more fretting over how and where to store all those sentimental items that may be gathering dust.  Save the very special ones and preserve the rest in photographs and photo books.

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