Why Preserving Your Family History Matters

I have the best job ever. I spend my day talking to people about their family history. I learn about people, places, events that inspire me every day. I feel so fortunate to be allowed into people’s lives. The stories are amazing.

 

Occasionally, I will meet with someone who is undecided about organizing their photos. They don’t feel like anyone else wants to hear their story. That after they’re gone no one will care about these slips of paper.

I can only say, that’s just not true. You have no idea who your story will touch. Who your story will encourage. Who your story will inspire.

She may not even have been born yet.

 

I was lucky enough to be chosen to write a blog post for the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (APPO) on the topic of “Why Preserving Your Family History Matters” (I’ve included the link below). To sum it up: YOU MATTER. THAT YOU LIVED MATTERS.

I hope that you find a kernel of inspiration in my post that inspires you to organize and preserve your family history. It is a task well worth the effort.

Why Preserving Your Family History Matters

 

Organizing Family Photos

Are you overwhelmed by the idea of organizing your family photos?

I have photos…you have photos…we all have photos!

So. Many. Photos. By several experts opinions, we are reaching the point of 1 trillion photos taken annually worldwide. ONE TRILLION!! And that number only includes new photos were taken, not the boxes and boxes of physical photos that we have inherited from beloved family members. To say that we have a photo storage problem is an understatement. We are drowning in photographs. What to do with all those treasured family photos?

I know that sounds overwhelming. I know your busy doing your best for your family. I know that “getting organized” is one of the top New Year’s resolutions every year. I know that you love your family memories and have real concerns about how to store and save and share these precious mementos.

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to give you a real plan on how to save these beauties, how to share them with your friends and family, and how to set up a system that will let you access every single one of your photos and is an easy way to organize your future photos.

Can you do that? You ask…Heck ya!

 

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” Mr. Rogers

If you’ve stumbled on this blog, I’m guessing you have because you believe that family photos are valuable. Let me tell you, you’re not alone.

We’ve all had the heart-wrenching experience of believing a treasured photo lost only to feel the relief when we find it tucked away safe. Many of us have also had the profound joy of finding a photo; perhaps of us with someone passed, that we didn’t know existed.

This is me with my grandpa, you’ll hear a lot about him on this blog, the last time I saw him before he passed away. He was giving me a hug goodbye. We loved each other; I think you can tell that by the photo. The thing is…I didn’t know this photo existed. A few months after he passed my Mom mentioned in passing that she found a photo on her phone that she thought I’d like to have. When I saw it…I cried. I’m crying now. That’s the power of a little piece of paper. It gives us back people we’ve lost, places we won’t return to, events that cannot be recreated.

I’m excited to help you reconnect with yourself and your family.

How To Make A Vacation Photo Album

Vacation Goal: Make an amazing vacation photo album.

As we move from spring into summer many of us are dreaming of vacations. We are planning, organizing, and prioritizing where we will spend our few precious vacation days.

I have one more item to add to your pre-vacation to-do list…plan your vacation photo album.

 

I know many of you wait until your home to make your vacation album. That’s too late! You’re tired, you’ve spent your extra cash, and you’re scrambling to make up for the time off. I mean…laundry alone…we’ve all been there.

My advice is to take a few minutes to plan a photo shoot list. All top photographers make these types of lists before they go to a shoot. They know from experience that its easy get caught up in the moment and forget great shots. I’m not suggesting you don’t take lots of spontaneous shots….take lots. I am suggesting that before you go you make a photo plan.

Let’s say you are going to the Grand Canyon, a trip I highly recommend, and you want to capture the natural beauty and a spirit of adventure. A photo shoot list might include:

o   Pictures of the canyon
o   Group picture of the family hiking
o   Silly pictures of each family member
o   Pictures of your cabin, campsite, or cool hotel

I’d also add to make sure you have lots of “filler” photos for your book. I like to add pictures of animals, wildflowers, waterfalls, interesting rocks, great meals, and endless roads. Those sorts of pictures trigger memories of the trip…those waffles!

When you get home give yourself a few days to process the trip before you jump into making your album. The REAL memorable events might not be what you expect. Only when you’re well rested can you review the trip with a little distance and pick out which memories/photos really depict the trip.

Your next step is to upload all of your photos into ONE folder. Get all your family members to either upload to your vacation folder or email their photos to you so that you can collect them all in one place. You don’t want to create a gorgeous album only to realize your daughter had some once in a lifetime shots on her phone.

After you’ve gathered your photos, go through and delete the not great ones, the duplicates, the images that didn’t turn out like you intended. I would expect this part to delete at least a third of your photos. Now, double-check that photo list and make sure you have at least one of every shot you planned for. If you have duplicate shots, pick the best one and delete the rest. You are looking for quality rather than quantity. 

This next step is THE MOST OVERLOOKED and is one of the most important. After you’ve sorted for winners take a moment to double-check your meta-data. Hold on!!! I know that’s a confusing word…stick with me. It just means the photos information, not scary and VERY important. Most digital photos are now packed with great information: date, location, and even facial recognition. This is the perfect time to make sure that info is accurate. Every once in while my phone goes crazy and lists my photo’s location as China. That’s cool but not true. So, just double-check. Is the date right? Is the location right? Is the Mona Lisa a friend of yours?

This is also the perfect time to add those tags: summer vacation, hiking, national park, modern family. Which tags you use are up to you…just keep it consistent.

Your last step is to upload your photos to a photo service to make the album. There are many online companies that make photo books. The one you use should be the one you are most comfortable with both in quality and price. Also, consider whether you want to just print a photo book or if you want to share digital albums with friends and family. When you create the album online don’t forget to add those filler photos. It really upgrades your album.

I hope your summer vacation takes you someplace amazing and that your trip is filled both with happy adventures and amazing photographs.

Where are you planning on going this summer and what photos are you hoping to take?

My Mylio True Story

I’m SO excited to have one of my photos/stories chosen for Mylio True Story series. The concept is to choose a photo and explain what the photo means to you emotionally. How interesting!

 

Our photos are so powerful. They are so precious. They tell the story of our families, our lives. They are our memory keepers.

 

I know many people hesitate to get their family photos digitized because they feel like digital photos are “cold.” They feel disconnected from the photos. A paper photo has a feel, a smell, a tactile quality that isn’t present when the photos are on a digital screen. I get it…I do.

The reality though is that your paper photos are not safe. They are slowly disintegrating. They are vulnerable to moisture, sunlight, and temperature.

 

Using a service like Mylio is a great comprimise. Mylio makes it possible to share and enjoy your photos in ways not possible with physical photos. It enables you to share collages and slide shows with all your friends and family. It also keeps your photos safe. The amazing photo of you as a flower girl at your favorite aunt’s wedding will never fade, will never get damaged. It will be safe.

The below picture of me with my grandfather is one of my prized possessions. I NEVER want to be without it. I use this photo to remind me of not only this day but everyday I ever shared with him. It is the keystone to a relationship that continues even after his passing.

Do you have photos like this? Images of loved ones passed? Pictures of weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties? Events that have long ended except in our hearts?

 

I know I say it a LOT but please invest in your family photos. They are tickets to the greatest show on earth…your story. And please click on the link below to hear the story behind this photo.

Mylio True Stories

The Hodgepodge Girl: Five Tips For Overcoming Photo Organizing Stress

 

Let’s talk about the emotional side of photo organizing. I know…sounds scary but I’ve got some ideas to help avoid the feelings of dread and resentment that many of you have mentioned as your top feelings associated with organizing your family’s photos.

 

First, I want to make clear that organizing your photos is NOT like organizing your spice drawer.

I’ve never met anyone brought to tears by an old can of baking soda but a photo of you and grandma in her kitchen with flour on your cheeks…waterworks. Wait…I’m not the only one…right?

Photos are packed with emotion. That’s the point. That’s what makes them wonderful. I would argue that organizing your family photos is good for your mental health. That sorting through those emotions and memories is as liberating as years of therapy. Keep in mind I’m not a psychologist…But I have seen people experience profound joy by rediscovering forgotten memories and self-acceptance by embracing the goofy little child they once were…

When I talk to people about organizing their photos the most common emotion I run across are a combination of obligation and resentment. We feel obligated to do something with these slips of memories and deeply resentful that the task has landed on our plate. Why us? Why not cousin Emily? Because she’s a flake who doesn’t deserve the family photos…she can’t even…

Sound familiar? I’ve heard it. Families are complicated. We all have black sheep, flakes, nincompoops, and knuckleheads.

 

Here are five tips to help you embrace the experience of organizing your photos and also create an atmosphere of self-care:

 

  1. The set-up is everything.
    • Block out 4 hours of personal time. Be unavailable to everyone. This is your time.
    • Gather all the albums, shoeboxes, and random envelopes that you want to organize.
    • Get a BIG glass of water, treats, and a box of tissues.
    • Make sure you have acid-free boxes and photo albums for your organized photos.
  2. You are going to make a mess.
    • The biggest mistake that I see people make when they try to organize photos is they try to keep everything tidy through the whole process. That’s very hard. Allow yourself to make a huge mess. It’s easier and way more fun.
  3. You don’t have to save everything.
    • If you don’t like a photo of yourself…ditch it.
    • If you don’t know who is in a photo…ditch it.
    • If the photo is damaged, unflattering, or a subject you could care less about…ditch it. If you think someone else in the family would appreciate the picture…send it to them in a card “thought you’d like this!”  Boom…you’re a hero and the dang thing is OUT of your life.
  4. There is NO right way to organize photos.
    • A lot of people get stuck at this part. They want to do it “right” but don’t know what that means…so they get overwhelmed and don’t do anything.
    • How you organize your photos is your business. You can organize them by color if that makes you happy. You can organize them by emotion. You can organize them by location. You can alphabetize them if you’d like. They just need to make sense to you.
    • I like to organize by year and then season. I know boring.  It’s just easier for me. If you organize your photos by color will you send me a picture…cuz that sounds awesome!
  5. Keep them safe.
    • Now that you’ve sorted, tossed, and reviewed your photos…you know how special they are. Please make a plan to keep them safe.
    • My top tip…always…is to get them digitized. You can do it yourself if you have a scanner and a lot of patience/time or you can have them done professionally. I recommend having them done professionally. It’s relatively inexpensive and a HUGE time saver.
    • Once they are digitized back them up on your cloud or use a service like Forever. Avoid using photo printing services like shutter fly or snap fish as your back up. One, you lose your digital copyrights to the photos and two you cannot be sure how long they will be around.

Organizing your photos is an emotional process. I know.

 

When I organized my own family’s photos I had multiple “good” cries. It’s part of the process and it’s healing. Rather than run from the emotion, embrace it. The fact that you care is a great sign. It means the family picked the right person to be responsible; you were the hero they were waiting for…

Preserving Your Love Story

Sit back a let me tell you a real love story.

This story has it all: an interesting heroine, a dashing complicated hero, heartbreak, betrayal, redemption. It’s the love story of my great-grandparents, Edwin and Leonore, know as Ed & Leo. I never had a chance to meet them, they died long before I was born. Yet, I know their love story today better than many of my closet friends. I was lucky to discover an old photo album. I am here because of this love story. I know them because of old photographs and an even older scrapbook.

   The story begins with a dashing, witty young man who comes home from WWI a hero. That he lived when the survival rate of his unit was only 20% is a miracle in itself. A fellow soldier had a sister, Leonore, who he introduced to his friend.

  Leonore was dashing and witty herself. She worked during the war at a spark plug plant in Michigan and in her free-time was an outstanding photographer and poet…keep in mind this is 1918. She was quite the bohemian.

   They fell in love.

They had three beautiful children.        

They were not meant to last.

The hero was too damaged by the war to make a good husband. They divorced.Leonore died young of a broken heart. Ed died alone. His children never knowing him. Their love story was lost to the past.

Then one day, their great-granddaughter started organizing the family photo albums….and they were rediscovered.

They were reintroduced to a family who had lost them. They were loved and accepted, despite flaws and errors in judgment. A family wound was healed.

Your photos, your story matters. The only reason this story has an ending of redemption is that I was lucky enough to organize my family photos. I was lucky that I had a chance to know my past. These photos, these stories are my family’s legacy. I CHERISH them.

 

When you organize and preserve your photos you are creating a priceless gift for your family. This story cannot be told by anyone else. It must be told by you. Your old print pictures hiding in your attic, closet, shoeboxes are the foundation of your family. They tell amazing tales.They tell stories of heroes, heartbreaks, and amazing bohemian women.

For your family, please take the time to create your own love story book. Gather all of your photos that tell the unique and wonderful story of your romance. Then share those stories with your children and grandchildren. That love story is the beginning of your family. Do not let your unique history disappear among old takeout menus and junk mail. Take the time today to preserve your family’s legacy. Future generations will thank you for investing in their heritage.

I want to end with a poem that was written in the back of my great grandmother’s family photo album. I don’t know if she was thinking of Ed when she penned the words. I hope so. He listed himself as married long after they divorced and even after Leonore passed away. Their love story was dashing and complicated just like they were.

Save your photos, preserve your memories. A young girl in the distant future may come to cherish you and your story.

Preserve Your Love Story

 

 

#1 Thing You Can Do To Organize Your Photos

This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Read more about this in our disclosure policy.

 

“What is the ONE thing I can do to organize my photos?”

I get it. You’re busy. You know it’s important to take care of your photos but sheesh…can a person get a break?

My top, top, top photo organizing advice…or really when it comes to organizing anything…is to get everything in ONE  spot. You cannot know what you have if you don’t know where it all is.

If you have your photos all in one place..voila! You’re on your way to getting organized. But I’m guessing that you have a few gems hidden away. Get sleuthing!

 

Concentrating all your pictures into one spot is the absolute must first step. If you do nothing else, just get all your photos together. Sounds easy…right???

I’ll make it even easier: Follow these two steps…or three if you’re a real go-getter.

First, pick a place to keep your photos (that is not your phone or a memory card).  It can be the photo service that came with your computer operating system. It can be a free service like Google Photos, an add-on service like Amazon Prime Photo, or a paid cloud service like Forever. I won’t go into all the reasons today why one is vastly better than the others but I will say that I use Forever and LOVE it.

Now round-up all your photos. Places they may be hiding: your phone, your camera, your email, your Facebook, cloud, pictures, photo, random memory cards. And those are JUST the digital photos. If you want to organize ALL your photos you’ll need to track down all of those random print photos as well.

Last, if you are feeling really motivated and tracked down all of your print photos…the next step would be to get them digitized. Hopefully, you have someone locally that can do the work for you. If not there are several services I’ve used in the past that are trustworthy and do a fantastic job. I’ll go over them in a future post.

That’s it. That’s your best, first step. Just get everything in one place. It sounds so simple but it is the foundation for any sort of organizing you’ll want to do throughout this year and beyond.

 

I’m excited to help you on your journey to get organized. Please do not feel overwhelmed. It’s just following a series of small steps. As we move through the year, you will praise the heavens again and again that you made this first step to finally get your photos organized.

Hodgepodge Girl’s Seven Steps To Creating Unique Photo Books

*This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Read more about this in our disclosure statement. 

We all want to give gifts that mean something. I know this time of year it can get amazingly frustrating when the time is short, money is shorter, and the lines could not get any longer. I’m here to suggest a better gift than yet another gift card. Make your giftee a photo book!

“Well, that’s great Hodgepodge Girl…who. has. the. time. And…it sounds expensive and hard.”

Well…now that you mentioned it my bedraggled (don’t you love that word!) and overwhelmed holiday elf….it is not. Here are my seven easy steps to creating a gift that has meaning, will be loved, and won’t break the bank.

**The featured picture of this post is from one of the annual road trips I take with my brother, Wade. I’ll use this as my example and Wade as my giftee.

Step #1     Give your book a theme (a theme song is even better). For my book I’m choosing “Road Trippin” and my theme song is “On the road again…” By Mr. Willie Nelson

Step #2     Create a folder/album on your computer with the title of your photo book….example “Road Trippin”

Step #3     Look through all your photos and just pull any that you feel should show up in a book about road trips. Do not over think this part. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re giving the gift to was originally associated with the picture, as long as it references the theme. If I had an interesting picture of a gas pump, old car, or tire, I would add it to the folder. Next, you want to add pictures of the person you’re giving the gift to and pictures of you with the person. Get creative. Just keep adding photos. The more to choose from the better.

Some I would add to this book:

funphotobooksatthehodgepodgegirl
Route 66
hodgepodgegirl
Our road trippin parents

The pictures are connected by the theme of my brother, myself, and the road.

 

Step #4     Now that you’ve added a lot of pictures to your folder, go through and edit/delete. What I look for in keepers are: photos that fit the theme, are interesting/funny and emphasize the connection I want to share with the other person.

This isn’t a slam book so keep embarrassing pictures to a minimum and highlight your loved one having fun. A picture of my brother drooling all over while he sleeps would make me laugh but probably not him. This is a great time to break out those fantastic filters also. Get old-timey!

Step #5     Create that book! Since I moved all my photos to Forever for storage I’ve used them for everything. I’ve been very happy with the service. It’s a fantastic way to create unique photo books and even calendars. The other service I recommend is Shutterfly. They make it really easy to create personalized gifts. Both of these services have templates that you pick, upload the photos, and bam! Your all done. You can add quotes, song lyrics, your own comments as to why this theme is special.

As for price…a really nice photo book should run you about $15-40. I think that’s a great price for a unique holiday gift.

Step #6     Review! Review! Review! Take the time to go through your file/album and make sure that you didn’t miss any gems. I speak from experience when I’ve given the gift only to realize that I forgot the best picture! My advice is to double-check, triple-check.

Step #7     Give that present! And sit back in gift giving heaven. You created a unique, thoughtful gift. You were creative and generous with your time. You strengthen your connection with someone you care about. And you didn’t break the bank. All in all, I call photo books the perfect present.

thumb_family-who-hike-together_1024-1
Wade & I at the north rim of THE grand canyon…unforgettable!

3 Tips For Organizing Neat and Tidy Photo Albums

Don’t hate me…but I am the girl who got a pony for Christmas.

 

She was…and I’m not joking here…under my tree. I have the photo evidence: me, my dog, and the winter wonderland that was that Christmas to prove it.

I’m hoping that this holiday season you and your family have spectacular, wonderful, magical memories that you will cherish forever. At the very least, I hope you have super fun photos that you can use to extort family members for years. It’s often a season of odd choices…fashion-wise.

Today, I want to help you wrangle the plethora of holiday photos you’ll take in neat and tidy order and give you a few tips on what to do with the photos you already have.

Tip #1

Go through your digital photos while they are still on your phone and delete, delete, delete. You will save yourself a lot of time if you just take a minute to delete your photos before they get to the cloud and it becomes a huge chore of how to delete this gosh darn thing?! Been there, done that.

Tip #2

Make a folder on your computer (Holiday 2016) and upload your photos off your phone regularly. If you have kids, I would say daily. For the rest of us make a point of doing it at least twice this month.

Tip #3

Use a service like shutterfly to make physical photo albums of your holiday photos. They are not expensive, they make fantastic gifts, and they are much easier to store than traditional photo albums. This is an especially great tip if you have little ones and grandparents who don’t get to see them during the holidays. It’s a fantastic way to share your joy.

I hope these tips were helpful for how to set up a simple system for keeping your holiday photos neat and tidy. I cannot give a strong enough recommendation to preserving and sharing your holiday photos. If not for yourself, then for your family.

Holiday memories shared bring more joy than even the best present.

If you have a moment, please share a treasured holiday memory or gift that really touched your heart.

 

Disconnecting to Connect

I’ve just come back from a fantastic vacation.

I embraced the idea of disconnecting to connect.

feel rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to my true self. It was all things a vacation should be.

 

Every year I go back to the same small island off the coast of Massachusetts to reconnect to myself, my husband, and the beauty of the Earth. I watch the sunrise, I sail, I run, I bike, I eat homemade ice cream, I drink fantastic wine, I listen to the lighthouse’s boom on foggy evenings, I play with my dog, and I stare at the glory of the Milky Way every night. I live each day to the fullest.

What I don’t do is read the news, watch the news, or get on the internet.I don’t watch TV or return phone calls. I don’t email. It feels so refreshing.

 

It is often claimed that we live in the age of connection. That we are more “connected” than ever before. I disagree. If my “connection” fasts have taught me nothing else they have made crystal clear that the majority of us are more disconnected than ever before. A fantastic photo series by Eric Pickersgill illustrates how dependent we are on technology and how disconnected that dependence has made us. I find the photos heartbreaking. I also find them hugely truth-telling. We are not connected. We are barely present. We are barely living.

Next time you go on vacation, consider using your phone only for family photos. Take a break from “connection” and really be present in your own life. You will rediscover what it means to be truly connected.