Protecting Your Photos From Natural Disasters

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In the last few months, so many of our friends and family have been displaced by natural disasters. It’s heartbreaking on every level to see families forced to leave their homes, sometimes at a moments notice. Like many of you, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and wondering how I can help during this difficult time. It’s not much but my contribution is to begin a discussion about your family photos.

How are you protecting your family photos?


When I think about all the photos that the last few weather events have destroyed, I could just cry. Those are items that no insurance policy can replace. Once they are subjected to water or smoke they are seriously damaged.

The number one action you can take to protect your family photos is to get them digitized. A quick web search in your area “digitize photos” will give you lots of local options. If you are comfortable with technology, have a photo scanner, and want to do it yourself, that is a great option. If you want the advice of a professional organizer APPO and NAPO  have amazing professionals who live for helping. Lastly, you can use on online service. I’m leery of most of those but I have used Fotobridge in the past and they were wonderful.

Bottom line: To protect your irreplaceable family photos–get them digitized.


After your photos are digitized there are a number of ways you can protect them: cloud service, thumb drives, CDs, external hard-drives. It depends on how much you want to spend and how comfortable you are with technology. I’ve put together a list below of products that can help keep your photos safe.

Please take this time to get your photos digitized and preserved. It is well worth the investment to know that your family history is safe.


Photo ScannerPicture KeeperFire-Proof SafeExternal Hard-DriveFire-Resistant Bags
Pro: Easy to use, compatible with PCs and Macs, front Screen lets you see imagePro: Easy to use, prevents duplicate images being saved, portable, easily placed in safe for even more protectionPro: Fire & water resistant, large size can fit multiple sizes of photos, AFTER FIRE REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE:
*In the event of a fire SentrySafe will replace your fire-resistant product to help get you back on your feet
Pro: Easy to use, portable, easily placed in safe for even more protectionPro: Easy to use, fire/smoke/water resistant, portable, easy to place in safe for even more protection
Con: Only one photo at a time. Only scans print photos not other media types (slides, negatives)Con: Easy to lose, can be damaged by heat or waterCon: not portable, more expensive than other options listedCon: can be damaged by heat or water, easy to misplaceCon: only one size






Review of Three Common Duplicate Photo File Finders

Today I’m going to give a quick review of three common duplicate photo file finders.


When I meet with clients who are interested in organizing their digital files I have three initial questions:

  1. What do you want to use these photos for?
  2. How many digital photos do you have?
  3. What software or app do you use to delete duplicates?

The first question is: Why are you working with your digital photo now?

Is it because you have an event coming up? Or is it because you’ve finally reached the breaking point of not being able to find your photos?

The second question is the heart of digital photo organizing.

How many? You would be amazed. I am all the time.

I am amazed at the number of my own photo collection. I routinely get an answer in the 10s of thousands. To hear someone say 20,000 is not unusual. Can you imagine 20,000 photographs?! It’s mind-boggling. It’s no wonder people feel overwhelmed.

My third question is often met with a blank look…what duplicate removal software do you use?

Few people scan their photos for duplicates. The person who has 20,000 images…I would bet at least 7,000 are duplicates. Perhaps not exact duplicates but the same image with a different filter or a different cropping. Close enough that if you removed the “Meh” photos you would be left with a lot more space on your hard-drive and a much better photo library.

Here is a quick review of three of the most common duplicate photo file finders:

photo file finder|digital photos|organizing tips

#1 Thing You Can Do To Organize Your Photos

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“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.

Four Tips To Declutter and Organize Your Digital Photos


December 2016 Facebook Statistic

The above quote is from Facebook. They are a photo storage giant. 90 billion photos. Can you imagine?!


Here’s the thing…I bet you can. I bet you feel like you have nine billion photos on your phone alone. You probably have another 60 in the cloud…whatever that means? And 160 billion on your hard drive. Let’s face it…we have a lot of digital photos. A LOT. I find the Facebook statistic fascinating because, that’s a lot of photos, that statistic is JUST Facebook. It doesn’t even include Instagram (which Facebook owns) or Twitter or holy cow…Snapchat!! We are drowning in digital photos. I know I am. By my last count, I’m at 30,000. That’s unique images. Not to mention why must iPhoto do that weird face thing? Why?! Does anyone like it? I will say it does give me a chuckle when it picks out my dog’s face or I have one of the Mona Lisa who it thinks is a friend of mine…awesome.

Here are five tips that will help you to organize and declutter your part of the 200 million photos before they get uploaded to Facebook.


This first step is crucial. You have to get all your photos into one place. Please do not say “Hodgepodge Girl…they are ALL on my phone!” I will save my rant about leaving photos on your phone for another day. For now, download them to whatever photo service you use: iPhoto, Google photo, Amazon, Window’s photo gallery, Forever, Lightroom



  1. Delete Duplicates. I like to use Photo Sweeper for macs and Duplicate Photo Fixer Pro for PCs. DPFP is capable of doing both…I just prefer PS.
  2. Now that you have a good idea of how many original photos you have…you need to start deleting. This is usually the hardest part for people because keeping the image seems easier than deleting. It’s not. I’ve   even had clients who had no idea who people in the photo were…but were sure they should keep it. Why?! I might figure it out someday. Ahem…no you won’t.  No one is so bored they peruse old digital photos to see if they can remember people they forgot. It’s not going to happen. Delete.
  3. Your photo collection is now so clean and shiny. It’s time to start tagging. This is a step that is often overlooked because…it’s tedious. We all love the instant gratification of taking a photo, some even download them, but NO ONE wants to tag…before it lands on social media. The thing is tagging…before you upload to your Facebook is VERY, VERY important for you. It makes it really easy to find pictures later on if you should want to use them for gifts or slideshows or just quick trip down memory lane. I recommend tagging the following info: YEAR, EVENT, PERSON (2016, Park City Ski Trip, Danny) That way you can do really quick searches to pull up a great range of photos. Some fun ideas would be a year in review slideshow, a calendar for Danny, a photo album of ski trips. So get tagging!
  4. Now that you have your digital photo collection organized, decluttered, tagged it’s time to get it off your hard drive. There are a lot of great cloud services. I use Forever and I love it. I have an app on my phone and iPad so I can have all my photos handy and they don’t take up any of my storage space. I can make quick gifts and have them shipped. I can even share photo albums with my friends and family. Not to mention they are safe from technical glitches (dropping my phone) that can happen when your photos aren’t backed up.

I hope this has given you some great ideas on how to move digitally clutter free into the New Year. Happy 2017!!


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.



Protect Your Family Photos

The most important part of my job is to encourage you to make a plan today to protect your family photos.


In the last couple of weeks, mother nature has thrown the mother of all temper tantrums. She has let loose with fires, floods, earthquakes and even a double tornado. A lot of people have had life altering loss and my heart goes out to everyone who is impacted by these events.

As we move forward we can prepare. We can hope that nothing like this happens again but the reality is…it will. If you haven’t created a disaster plan for yourself or your family, please use this opportunity to create one. When I was a kid, my parents would hold regular family meetings to review what we do in a fire. As an adult, my husband and I discuss our earthquake plan. We have emergency supplies. We’ve planned. That even includes what to do with our photos and important documents.

In poll after poll people say that when the evacuation call comes they take their family, pets, and photos. The stuff that really matters. While I am a hundred percent down with the first two, I say forget the third and run! Yes, I’m a photo organizer. Yes, I live and breathe photos. Yes, I believe that your family photos are incredibly valuable. They are also replaceable.You, your family, and your pets are not.

It takes only a few minutes to create a plan for how to protect your photos. There are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

How are your photos formatted? Are they prints? Are they digital?

What type of disaster are you trying to protect yourself from?

How tech savvy are you? Are you comfortable on-line?

I always encourage clients to digitize ALL their photos as the best way to keep them safe. If your photos are in print form there are still a few things you can do to protect them from smoke or water damage.


  1. Get a waterproof/fireproof safe: these are not actually waterproof but they will protect photos and albums from most of the damage. It only takes an inch of water to destroy photos so anything you do is better than nothing.
  2. Zquaredaway bags These bags are made from the same material as firefighter uniforms. They offer fire protection and some water protection. The main benefit of these is that they are easily portable.

If your photos are already digitized…YAY! You’ve already made the best step toward keeping your photos safe. My tip for digital photos has much more to do with your computer. I don’t want you running around wasting precious moments looking for your phone or your laptop. Get your photos off those devices and into a cloud service. There are many, many great options loaded with tons of security to keep your pictures private. If you are using this service strictly as a backup and do not want any bells and whistles I recommend using Amazon cloud drive. I use it myself. If you have prime it’s free, unlimited storage. It doesn’t have a lot of the features of a pay service but for a simple backup, it works great.

If you have digitized your photos and do not feel comfortable with cloud services (HI MOM!) There are still things you can do. These thumb drives from picture keeper are specifically designed for photos. Upload your photos to this drive, they hold an amazing amount of pictures, and then put the drive in your safe or Zquared away bag.

I can’t encourage you enough to do something to protect your photos. Just take a few minutes. Don’t lose your family history.



Brief Preview of “Hodgepodge Girl’s Tips For Organizing Print Photos”

When I explain to people what I do, organizing photos, I occasionally come across a response like “oh, I couldn’t let anyone else go through my photos.” I get that.

Our photos are very personal, sacred, objects that many people would feel uncomfortable handing over to someone they don’t know well. I will say that a professional organizer is not in the business of judgement. We are there to help. However, for those who would feel more comfortable doing it themselves I thought I would lend my years of advice into a “how-to book.” The following is an excerpt from my book “Hodgepodge Girl’s Tips For Organizing Print Photos.” It will be available in early 2018.

I know many people who move through life with ease who get stuck on what to do with their family photos. It’s like there is a well-believed myth that there is a “right” way to organize photos and if you didn’t learn it, or instinctively know it, you’re somehow a lesser human.

Your mom, sister, best friend, mother-in-law tried to teach you, tell you, show you the right way to do it but you could just never get it right.
You hired someone to organize your photos and she told you how your “should” do it but alas you could never keep up with the system.

Let me set you straight…ahem….THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY!!!

And anyone who tells you how you “should” do it is full of malarky and you have my permission to say so.

Here’s the truth. There are many, many ways you COULD organize your photos. Some of the ways are easier, some more complicated but none of them is the way you SHOULD do it. And if it doesn’t work with your photos, your life, your circumstance, the way you think, it will NEVER work for you. All organizational techniques must be customized to each client. There is no one perfect system.

When I talk to clients, I always ask “what do you want to use these photos for?”


The answer, and the medium of photos, drastically change how we move forward. For the sake of this post, let’s assume the client wants to organize and store her photos. She has no immediate plans to use them but wants access.

We could use:  Year>Season>Event (ex. 2016>Spring>Ski Trips)
Or another person might like  Event>Year>Location (ex. Easter>2016>Our House
Yet Another may like:   Person>Year>Event (ex. James & Jane>2016>Wedding)

None of these are wrong. But I will say for the sake of your sanity, especially with printed photos, it is much easier to think in broad categories when creating albums or storage in boxes.


For instance, I think it’s easier to organize in terms of either year, events, or people. An album or acid-free box devoted to each year and everything that happens within that year. Or Holiday album (ex Christmas) where all your holiday photos go. Or sorting all your pictures of a specific person (ex James).

If you try to get too specific you end up with 100 boxes or albums and while that is better than a hodgepodge mess, it’s still too many places to make the photos truly accessible.
So, before you begin your photo organizing project, take some time thinking about how you want to move forward with your photos. What makes the most sense for how you’d like to use them. There is NO right way and NO wrong way. There is only YOUR way.