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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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DECLUTTERING & ORGANIZING
Collections of Dubious Financial Value

“The number one reason I hold onto things is I don’t know what to do with them! And I never want to take the time to figure out how to properly dispose of them either. Poor Earth. We are such a wasteful species.” — Ellen Goodwin, co-founder of Artifcts

For others, the mere possibility of items “someday” becoming valuable is enough to trigger the collector mindset within us all: Barbie dolls and beanie babies, stickers and trading cards, stamps and coins, even free toys from fast food restaurants make the cut for some people.

three mint collectors coins in their boxes

 
 
These coins aren't valuable or sentimental, really. Maybe at a stretch they are aspirational.
 
 
To save my family a headache, I should just sell them at some point. — Ellen Goodwin

One of the great joys of the Internet is the ease of checking online consumer marketplaces like eBay and Etsy and high-end auction houses alike to get an instant sanity check on the value of whatever it is you’re holding onto. 

Bear in mind, if you love it and it’s doing no harm (you have the space, it’s not creating conflict or a safety hazard, etc.) then you may have no immediate need to get rid of anything at all. But even then, we’d ask: why not Artifct it? At least then your loved ones have a clue as to where you got it and why you’ve held onto it so they not only know you better NOW but one day, hopefully many years from now, they can make easier and faster decisions as to what to do with it all if you are no longer here.

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You may also enjoy these ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Going Green with Artifcts (+ Downloadable Guide!)

Upcycling Stuff After You Declutter: Personalized Art

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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#HabitChange: Rescue and Preserve Those Memories!

Reading time: 3 minutes 

This is something like a public service announcement based on a eureka moment I had one weekend back in November. I have a new rescue plan for my online memories! 

I was checking my email accounts—you know, the “real” one and the “shopping” one—and two messages back-to-back caught my attention. One was from Shutterfly with a “Your memories from this week 13 years ago,” subject. The other was “Your memories on Facebook,” featuring one of my posts from this day in 2015. 

I am all for solid habits and routines keeping my life sane. Now I have a new one: When I get these reminders, I will pause and ask myself, “Is this a memory worth rescuing?”  

If yes, I will Artifct that.  

If you care about your memories, use a product designed for that purpose 

Social media and photobook builders do not want to make it easy to download and use your content elsewhere, search quickly, or even keep your privacy at the forefront. They have one function – communication and sharing with your “people,” whomever they may be. And why would they do otherwise? They deliver on exactly what they are designed for! 

The same goes for single purpose apps. Really, you are only going to capture your voice your loved one’s voice? Why would I invest time and money in that when I could have so much more in the same or less time with Artifcts? 

It’s okay to want and expect more 

We have evolved in the digital world and can now help you to capture, preserve, and share your memories and reap other benefits, too! 

While at Artifcts we often argue a picture is not worth 1,000 words if you don’t know the story and you don’t know the person is, we can bend those rules. Take this example. 

Which is better?

Option 1: Compressed pics with a few details. 

Or

Option 2: The full story with audio and video, too? 

(P.S. The friend in question refuses to use social media, so it’s impossible to share this memory with her there, only trapped in random text messages or emails to be buried and lost!) 

At Artifcts that’s exactly what we do for our members. Bring your entire memory together where it’s still easy to share, never compressed, always searchable and downloadable in a human friendly format, and has still MORE benefits, supporting move, insurance, and estate planning being just three. 

Now, if you are going to put this plan into action, too, I want to warn you about a hiccup when it comes to Facebook: the photos you posted, Facebook has compressed. Truth is that nine times out of 10 I don’t care and can just download the image(s) from Facebook and use it the Artifct. If I do care, I can grab the original photo from my digital storage and add that to the Artifct later. 

And if you wonder, yes, I used the text I posted on Facebook to quickly create the Artifct. I went back the next day to edit the Artifct and add more to the story that I remembered but hadn’t wanted to share on Facebook. A win for memories! 

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You may also enjoy our past #HabitChange ARTIcles:

We're Talking #HabitChange in the New Year

#HabitChange: Back to School Edition

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Decluttering for Dementia: Paper Clutter

When decluttering, what stays and what goes somehow gets more and less complicated simultaneously when the process involves the belongings of someone who has advancing dementia. It’s doable, of course, but understanding what you might experience along the way, and some tested tactics, may help set you up for greater success and (hopefully) less frustration.

Today we're choosing a narrower topic within decluttering: papers and documents of all types. Why? The black and white of documents may be more emotional than you first imagine and all to easy to dismiss and toss when time and stress conspire against you. For a more general discussion about decluttering and brain health, check out this article.

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Life is life, busy and full. And whether we intend to collect and hold onto documents, photos, magazines and more, it happens. Sometimes we have best intentions of someday putting that all to use—"how to” do something around the house, tips for gardening, vacation brochures—or we fear that we may need it one day, e.g., warranties, user manuals, and tax papers. Even with modern day options like Pinterest, paper is still top dog for many of us.

So, when it comes to a breaking point, and you realize you just have too much, you can’t find anything, or maybe you’re preparing for a move, how you get through it all becomes the question. And when the person who owns the items has advancing dementia, we’ve learned there are some interesting complications to be aware of and to plan for to reach a productive, if not happy, ending. 

Here are a few common complications to consider:

      • Sometimes those living with dementia may believe people are taking items from them that are in fact items they have chosen to get rid of or are still in the home, but they cannot recall where they are located.
      • Visual cues range from helpful to critical memory prompts, and yet all of one’s belongings cannot possibly be out on display for a safe or pleasant home environment.
      • Loved ones and other care providers may be under time pressure for a move to downsize or transition into a memory care-supported community and thus while the home may technically have space for all the belongings, there is a need to begin decluttering and downsizing. The person with dementia may know, and forget, this move is coming.

Common Paper Clutter, the “Why” Behind It, and What Now

Magazines. You paid for them. You enjoyed them. You plan to reference them. You have/had kids that need them for projects. Maybe you haven’t even read them, because you want to read them closely and that takes time you can’t seem to find. So, you hold onto them. 

For people with advancing dementia, … reading through periodicals may no longer even be possible due to poor short-term memory recall. 

What now? Drop off with schools, recycle, sell collectible issues, Artifct those with memories attached, like these Seventeen magazines from the 60s.

Warranties and User Guides. Having the warranties and user guides in hardcopy can feel reassuring, you have recourse, you have details on what to do if there’s a problem. And not so long ago, these documents simply weren’t available unless you kept them in hardcopy. Times have changed. And many times, warranties aren’t even valid without registering your purchase within a certain period of time. Was that 30 years ago? 

For people with advancing dementia, … the visual support of a hardcopy is often necessary for memory recall. But, in reality, will that person be responsible for repairs or administrative tasks to support a claim? 

What now? Digitize valid warranties, and, with few exceptions for collectibles or antique items potentially, let the user guides go. You can find them online. 

Photos. The older the better, as memories go. And if you know what they are and you are not sitting on triplicates, blurry images, and unknown scenes, maybe they aren’t too cumbersome. But when you have photo clutter, and original negatives, you have risk of loss and degradation and an accessibility issue. You can’t likely keep it all out in the open and accessible. Digitization is your ally! (Check out tips for digitization.)

For people with advancing dementia, … talking through photos and the stories behind them is not only good for the individual but can bring them closer to loved ones and caretakers who will enjoy hearing the stories and capturing their loved one’s history and legacy. 

What now? Artifcts really helps with favorite photos – pair photos (a picture of them and/or the digital copy) together in an Artifct and the story behind them. You can even add video or audio of you/your loved one telling the stories. Photos can’t talk after all!

Letters and Greeting Cards. They are personal, the other person touched them, wrote on them, took the time to send them to you the old-fashioned way. The problem is they proliferate, and you store them away without looking back through them, so what good are they then? They are not all created equal – quick, functional notes, greeting cards with just a signature … – and yet we keep them all as though they are equal!

 
 
This card even had feet that move. Check out the video. >

For people with advancing dementia … Like photos, the older the better for memory recall. And when the people who may have given them to you are no longer present, this can be very grounding and ease loneliness and anxiety to have these touchpoints with your past.

What now? Encourage a three-pile sort:

              1. The benign, less meaningful that you can recycle;
              2. Special ones you can give away to another person who might cherish them;
              3. Historic, only copies, and the most meaningful to keep. For group three, this is the time for digitizing, scanning, or photographing them, whatever suits your needs and budget (time and money). Consider Artifcting important cards and letters so they are secure and preserved, as well as accessible whenever you want to see them, and easy to share. If you have room, consider displaying some again framed and set on a side table or bookshelf, for example.

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No matter what type of papers and documentation lurk as the result of a life well lived, take it bit by bit, listening along the way if you are helping to understand what’s most meaningful and why. This alone will take you a long way. Preserving the memories and stories will help make this process of letting go that much smoother. It’s not truly gone then; it’s there for reliving and sharing the experience.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Swedish Death Cleaning a Marriage

Reading time: 3 minutes

Yep, you read that right. If you can Swedish Death Clean a home, why not a marriage?  

We wrote about the Joys of Swedish Death Cleaning back in March 2022. In case you missed it ... döstädning ( means death, städning cleaning) is the Swedish practice by which older adults and their families set their affairs in order. By organizing and decluttering your home, you reduce the burden on loved ones who would otherwise be left to sift through dozens (if not hundreds!) of objects to decide what is significant and what should be kept.  

Marriages are a lot like homes. You build them up over time, fill them with memories, histories, and yes, even ‘stuff.’ Mementos from the newly wed days, important firsts and milestones, travel mementos, kid art, photographs, and the list goes on and on. It’s amazing just how much stuff accumulates over time.  

Over the course of our lives, we are apt to move at least 11 times, based on US Census data. In moving, we say goodbye to one location, and hello to another. Marriages are no different, sometimes they come to an end by choice, sometimes not, forcing us to move on, literally and figuratively. When this happens, it may be time for a little Swedish Death Cleaning.  

Death Cleaning Post Divorce 

Divorce, even if amicable, is not easy. I should know, having gone through a divorce myself and having given up most of my stuff except for the clothing and personal items I took with me. At the end of the day, only one person can retain physical ownership of an item, and visitation rights are not usually given for baby books, travel mementos, kitchenware, paintings, and the like. 

Post-divorce, you may be the one who ends up with bins of stuff and no clear idea of what to do with it. Maybe you want to start fresh, and you don’t want the old stuff. Maybe you are attached to the memories but aren’t ready to see these mementos or revisit them right now.  

Artifcts simplifies the (marriage) death cleaning process by helping you keep the memories, while you let go of or re-home some of the stuff. You’re then freer to decide if you want to give the item to your ex-spouse (does it mean more to them than you?), their family, or even your child. Chances are if you don’t want something, or don’t have a need for something, someone else in your family may appreciate the item.  

Death Cleaning After the Loss of a Spouse or Partner  

Losing a spouse may be one of the harder experiences some of us face as adults. Spouses and partners know us in ways no one else does. We’ve grown together, lived together, dreamed together. Sometimes as we slowly find our new normal without them, we simply cannot take all their stuff with us. Other times we may need to part with some of their stuff to bring closure. 

Artifcts can help. Start with the objects that remind you the most of your spouse or that your spouse loved best. Artifct them, and then take a moment to consider if someone else would cherish the object and memory as much as you. If yes, and if you are willing to part with it, re-home the item with love and care plus the Artifcted story.  

If you want to keep what you Artifcted, and you’re feeling up to it, take a moment and fill out the “In the Future” field in your Artifct so that your loved ones will one day know what you want them to do with the item. You can easily export and share the Artifct or entire Artifcts collection with an estate planner or attach to a digital will so your wishes are accessible. You may find that over time you are willing to part with more items knowing that the history, memories, and stories are safely stored for your loved ones in Artifcts.  

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You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

What Should you Artifct (Now)?

How to Artifct Family Heirlooms and History

Before You Thin Out That Stuffed Animal Collection, Consider What Scientists Have to Say

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Decluttering for Dementia

Reading time: 7 minutes  

If you’ve ever needed a better reason to stick to or create a resolution to declutter your home, this one might do it: It’s good for your brain. And we’ve seen it firsthand.  

In today’s piece for ARTIcles by Artifcts, we talk openly about facing a loved one’s dementia diagnosis, and how, maybe to your surprise, decluttering can help. We are grateful to include specialist insights throughout from Cathy Rice, certified senior move manager and life-long educator.  

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Dementia is heartbreaking, terrifying, and, so far, irreversible. Even if a loved one is in many ways themself, we know the disease is slowly changing them and shortening their life. I know. I have a loved one who is among the more than 50 million people worldwide with dementia now and already lost a loved one to dementia as well.  

Some of us react to this sort of diagnosis with a desire to do something, anything, to help, to make our loved one’s life in any way better, to take the tiniest measure of control over the disease. We dive into a multi-prong tactical to-do list that we must continuously update as together we progress from diagnosis, to sharing that diagnosis with others, to learning how to manage the disease and being as prepared as possible across legal, medical, financial, and insurance fronts.  

As I sought out my own ways to help, I expected I’d find information about diet, exercise, and social activities, both for my loved one with dementia and their primary, day-to-day care provider. And I did. What I was surprised to find recently while browsing HFC, Shining a Light on Alzheimer's: 5 Brain Health Habits was the hot mainstream topic of decluttering.  

Benefits of Decluttering for Those With Dementia 

You know decluttering well from TV shows like The Joy of Swedish Death Cleaning and The Home Edit, books including Marie Kondo’s famous The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and bins and more from shops like The Container Store. Decluttering to support someone with dementia in some ways is like decluttering for people with normal brain health. Too much stuff can literally be dangerous if we cannot safely navigate our homes. Some of us are also more sensitive to feeling drained by too much stuff lying about around us.  

Of course, when you have dementia, decluttering has other benefits, too. 

      • Reduce stress. Stress reduction is imperative when you have mild cognitive impairment or dementia. And decluttering can mean clearing away some of the to-dos that come to mind when people see stuff to tidy, dust, or keep safe. Have you experienced a loved one with dementia hiding things to keep the item safe? I am sure you have because it's an incredibly common behavior. 
      • Improve sleep. Quality sleep is critical for the brain’s nightly reset. Busy surroundings can lead to busy brains and may even sow confusion in bedtime routines.  
      • Safety, safety, safety. We know, decluttering is about aging well in place for all of us as we age, but it’s especially true for people with health conditions, like dementia, that can make them more vulnerable to confusing and distracting surroundings.
      • Avoiding anything close to hoarding. Keep in mind, hoarding disorder is its own condition, but managing even the clutter of daily life is more difficult when you have dementia because of increased challenges in making decisions.  
      • Purpose. We know finding purpose at any age is important. Here we are talking about giving the decluttering process a purpose to help your loved one part with more items than they might otherwise be willing to do. Purpose might be supporting a local shelter, resupplying charitable builders with tools, or reconnecting with loved ones when you pass down items. You get the idea. 

Decluttering for Dementia

We’ve prepared these tips from our own practical experience helping our loved ones with dementia as we try to help make sense of it all, including one’s surroundings.* In some cases our loved ones were also decluttering to downsize and move. In others, it was more of a practical decluttering, for safety and mental health.  

* We are not medical professionals. If you are considering radical changes to your loved one’s home enviornment, you should consult first with a specialist licensed in dementia care.

LIGHTS ...

Before you start your declutter, check the lighting throughout the home. Living like a cave troll generally does no one very good. But dementia is not only about memory. If you can see well what’s around you, it’s easier to make sense of your surroundings (and of course it’s safer). Make it easy to see the light switches, too. Understanding and interpreting surroundings, like a white switch on a white wall, can become an impediment for someone with dementia. 

Cathy’s Insight: Adding felt pads to any lighting fixture to differentiate the feel of the switch from the fixture itself or a simple icon as a visual cue helps to support the brain's understanding of the item with its function.

… CAMERA, ACTION!

Start from the ground, and work your way up.

What’s on the floor? Stacks of stuff? Wandering power cords? Rugs that slip and shift? Take a fresh look. Then move your eye upward to the surfaces of counters and entry tables. If someone needed to quickly grab onto a surface to prevent a fall, would they have a secure place to grab?  Is there a clear and secured place for common objects, like house keys?

Cathy’s Insight: People with dementia often find comfort in knowing that their stuff is close-at-hand. Create a "command center" within easy reach of their favorite chair for essentials (eyeglasses, books, pencils, fidget items, etc.).  

And about those rugs … if you must keep them, use carpet tape to secure edges to the floor. The same applies to small storage trays, which you can secure with surface-safe tape or museum putty.

Favor simple home furnishings.

As we know stress takes its own toll on the brain; let’s try to minimize the stress home décor can accidentally create. One Arti Member told us, “My loved one was disturbed by a decorative lumbar pillow that had a shaggy fur cover. It looked like a small dog.” Sometimes textures and patterns can be difficult for people with dementia to interpret. Likewise distinguishing whether an object is inanimate. This is why some people with advancing dementia find comfort with life-like pets such as those from Joy For All.

Take it down a notch.

This is about audio clutter. Too much and/or competing noises can be incredibly distracting for anyone, particularly someone with dementia. Think about simultaneous noise from the television, washing machine, and someone on a phone call, for example.

Cathy’s Insight: Taking this point a step further, family, friends, and caregivers should practice standing in front of, and at eye level if appropriate, people with dementia before speaking with them. Get their attention by saying their name and then speak simply and succinctly. 

Set it aside, together. Do not remove it. 

Don’t remove it immediately, if you do not have to, that is. Rushes to declutter in support of someone with memory loss could lead to irreversible loss of cherished mementos that also can serve as visual cues for familiarity and comfort. Is there an alternative way to display the items that the person with dementia says they care most about? Maybe try grouping like items on a shelf or table where they will see them often. For photos, you might even consider a digital photo frame, such as those from Nixplay, Aura, or any of the many other options.  

For items that do not make the cut, if space permits, store them in an appropriate box, and set them aside so you can pull them back out later if needed or as part of a monthly or maybe seasonal rotation. We recommend you Artifct them before they go into the box and tag them to easily recall what you've stored. This approach does not apply to duplicates, meaningless bits and bops, or trash. Consult with your loved one always as well as your own good judgement.

Clarity of Purpose for the Win

Our final decluttering tip is about visual chaos. If you open a drawer and see a jumble of socks, pants, and t-shirts, you could get distracted or confused. If a cabinet has five options for plates, and 10 options for cups, which should you choose? Not only should you streamline what’s inside for simpler decision making but consider visually labeling doors to indicate what’s inside. This gadget could help you get started with easy printing of images from your phone.

Cathy’s Insight: As the disease of dementia progresses, consider only placing the clothes needed for that day in the drawer or use a shelf in a bedroom/bathroom as the place for their daily wardrobe.  

Do you have decluttering tips for dementia? We’d love to hear them! You can contact Editor@Artifcts.com.

Happy Artifcting!

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ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

If you are a caregiver or supporting someone who is, you may find it helpful to browse and share these related resources.

Alzheimer's Society, UK: 10 Ways to Make Your Home Dementia Friendly 

US National Institute of Health: Study of Home Modifications for People with Dementia 

Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute: Communication Strategies in Dementia Care  

Mayo Clinic: Clearing Clutter Benefits Your Health and Well-Being

Psychology Today: The Many Mental Benefits of Decluttering 

AARP Michigan: Dementia Resource Guide for Families

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Bonus Epilogue: Why One Mom Moved Beyond Memory Boxes and Instagram

Today we have a special contribution from a guest curator who said enough to the status quo. In her case, that means turning a new leaf in her approach to saving family memories and mementos by no longer relying on keepsake boxes, Instagram, and photo albums alone. These were the options that got her through the exhausting early days of motherhood + entrepreneurship + life all jumbled together in what we call LIFE! Now, she’s moving on with Artifcts. 

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When Elena, my second daughter, was born 23 months after her sister Estella, I was suddenly in the throes of a very unique and personal post-partum reality. We were still in the midst of COVID and on top of all that, my startup company was just two years old. I was just trying to survive.

While I wanted to capture all of my girls' incredible baby moments, the idea of creating a baby book or scrapbook seemed very time-consuming and utterly impossible at the time. The best I could do was collect random mementos for each of my girls and place them in a box, hoping to alleviate the guilt of not doing more. Ironically, I couldn't even tell you what was in my older daughter's box without taking a look. And even then, many of the items are now a blur. I know what is in Elena’s but only because I just started filling it. 

Then there’s my family and friends, near and far. I post on Instagram so they can at least see the funny things the girls do. But that’s all I mostly post – the funny moments like Estella eating flaming hot Cheetos for the first time or trying to eat the sand at the beach.

While people get a sense of their personalities, there is nothing super personal about my feed. There’s nothing that shows who my girls really are, what they are learning, or what they are experiencing. And you would think they are raising themselves, as I am completely absent, except for my voice from time to time.

Re-experiencing Life through Artifcts 

I recently sat down with my friend Ellen who is the co-founder of Artifcts. Artifcts offers concierge Artifcting and I wanted to support her, so I decided to spend some time together Artifcting. I’ll be honest, I love Ellen, but until we sat down together, I really didn’t get how magical Artifcts is. (Now I see there is literally a testimonial on the membership page that says the same. I should have believed them!)

Before she arrived, I pulled out a few pieces of family heirloom jewelry, some artwork I inherited from my grandmother, and my daughters’ memento boxes. As we Artifcted, I realized how valuable it was to attach a story to an object.  As I was Artifcting my two engagement rings (There's a story!) I realized I could combine the photos with an audio recording of myself telling the story for my daughters, bringing the whole experience to life for them to treasure at a later date. And I can add the appraisal documents for my rings to the Artifct and even say who will get my rings one day in the future (one for each, obviously) That’s not something I can or WOULD do on Instagram.

Artifcts is everything I never knew I needed.

I tried out Artifcting videos and photos already on my phone, clicking share and choosing the Artifcts app. It’s just as easy as posting to Instagram. Now finding a cute memory and photo of Elena is much easier because all I have to do is open the Artifcts app, rather than combing through 1,000s of photos on my phone.

Pause now and create a new Artifct, just for you!  

 
 
 

So, what will I do now?

I’m still going to use Instagram for those laugh-out-loud moments, but I’ll be adding my friends and family to Artifcts so I can share more meaningful moments and objects with them privately. I know I can always post an Artifct to Instagram, too. I now have a digital scrapbook of Artifcts for my girls, for me, and for my family. Once I started Artifcting, I could feel the guilt start melting away. Artifcts is everything I never knew I needed, an easy way to collect my memories and connect them with my family and friends. Moms, Dads, get in there. You won’t regret it. 

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Remember, Father's Day is tomorrow!

Take 30% off with code DadStories30. We'll email you a printable gift card, too!

Gift Dad Artifcts to capture his stories! Use DadStories30 code for 30% off.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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