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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
15 Decluttering Targets for Artifcters

People love to prescribe decluttering. Often, they even give you tips on how to get started. The lists to help you think through what “goes” typically go something like this: 

      • Is it broken? 
      • Is it a component (like a cable or remote) to a gadget you no longer own? 
      • Do those clothes even fit anymore? Are they sporting holes? 
      • Holding onto legal and tax documents beyond their usefulness (e.g. 7 years for most tax documents)? 
      • Hmm, you don’t even know what the object is or why you have it?  
      • Is it expired, as in cleaners and paints, make up and fragrances, or spices? 

And so on. All valid options for a quick declutter. 

More frustrating is that the advice usually ends there or will weave in a, “Get rid of it, but take a photo first.” Really? I have 1,000s of photos to scroll through, I’ve forgotten the details, and, again, what am I supposed to do with the physical photos anyway? I’ll just do nothing, thanks. 

Why We Have to Talk About This 

We think standard decluttering advice is partly helpful, partly a clever ruse to distract you from and avoid an entire segment of ‘stuff’ - the stuff that also has sentimental value. “Time to let go,” they will say. And how exactly should I do that? Will you pay for my therapist? 

We’ve tapped the Arti Community for a fresh take on decluttering targets full of all those sentimental, history-filled, "just cool," or “you never know what it might be worth one day” things that make decluttering especially challenging. We know how hard it is.  

Let us know how these targets help you and which are missing. And, when in doubt, call in a specialist to help! We provide some ideas at the bottom of this article.

15 Decluttering Targets in the Age of Artifcts: Artifct, Share, and Let Go!

With contributions from Matt Paxton, host of the PBS series "Legacy List with Matt Paxton" and author of "Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff." 

1. OLD CAMERAS 

You know, the type that used actual film. And other gadgets that you remember the good ol’ days when you see. Anyone still hanging onto an original iPod?

* Expert tip: Like a passport, Artifct the camera and all the places it’s been! Then … how old are we talking? Maybe a local school or a child would be interested? If you want to sell it, you could check specialized marketplaces, including KEH Camera. As with any technology, please do not throw it away. Contact your local municipality about recycling, try tech vendors like Canon, or pop into local stores, such as Best Buy.

2. THAT OUTFIT YOU WORE ...

… when you graduated, honeymooned, won the big deal at work. If you’re Dolly Parton, yes, that sequin-embellished gown will likely go into a museum, so let’s just set those exceptions aside. For the rest of us mere mortals, you know the drill.

* Expert tip: Artifct it, and include a photo of you wearing it back in the day, if possible. 

3. CHILDREN'S ARTWORK

We all know it’s bountiful. So, let’s pick and choose what we keep, and no matter what, keep the stories. So, record the basics in each Artifct. They gave it to you when? How did they make it? What is it? Better yet, record them telling you and include the photo and video. There’s nothing like hearing those tiny voices again when they are all grown up.

* Expert tip:  Tag the Artifcts with their name and age or grade for easy sorting: #Amara #1stGrade. 

4. FURNISHINGS

Come on, we’ve talked about this! We know whole rooms in houses not to mention pricey monthly storage units exist that are bursting with furniture you remember from parents and grandparents or are considered family heirlooms but that no longer have a place in your current life. Better than those bulky items hanging about are the stories that they bore witness to when you slept there, relaxed on those, placed family photos on them. 

* Expert tip from Matt Paxton: If you’ve decided to try to sell the item, list it on Facebook Marketplace and if it doesn’t sell in, say, 24 hours, then move it over to a Buy Nothing group and get it out. Remember your time is worth at least $25 an hour; do not spend six hours selling a $100 item. And don’t forget – you already decided you don’t want it, and you have the memory on Artifcts, which will easily outlive the use of the furniture. Don’t let haggling over the price ruin your decision to make space in your home. 

5. HOLIDAY DECOR

There could be any number of reasons—it’s faded, maybe slightly damaged, out of style—why you never take it out to use or display anymore. But you likely have a lot of history with it to Artifct and share.

* Expert tip: If it’s still useful, consider getting it to a donation center a few weeks before the holiday so others can pick it up to enjoy! 

6. VALUABLES

Consider your crystal, jewelry & watches, and collections (coins, stamps, statues, art): Are they worth more to you as cash to reinvest in other items you will care for or use more? Or could they be of greater value to someone else in the family? Take a hard look.

* Expert tip from Matt Paxton: I tend to Artifct the item and share it with my family members to see who has the best memory or story of the item before then making the final decision to sell it or gift it (and to whom). To help with your sell vs. gift decision, seek out the best industry specific site to price the item (e.g. Worthy.com for a wedding ring) or send the Artifct to Heritage Auctions using the “What’s it worth?” feature for a free valuation. 

7. HERITAGE AND HISTORICAL ITEMS

Baby bassinets, antique gowns, family bibles, tools of trade, we pass these items down through the generations, often with little care for their preservation. And they take up a lot of space, especially if you are the ‘family keeper’ and have the majority of the items.

* Expert tip:  Small museums, historical foundations, and even professional archives may be interested and will in fact preserve them!  

8. RECIPES

Hanging on to a cookbook for a single recipe that was beloved? Combine a photo with your secret methods and ingredients and send that book on its way. And if you have a mess of recipes from a loved one that you never make but are holding onto just because, photograph the collection for a single Artifct, along with any singleton standouts, and then recycle.

* Expert tip: For truly special recipes, consider preserving or framing them. Maybe even turn them into something new, like this Arti Community member did with her mother's recipe.  

9. PHOTO ALBUMS

Bulky, yellowing, photos slipping, and, hmm, who is that in those pictures that are a bit blurry, too? If you have only one or two albums, this is really not a good category for you. If you have more, and they sit in shelves and boxes never opened, consider whether now is a time to digitize the pictures and Artifct the memories. Maybe you’ll even opt for archival-quality photo books to recast the past with fresh perspective in a coffee table friendly format!

* Expert tip from Matt Paxton: Trim down the massive collection to a more manageable pile before Artifcting, digitizing, printing for photo books, or sorting and gifting to relatives. Get rid of what you no longer need: duplicates, negatives (you haven’t used them yet, you don’t need them), generic landscapes (e.g. beaches and mountains with no identifiable people), and pictures of people you don’t know or don’t like. It’s okay to throw away pictures of your former in-laws that you haven’t spoken to in 20 years.

10. T-SHIRTS 

These are sneak-y! Durable, especially if they end up in the back of the closet or bottom of the drawer, as well as inexpensive, gift worthy, and great mementos. Suddenly you have dozens, some don’t fit or have yellowed stains, and/or they are otherwise ready to be retired. Some you might elevate to framing, others to those popular t-shirt quilts, a few in good condition to vintage clothing shops, and the rest, simple Artifcts with great stories.

* Expert tip from Matt Paxton: You could always offer them up to your favorite niece and Artifct you and her wearing your favorite Duran Duran t-shirt 30 years apart! If you think it’s cool, it’s probably cool to the next generation, too. Worst case scenario, Artifct them and give them to Goodwill. My biggest tip here is to make sure you are detailed when Artifcting. Give the details of the band, when you saw them, who you hung out with and WHY you loved the t-shirt so much. My kids loved my skateboarding t-shirts when they found out I met Tony Hawk at Mt. Trashmore in 1989. The beauty of Artifcting is that it allows you to put your family and friends in the moment with you to enjoy the memory as much as you do 

11. BASEBALL (FOOTBALL ETC.) TRADING CARDS

Those skinny boxes literally pile up, and you never kept them as pristine as you think. Share them with a neighbor kid or post them on freecycle or similar. Just move them on out.

* Expert tip: Suspect there’s hidden value? Artifct them and click “What’s it worth?” and Heritage Auctions will take a look!  

12. GLASSWARE, CHINA, SILVER

If you’re using them, this category is not for you. If you are dusting and polishing for "remember when" or "they belonged to {loved person}," Artifct them instead, check with family, and if there’s no taker, out they go.

* Expert tip: Not a tip, more of a confession. Co-founder Ellen Goodwin thinks a genius Etsy shop would sell gorgeous mixed china pattern sets. Unique design + reselling = a win win. Put her on the waitlist so it can join the family silver she saved!

13. BOOKS

Do you catch yourself reflecting on a funny passage, what was happening or where you were when you last or first read it, or maybe where you got it, and saying “Nope, it can stay for now.” How many books are in this category? Don't lie. Books carry intellectual and personal growth and even sometimes spiritual weight. But even with books you can capture the essence of what it means to you and move it on to the next reader.

* Expert tip: Check between the pages and then consider taking them to school book drives, local donation centers, or even shops like Half Priced Books. 

14. STUFFED ANIMALS

Okay parents, confess, how many of these creatures are more sentimental to you than your child (or future unborn grandchild)? And what about all those that are forgotten moments after receiving them? Or loved soooo much that they are probably a health hazard? 

* Expert tip: Local requirements vary, but you can offer cleaned toys to some fire stations and animal shelters and lovingly reminisce with Artifcts. 

15. TRAVEL MEMENTOS

We’re willing to bet if you collect them all in front of you, you could pick out the especially valuable ones to you from the lineup. Maybe the details have even grown pret-ty fuzzy. A memento might be cool, but if you feel a clutter crisis closing in on you or you simply want to lighten the load, it’s time to pare it back. 

* Expert tip: Matching items to photos or stamps in a passport, maybe with a bit of audio from you, is a fabulous way to relive those travels and offer a final tribute as you send it off to a new home. 

Sometimes We Need a Little Help

Decluttering help can take many forms, depending on your circumstances. Here are some additional resources that might be just what you need. 

Artifcts Concierge. Register free today on Artifcts.com to give Artifcting a try! We are also highly experienced in the art of capturing the stories behind objects and paying attention to the details that matter for your future depending on the ‘why’ you have the objects and what you may want to do with them next. We can provide virtual or in-person Artifcting support to propel you forward in your decluttering! 

Keys Guild. Collectibles advisors trained through the Keys Guild can provide onsite services to identify items of value for resale and the optimal outlets (i.e. top dollar) for selling the items. To learn if there is a Key in your area, use this contact form

NAPO. The National Association of Productivity & Organizing has a large nationwide membership base ready to help you organize, declutter, and more. Find a NAPO professional in your area by zip code here

Archivists. These professionals may be less familiar to you, but they are often working for or collaborating with institutions of all sizes and types that take donations. Consider original works of fiction or non-fiction; war memorabilia; scrapbooks, journals, letters, and diaries; and media (photographs, slides, film, even websites too). You can learn more and locate an archival consultant at The Society of American Archivists

Auction houses. Valuable items and collections may be a good fit for auction. Auction houses vary, some with broad specialties, others niche. Many now offer online auctions, not just traditional raise your paddle affairs. Their appraisal services for single objects and entire estates can also help inform which of your items will go up for auction or sale in any venue (e.g. auction house, 1st Dibs, Ebay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace) and which maybe have more sentimental value. 

Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff.” If you’re in more of a “Let me think on it,” or do-it-yourself mindset, we recommend this book. Matt Paxton joined the Artifcts board recently but long before we even met him, we were fans of his book because of its practical advice, engaging stories, and litany of self-starter tips and resources.  

Happy Artifcting!

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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From Rare Art to Family Heirlooms: Tips From a Master as You Consider Selling Your 'Stuff'

When Anthony Bourdain passed away, he left behind an estate of objects, objects surely with stories. Or not. 

Some stories were no more than, “It belonged to him,” and if you admired his work or his person, maybe that would have been enough to compel you to purchase a piece from his estate auction. Other objects carried the weight of the star and a glimmer of who Anthony Bourdain was in the moment and place when the object became a part of his life. Pieces of his legacy.

Auction Catalog Lark Mason Associates Property of Anthony Bourdain     Bob Kramer Custom Knife for Anthony Bourdain with story about the knife

The auction catalog created for the personal collection of Anthony Bourdain.
 
 
 
So many stories behind those items.

Famous or not, the same is true for the objects of your life. Much of what you own you simply own. It decorates your home or maybe serves some functional requirement—why, hello, Chair. But some objects are more than objects, to you. You know where that print hung above your parents’ sofa. That 3000-piece train collection that was a joy for all and chief resident of your uncle's 500 square foot basement. And don’t forget that seemingly random ceramic jar set. You bought those in a small town outside Lake Garda, Italy, during your honeymoon. 

Other objects come into your life through others, such as the passing of a relative. These are especially challenging objects. You may not know anything about them other than who gave them to you. Maybe you chose a few items to take from your grandmother’s estate or an item was bequeathed to you and you think you can’t go against your grandmother’s wishes and have to hold onto it. 

Objects have histories, people have histories, and it all gets really complicated.

At Artifcts, we simplify and try to alleviate some of the burden stuff can create by making it easy to capture the history, life experiences, and memories behind objects. This holds true whether or not you keep the item.

To understand more about factors to consider when you want to sell an item, we sat down with Lark Mason of Antiques Roadshow fame and who you can often find these days at his New Braunfels, Texas-based auction house Lark Mason Associates. His message was clear: “I wish people understood their own motivations [regarding objects] more. Are they deriving an emotional charge from owning it? Do they want to make money somehow?”

The motivation for selling is vital to Lark Mason Associates because a seller’s motivations can influence whether the sale is a success in the eye of the beholder - What’s the minimum acceptable price? What is the sale timeline? (If you’re in a rush, you may have to forgo some of the value premium in favor of closing the deal.)

So, if you have you decided to sell an item, take Mason’s advice and pause and reflect on your goals and motivations:

        • Are you downsizing and must part with some objects?
        • Do the objects simply no longer fit your lifestyle or current decor, so you want to sell them and use the proceeds to replace them?
        • Do you have legal or financial problems that require you to divest assets?
        • Are these inherited and/or you are charged with dispersing the estate? If there’s a will, what does it say to do with proceeds of any sales (e.g. divide among children, philanthropies, other)?
        • Are you sure you’re ready to let go? Acknowledge your emotional attachments to the items. Artifct to remember and to maybe share those Artifcts with others who have ties to the items. 

As Mason gently noted, once you let go of an item, its identity is changed for good. Someone will bring the object home to a new environment, display it in a new way, not how your grandmother did. Not with the companion pieces or surrounding bookcase. (Although we see attempts to do so! Check out this Artifct.) Not with her favorite music playing in the background. This means then that “Even those ties to what ‘once was’ get weakened over time—now you have random grouping of objects that have been inherited through lethargy, financial, and emotional connections—and shift,” said Mason. 

We know the content of Bourdain’s personal collection moved on to new homes, and to Mason’s point, they likely took on new identities. Maybe the chef’s knife is no longer actively used and sits encased. Or his desk has become a foray table featuring photos of a family Bourdain never met. So it goes for him and for all of us. 

But what legacy do you want to leave behind? And how will you make the most of the objects you accumulate as you live your life? Documenting and readying them for sale is one option, and Artifcts is here to help guide and support you if you do.

Happy Artifcting!

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If you have items you would like to consign or auction through Lark Mason Associates or are in the market for a new piece, visit https://www.larkmasonassociates.com. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Pint-Sized Perspective on Decluttering and Moving

This piece for ARTIcles was inspired by a neighbor who spoke with Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin about the woes of all that "kid stuff" to get through in preparation for a move this summer. Thank you for being our muse! And if you missed our adult-sized version of decluttering to move, give it a read ->  

From the time Violet was a baby and stretching well into toddlerhood, she moved a lot, bopping around Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Her age made it easier on us, the parents, in that she didn't fully realize what was happening. She was also in a phase of life during which she naturally was outgrowing everything from books and toys to baby furniture and clothing at a fast pace, so purging during each move was simplified a bit. 

Then she turned six.  

"I'm ooo-l-d," she whined. Insert palm in face on every parent who hears this sweet nonsense. Mitigating her pain somewhat was the fact that her 6th birthday was in fact extra special - it fell on Easter. So, we called it "B-Easter," and managed an impromptu egg hunt blended with tea party, followed by chalk, bubbles, kites, and bikes. Not bad! 

photo of chalk on pavement "Happy B-Easter"

What we were less prepared for was the storm brewing behind this sweet looking little Texan's face after sharing a few days later that they would be moving. You'd think we stole her puppy! "But you did make a New Year's Resolution to buy a house this year," teased my husband. (True story! What kind of "resolution" is that?!) 

Violet began plotting. How could she pack EVERYTHING? How could she make her new home JUST like her current home? She packed boxes herself. She filled bags and tried knotting them closed before I could even look and confirm it was really just full of her Beanie Boos. It was cute and annoying simultaneously. We had to get going! 

colorful collection of Beanie BoosClick the image to view the Beanie Boo collection Artifct.

While the word "fair" is banned in our household Try it! It's amazing how many other, more informative words your kid will use when fair is off the table it was deemed "fair game" to use her passions and personality to help manage the situation. Decluttering was going to happen as packing proceeded. Not everything was getting on the moving truck, whether you were 6 or 36. And we did not want to end enemies.  

Tried & Tested Pint-Sized Strategies

Here are the strategies we used with our 6-year-old, and more recently with a set of adult children who were equally disinclined to part ways with a lot of stuff all at once.  

  1. Don't make it an "all at once" task. Friendly disclaimer: We know, sometimes a move is unexpected and abrupt. This then does not apply. In general, you have some notice, maybe even months, to prepare for a move. Consider starting with your child's least used and noticeable items in deep drawers, backs of closets, bins and boxes that have collected dust, and 'stuff' that truly doesn't fit (or work!) anymore. Something small each weekend. Let them play and experience it one last time if they want as they sort into piles to rehome, donate, recycle, resell, or maybe even trash. Smallest box is for the move.  
     
  2. And time it. Ask them to focus on the task for no more than 15 minutes. For 6-year-old Violet that was less than one episode of Sofia the First and totally manageable.  
     
  3. Know thy child. Appeal to sweet spots. Violet loves, loves, loves to be a helper. Extending that to helping others who have unmet needs for new books, clothes, and toys was a major source of success and pride. She even made cards to go with her donations. And the donations were not generic. We brought some into a women's shelter, for example, where we knew who would directly benefit locally. Seeing is believing, even when you're six. 
     
  4. Take photos and videos (and Artifct it!) of special items that don't make the cut. Have you noticed how kids of all ages, even at 56, love to browse photos and videos on their phone, in social media, etc.? We even have a video of 2-year-old Violet dancing and the moment she stops you can hear her say, "I want to see!" Sometimes you just like to see something to trigger that happy nostalgia or moments of pride from that hard one roller skating derby or large collections of anything that can't possibly come or maybe will but cannot be displayed in its entirety.  
     
  5. Embrace porch or garage sales. There's simple logic in favor of selling a large amount of 'stuff' even for low prices and gaining the power to buy that new whiz-bang toy or container of slime or funny hat all by yourself! Kids don't generally have money of their own and this is a good opportunity to reward their help in the decluttering process. Violet sold books she'd outgrown and a several movies too. 
     

Special Case: Moving to a New Country

Another friendly disclaimer: In a country as large as the US, another state can sure feel like another country ... No matter the excitement and motivation to make the leap and move to a foreign country, I empathize with what you will go through in terms of energy, cost, and general discombobulation. Every move we made was hard but heading into a foreign culture amplifies the desire for the comfort familiar objects, foods, music, and more can offer.  

International moving and shipping fees, or conversely long-term self-storage fees, may mean your decluttering and downsizing tasks are more extreme. This is definitely a time Artifcts can help. Want to show off your transformer collection ... special dolls ... cool bike ... but can't take them with you? Artifct to remember and show your new friends what your life was like in your home country! 

We bet you can adapt these ideas to your own kids. Or, if you are a professional organizer, we hope these tactics can help you as you work with clients in similar situations.

Happy Artifcting! 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Who Wants This Rocking Chair?
You have likely heard the expression "fast fashion." Today I'm fixated on "fast furniture." Relatively cheaply made so we can all afford it and maybe have fun trying new and trending styles, it wears out all too quickly and then off to the landfill it goes. Shockingly, the EPA estimates that 9 million U.S. tons of furniture and furnishings hit the landfills every single year.
Of course it is not all fast furniture to blame. Sometimes no one wants it anymore, it has irreparable damage, and/or it fails to meet today's safety standards and cannot be donated or resold through secondhand stores. Our options then are to cart it around and use or store it out of guilt because of the memories and the distaste for so much waste in the world. Or, yes, we send it off hopefully to be recycled but more than likely to accumulate in landfills.
I have an item I fear is on this pathway. It is a children's sized wooden rocking chair gifted to my siblings and me by our grandmother. My mother let me bring to my home so my daughter could use it. Now littles in the neighborhood enjoy it. But, what next, when they too outgrow it? Do I keep it forever? Really?! I don't think guilt hoarding is a legacy my grandmother is aiming for.
 
Ellen and Violet, generation apart, same wooden rocking chairClick the image to view the Artifct.
I've watched throughout the pandemic as truckloads of "junk" head out of our neighborhood. I suspect it's because we were all spending dramatically more time at home and maybe felt restless or like the walls were closing in, so "Let's make more space!" because that, that we can control.
And now I wonder: What are you holding onto? What do you have luxuriating in pricey, climate-controlled storage, aka your home or paid self-storage, and consuming more money than it might be worth (from a sentimental and/or market value)? And, what's your plan for it all?
List of categories of items people tend to hang onto
Share with us on social media or, even better, Artifct it and share via Hello@Artifcts.com and maybe we'll feature it and your story!
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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Bonus Epilogue: Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother

Whether your parents were cleaning out their basement, or you were reclaiming bins of childhood memories of your own volition, maybe you have also stumbled upon heirlooms that made you go, "Hmmm?" Enjoy this short epilogue to this week's ARTIcles story Five Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother. We hope it makes you smile.

I'm not much of a collector, certainly not a hoarder. And yet guess what I found in my mish-mash dresser drawer - teeth. An uncontained, random assortment of Violet's baby teeth.

random baby tooth in a drawer

Before you rush to judgment, hear me (and surely other parents!) out.

Far too often I would lay down to sleep only to bolt up with the, "Agh! I'm the tooth fairy!" realization. I’d rush out to contrive something clever to swap for the tooth she'd lost, usually a dollar coin or a paper dollar folded origami style into a heart. Then I'd toss the tooth in said drawer to avoid her finding it in the trash or elsewhere and promptly forget about it after drifting to sleep.

Now, those Victorians knew a thing or two about saving hair and teeth. But we are not in Victorian times. I even understand the idea of going off on a trip or to even war and bringing a lock of hair with for luck or remembrance. But I am genuinely curious as to why so many people choose to keep these human relics in modern times, a trend I assume exists because companies exist to help us transform them into jewelry, framed wonders, and more.

Even my mother saved locks of hair I had cut off as a child.
Envelope marked in pencil with description of hair locks inside
Upon discovery, I Artifcted it (here - or click the image above), and promptly tossed it, or, if you prefer, "decluttered" and let it go. No judgement whatsoever on my mom, but for me it was a hard, "No."

I would beseech anyone who keeps hair or teeth as heirlooms to Artifct them. Why did you keep them? What memories do they evoke? Will you be heartbroken and haunt the living if they one day choose to let go of them because they see them as trash not heirlooms? My mom gave me free rein to do as I pleased with my locks of hair, but not everyone may feel the same.

If you have questions along the way, contact us at Hello@Artifcts.com and we’ll be happy to help you jump into the Arti Life
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Considering gifting the mom in your life Artifcts. Imagine all the "I never knew that about you!" moments that await.
© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Five Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother

I recently spent a few days back home in rural Wisconsin Artifcting with my mother. And guess what, we're still on speaking terms! I’m not a minimalist, but I do like to keep control of how much stuff is in my small home. Otherwise, I feel like it just zaps my mental energy. My mom is more sentimental and tends to hold onto things “just in case” so our styles can … clash. (Or at least seem to. Read a-ll the way to the end.)

Living in a 100+ year old farmhouse for the last 40+ years means that my parents have had a lot of time to accumulate and collect a delightful array of 'stuff.' As I'd hold up another object, open another drawer, or pull out still more boxes, the common refrain from my mother was, "I just set that aside to deal with another time." Sound familiar?

As a business owner and an adult child (and now parent myself), you can imagine I took a lot of mental notes along the way as we Artifcted together. I asked my mom for her notes, too, and am sharing our combined insights here to help you as you organize, declutter, downsize, or simply take a pause to reminisce and Artifct along the way. 

Two quick points before we dive in. For context, my mom did not have items pulled out ready to Artifct, because my visit was a surprise. I had a list I wanted to ask about – and we did work through it! – but we started working in my parents’ old bedroom, which they now use for storage. We had plenty of boxes, bags, closets, cedar chests and more to work with. Also, we Artifcted on mobile, iPad, and laptop to find the format that my mom liked best. Verdict: iPad.  

handwritten list of objects on notepad

Lesson #1. Know your goal.

My parents are not moving anytime soon. And the two of them occupy very little square footage in their home. There is no immediate need to get rid of anything. So, what then was our goal? Honestly, I wanted to start to become a bit more aware of which objects in my parents’ home had hidden meaning to them. My dad was more interested in a bit of clean out. My mom just wanted to spend time together, Artifcting. She said, “It’s fun to enjoy the process and remember along the way. You have to think, 'Hmm, why did I keep this thing?'” What this meant then was that as long as we created a few Artifcts together and had some recycling, trash, and donations to show for our time, we would please everyone. 

What and how much you want to Artifct is a key question, too, for us when the Artifcts team works in person with people through our concierge services. That way, everyone is pleased to have met mutually agreed goals. 

Lesson #2. Is anything off limits? 

I think by virtue of having moved so many times as an adult and living in a small house with an open floor plan with very little storage, there’s really nothing off limits in my home. My mom was more anxious about me digging into cedar chests, boxes, and paperwork without her first going through it. She wasn’t even sure what she had or what I would trip over, and she wanted to make the discovery first. Totally fine! We found a system so she could see or speak to an item first and then I’d help organize items for Artifcting, giving to another family member (usually one of my siblings), disposing, donating, or otherwise rehoming. 

Lesson #3. Take breaks to photograph. 

We wanted to get through large amounts of ‘stuff,’ but we also wanted to put things where they belonged to keep our working space clear. So, we’d take breaks to photograph items we wanted to Artifct later. These photo breaks were nice stress relievers, too, because sorting through so much can be a bit tiring and emotionally straining as you are washed by wave after wave of nostalgia. We’d also grab coffee and a snack during this break. 

Lesson #4. If you’re together, get the full story. 

Time is the devil. We all know this, but we like to ignore it. My brother was out of town, but I had my parents, my sister, and extended family (just an email or text message away) to help fill in the blanks about the history or backstory of photos and items we came across. We used these family resources then and there, sometimes even recording video or audio of the funnier or sappier stories on the fly (Check out tips for audio & video in our FAQs!), to capture what we could.

Sometimes we were unsuccessful in that the long history – “Who gave this to you, and when?” – was lost already but the current history – “I’ve just always loved this pin,” or “My sister gave it to me for a gift at some point,” – was a compelling reason in and of itself to Artifct an item and revealed my mom's why (as in, why did she still have this item anyway). 

Vintage flower pin with gold trim  vintage red floral apron with wooden handled wire pastry blender

Click the images to view the related Artifcts!

Lesson #5. Glad I asked! 

Some 'stuff' really is just stuff. No great story or history attached. At least you won’t have to wonder and stress about it one day if your friend or family member is no longer here and you are helping to disperse the estate. That chest of drawers you think is interesting? Those old matching sweatshirts? They look cool and served a purpose, but they have no remarkable stories. Totally fine. Keep and use or move along to someone else who will. No guilt! (Side note: My mom wasn't interested in the sweatshirts anymore, but I was and even had my own story to layer on top of them!)

Chicago paper company two-drawer cabinet     Vintage matching sweatshirts for Jimmy and Ding Dong

When I returned to Austin and took a look around my home, I had an ah-ha moment that would surely make my mother feel vindicated because as it turns out our styles do not clash as much as it may seem.

When she insisted on keeping multiple bags of old blankets because, "They're wool and could someday make good quilt lining," I took a breath and moved on but was frustrated. I was thinking that surely at 70+ years old my mom has a good idea whether quilting will actually be a part of her future, even if she lives to 100.

And, yet, I admit, I have bins in my attic with undergrad and grad school papers and books. Why? I always think, "What if I decide to teach?" you know, become a "professor of practice." Thing is, even if I did, would I really go back to these papers? And if that were remotely useful, why not just scan them and file neatly with a backup in the cloud. Okay, okay, Mom, keep your ratty old wool blankets. 

Now, everyone, if you get nothing else from this tale, remember, these Artifcts are for you. So, enjoy. Find the pace and process that works for you!

Happy Artifcting (with Mom)!

P.S. Be sure to check out the bonus epilogue! We think it will make you smile.

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Artifcts Gift

Consider gifting the mom in your life Artifcts. Imagine all those "I never knew that about you!" moments that await.

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