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DOWNSIZE & DECLUTTER
Because Who Wants 300 Miniature Pianos!

Not you? Then read on. This one is for you!

There's a fear factor motivating some adult children to prematurely help - some more aggressively and/or cheerfully than others - their parents downsize, whether to downsize and literally move into a smaller home or downsize at home to more minimal possessions. The end goal for these adult children is sort of "Not it!" Do not send all that stuff to me. I don't have room for all my own stuff, never mind your stuff, too. 

The question for the parent in this scenario becomes one of legacy - will you leave a burden of stuff, or one of memories, rich with who you were in your lifetime, and who you were together, too? Shared now and shared later, maybe through these stories and memories you’ll help release people from holding onto so much stuff that the stuff becomes that burden the adult children fear, clouding the memories. 

A blue bowl and red handle thin metal spatula

 
 
 
 
 
Simple everyday objects, with meaning. But will you keep them always, or maybe just the memories?  

On that note, meet Sue, a member of the Arti Community. And not just any member. As she approaches her first anniversary with Artifcts, she is also our top Artifcter, surpassing even the founders of Artifcts who had a head start and a natural predilection for Artifcting. 

Who is Sue? If you search @Sue on Artifcts, you won't see a single Artifct. We did promise everyone that your Artifcts need not be made public. Everything is private by default, and Sue loves this freedom. 

Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin sat down with Sue to learn who she is, what she Artifcts, and most important of all why she Artifcts. It was such a treat to chat with an Arti Community member directly and a fascinating conversation. Enjoy! 

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Ellen Goodwin: Hello Sue! We want to know all about you. Who are you, and what brought you to Artifcts? 

@Sue: I am a piano teacher. One of my personal collections is miniature pianos. I am also my family’s keeper and a genealogist. I have collections from both sets of grandparents, my parents, and of course my collections as well as my husband’s. This house is like a museum! Name anything, practically, and I probably have something of that. 

I keep wanting my daughter to come down to North Carolina and go over things with me. Find out what she wants, and what she’s not interested in so I can do something with it. But there’s never enough time. And my son-in-law really doesn’t want all this stuff. So he gave me Artifcts as a Christmas present last year. 

Sue shared this reality with grace and humor. Watch now!

Goodwin: What did you Artifct first? 

@Sue: Christmas ornaments! Well, all things Christmas, really. I have heirloom ornaments, multiple Santa Claus figurines, and other items, so before I packed them up last year, I Artifcted them.  

Goodwin: And then you continued Articting, focusing on collections or at random? 

@Sue: As I have bits of time here and there, I have just started. No particular order. Just what my eyes light on in a moment in time. Sometimes Artifct collections. I laid out all my jewelry one day and enjoyed working my way through it, sometimes Articting pieces individually, sometimes Artifcting collections, like brooches. 

Costume jewelry - rhinestone brooch

I have Artifcted my grandfather’s weapons collection as well, including antique knives, some of which date back to the late 1800s. My grandson caught sight of the knife collection, and was interested, so he’ll inherit them. His great grandfather’s collection!  

Goodwin: And we hope you’ll share the “why” behind this knife collection with your grandson, as well as the “why” of all of your own collections, like your pianos! 

@Sue: Piano has been a passion of mine for a long time. I found out recently through my genealogical research that my middle name Beth is for Beth of Little Women, the pianist of the family. I don’t remember who gave me my first miniature, but my mother kept adding to it, and then I did eventually, too. Each is very different. Now my senior graduating piano students get to choose one from the collection, a remembrance from me to take with them. I have only Artifcted the very unusual pianos, like one from ivory, another from Dresden. I am Artifcting the ones that are special so my daughter knows which are which.  

Read our story about gifting your loved ones a why > 

Goodwin: You told me that you Artifcted a collection of family bibles, nearly a dozen. I’m curious. What’s next for them?  

@Sue: I inherited 40 boxes of heirlooms, pictures and genealogy papers, which I am still going through. These bibles were among the boxes and now sit in the open air on top of a family cabinet in my genealogy research room.  I love the Cheatham Apocrypha Bible in particular, so that is the one I’ll definitely keep. It’s also the only one that still has the family pages in it. As for the rest, I don’t know what to do with them. I might see if the state genealogy archives wants them.

Goodwin: You have 100s of Artifcts. Are there some really marvelous stories among them that stand out? 

@Sue: Yes! Well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, I guess. I was really surprised to find a lock of Gertrude’s hair. Oh, and great grandfather’s bowler hat. That’s an heirloom with a great story. 

A lock of hair tied with a blue ribbon

@Sue: "I found this in one of the boxes that I inherited (all genealogy based).
 
 
With it was a card signed by Gertrude which probably dates to the same year, 1904.
 
 
Gertrude Cheatham married August Johnston 24 Apr 1905." 

Bowler hat in hat box, padded with fox scarf

@Sue: This hat belonged to John Mortimer Cheatham who lived in Missouri his whole life (1843-1915).
 
 
The hat box is signed by Eugene Scherman of New York, so I imagine this is who made the hat.
 
 
Today, Grandmother Gertrude's fox lives with the hat. 
Even co-founder Ellen Goodwin discovered a lock of hair her mother squirreled away. Read her humorous take on it. > 

Goodwin: How do you Artifct? Do you use the app, a tablet, both?

@Sue: I take the pictures on my phone, because it allows me to skip the step of transferring the photos from my nice camera to my computer. If I want to add more details or long stories, then I edit the Artifcts later on my desktop computer. 

Goodwin: Have you tried new features as Artifcts has announced them? 

@Sue: There is so much I haven’t fully taken advantage of yet, but I did recently ask for my first estimate from Heritage Auctions with your “What’s it worth?” feature. It was a set of four meerschaum smoking pipes. Each used. They had significant market value! 

a set of four meerschaum smoking pipes

My daughter and extended family will inherit the items they wish to keep; she can always sell the remaining items. I think it’s important, however, to keep at least some of these things in the family—especially the older things. Maybe someone will choose the pipes. 

Goodwin: As the co-founder of Artifcts, I'd be remiss not to ask ... What would you tell those who have yet to Artifct? Why should they do it?

@Sue: Watch and listen to her response! (Or read below.)

It’s mainly the stories about the stuff. Nobody else is going to know what it is. I am trying so hard to get them written down and on Artifcts with the pictures, too, because otherwise once I’m gone, the story is gone. I think it’s important for the children to know what was the most important to me, what meant the most to me, and why.  

Now, they may not want to keep it, but if it’s Artifcted, it’s there FOREVER. So, they will always have that memory even though they may not have that item, because who wants 300 miniature pianos?! 

And on that note, what's your equivalent of "300 miniature pianos?"

Happy Artifcting!

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Let's Talk Photo Negatives and VHS Tapes

When was the last time you pulled out that box of photo negatives, or rifled through your family’s vintage home video collection? If you’re anything like me, the answer could even be never. Yet, I haven't had the heart to toss any of them out.

Over the last 20 years, I have carted around from state to state, house to house, a plastic bin full of film negatives and VHS tapes with family home videos my parents took with the original giant camcorders that you propped on your shoulder. I realized some of them were testing their lifespans. Tapes degrade, first getting dark, then with the color shifting and bleeding. If you were lucky and chose high-end tapes, you might have bought yourself a bit of time but don't count on it. The audio may be the best of what remains on those tapes. Negatives are the same story, especially when stored in their original packaging.

 

drawer full of old VHS tape with a few home videos in the mix(Above) A few home videos lost in the mix of old VHS tapes where no one has a hope of viewing them.
 
 
 
(Below) A plastic bin with what turned out to be more than 1,400 photo negatives.
 
 
 
plastic rubbermaid bin full of photo negatives in original paper

Enough was finally enough. I wanted to reclaim every last bit of space in my limited closets, protect my negatives and tapes from complete loss, and share the results easily with friends and family. Decision made, I dropped off my collection at the offices of preservation and digitization specialist Monocurate. (Yes, I'm lucky, no shipping required!)

Why are you choosing to digitize?

Actually, back up. Before I dropped off the negatives and VHS tapes, I casually looked through the negatives. Glad I did! A quick review helped me come to terms with what I wanted out of this digitization work. Why bother with digitization?

Cost. At between $0.40 and $1 per negative (usually according to volume) for basic digitization, it can cost a small fortune to digitize an entire collection! Just think, I only had a 3.5 x 12.5 bin of negatives, organized inside the original envelopes the processor returned them to me in. What if my parents wanted to digitize their boxes, boxes, and still more boxes of negatives?

Relevance. Then there’s the fact that somewhere in the mix was old boyfriends. I did not want to pay to digitize every part of my history. Some history is better left to faded memory. I tried to quickly hold up the negatives to the light and remove those from the collection.

Quality. To top it all off, many photos frankly weren't even very good, because they were blurry, too dark, etc.

Well, I already told you, I brought the negatives to Monocurate anyway. I simply decided that the investment was worth the couple dozen or so digitized photos buried in the collection that would be worth their weight in sentimental gold. Within two days I had an itemized estimate. It detailed my options for digitized formats along with all the other lovely details about what to expect. I was shocked by how many negatives were in my very small bin once Monocurate itemized them. I confirmed I was ready to digitize the negatives and home videos, signed the digital contract, and let the wait begin.

The Results

Before I even looked through the photos, I jumped directly into the videos. I knew that 30+ years was too long to expect much.

The results were still exciting. Seeing yourself as a kid. Seeing your siblings and parents from your now adult perspective. Seeing family members who are no longer with you and hearing their familiar voices. Or learning, "So, that's when I got that special doll!" Or, "Ha! The truth about what I thought of my first day of kindergarten." I don't even have that on video for my own daughter. And that was actually the key for me. It was really interesting to see which moments my parents each chose to videotape, from the ordinary of hauling wood, painting the house, feeding the sheep, and playing with our outdoor cats and dogs to the special, like when family would visit from Illinois, there was enough snow for cross-country skiing in the yard and sledding in town, and Christmas holidays.

Then, the photos. With the videos I was ready for the feeling that technology has changed. The photos took me by surprise. I wasn't thinking about how much less crisp and life like they would be compared to modern digital-native photos. My hopes for a few worth their weight in sentimental gold, however, was met. Kodak moments from ages 16 to 26, digitized.

Beyond the obvious rewards of having these videos and photos digitized as I'd hoped, I learned a lot in this process about understanding my motivations, as already described above and the ins and outs of selecting the right company to bring my media to for digitization. Here's my parting gift to you all in the form of a few quick tips if you are considering digitization.

QUICK TIPS

Before you Digitize

Avoid disappointment when digitizing negatives and tapes by getting clarity on each of the following four points before you hand over this sentimental gold.

1. Find out the digitized formats and resolutions your files will be provided in. Avoid proprietary formats. Guidelines from Monocurate:

Photo negatives. Look for .JPG or .JPG2 files at 72-300 DPI resolution (depending on the use case). If you want .TIFF format (at 600+ DPI) for any reason, who knows, maybe you're putting up a billboard, make sure you ask!

VHS tapes. The goal here is avoiding a result that is squished, stretched, or fuzzy, coloring that is not calibrated to look like the original, and has audio missing or not synced. (Many companies will not even digitize sound on film and may not warn you in advance!) So, look for high resolution, high bitrate, no/minimal compression, with audio sync. Your new VHS files should be around 352x480 resolution; S-VHS will be around 704x480 resolution (same as hi8). You can't really convert VHS to HD, much less 4k, with current technology, so watch out for claims in that regard.

It's worth repeating: Know that you may be too late and the video image quality will be so deteriorated that the sound quality is the best of what remains. Is it still worthwhile to digitize? Only you can make that judgement call.

2. Do you want the originals returned?

Be sure to confirm they will be returned if you want them and the cost, if any, to you for shipping or local delivery.

3. Where will the work be done and by whom?

Is digitization performed onsite or shipped out (with some additional risk of loss)? Are the personal devices of employees and visitors to the facility kept outside the work area? No one wants their private videos or photos leaked.

4. Do you want basic digitization of your media "as is," or do you need organization and touch up, too?

If the negatives are jumbled mess, do you need them organized and an index created? Do you want to first have dust build-up, grime, etc. removed to capture a clean copy? Archival indices and preservation are not typically the work of big box digitizers. If you think your collection needs some love, look for preservation and archival specialists who offer digitization services, like Monocurate, who is a member of the Artifcts partner network

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Consumer warning: By going through the process to digitize personal negatives and VHS videos, we were disappointed repeatedly by the fine print and general lack of detailed information of some popular, mainstream online digitization services companies. Read the fine print. Check reviews and FAQs. Know what is important to you and make sure the services match your expectations. If you have any doubt, write and ask questions before you send off your materials for digitization.

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Family History Month ... Your Way!

We’ve all heard the expression “greeting card holiday,” sometimes even used against one of your personal favorites, no doubt. So many love-hate relationships out there with national days for everything from your dog to your sibling to tacos and doughnuts.  

Then there are the months generally preserved for themes of broad societal significance, like heart health, breast cancer, black history and even … family history – October! And this is a special year for this honorary month because Senator Hatch, who sponsored Senate Resolution 160 to officially recognize family history month, passed away in April. Among the justifications for the month was “an ever-growing number in our Nation and in other nations [who] are collecting, preserving, and sharing genealogies, personal documents, and memorabilia that detail the life and times of families around the world.” Now that we understand! 

This October we’re sharing a few ideas from the Artifcts Community to help even those of you who may think you have no interest in family history to find some value in a month dedicated to exactly that. Use the month as an excuse or opportunity to get to know and capture your own family history and legacy a bit better.

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Hello, Family Genealogists (In the Making?)

“I’ve spent so much time and money researching all of this history, and I have the files, but I really haven’t taken that next step to share with my extended or even immediate family. Without me they’d have to start over.”  

And, womp, womp, she told us that all her research is locked up behind a subscription-paywall. Hmmm. If you can relate, here are some tips: 

  • Purchase a second research subscription for someone who can pick up the research alongside you to carry it forward to the next generation. Guide them through the myriad of resources online and through special archives and libraries as well as in your own family collection.  
  • Take a class or catch a speaker! You can find a plethora of them by searching online or go local. Check your library, community center, museums, or local genealogical society for special events this month (and beyond). In Austin, Texas, for example, the Austin Genealogical Society has regular speakers and research resources covering the state. Likewise, the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center has resources available to help people get started. 
  • Create a family videography to highlight key moments in your family’s history, roles family members have played in historical events, and the modern-day family branches. For beautiful, professional videographies, we adore Lori and her team at Whole Story Productions.  
  • Self-publish a book(let) to document your research findings in black and white. Distribute during a family reunion, taking preorders (and payments) ahead of time. If you need an assist in your family history, we recommend our partner at Family History Intelligence
  • At Artifcts you can share Artifcts publicly or privately, including with family members who are not Artifcts members. Import your contacts to Artifcts, create family invite-only circles for easy group sharing, and off you go! Plus, free members of Artifcts can contribute up to five Artifcts to the family history. We recommend using a special tag like #MayFamily52 to easily sort your collection. You can also preserve sensitive information in the 'Documentation' section of an Artifct where only you, the owner of the Artifct, can see or access it. Some of genealogists at Artifcts also use the ‘Location’ field when they create an Artifct to list a URL or folder path where additional information is stored. 

Experiences Only, Please!

You’ve been away from home for months or years, you return, and as you walk in the door, dinner is on, and you get that first smell of your favorite dish. Do you have the recipe? Who came up with it? Do you know the key steps? Special or secret ingredients?  

Some family favorites are born very directly out of the original farm-to-table concept, before it was so hip, and those origins become a key part of the family recipe story. You grew potatoes and found a million ways to prepare them. You had fresh citrus, wild asparagus, or vibrant rhubarb all around you, and the specialties of your youth reflect it. Capture that history! 

  • Start a virtual family dinner club. You could create a group online to swap recipes or go a step further and once a month someone is the virtual host. Send the recipe ahead (as an Artifct!) so everyone has the ingredients on hand. Then run your own cooking show and enjoy the spoils together after. You might even play some theme-related music from the 60s or 70s or from the German, Czech, Sri Lankan, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese or other roots of the meal! 
  • Road trip! Whether literally or figuratively, go to the original homestead, watch a family member perform live music at a local hotspot, visit a museum that hosts a family member’s artwork, visit each tombstone at a local plot or somewhere like Arlington National Cemetery, or maybe attend a cultural festival that ties to your origins.  
  • Collaborate on a special photobook. We’ve said this before, we’ll say it 100s of more times – photos cannot talk. You can morph them into sharper images or even make them move nowadays, but no photo can tell you its story. Create a photobook that builds all the family history and the stories that go with those photos. Refuse photo-only contributions. Details matter! You’d be surprised, but even one generation removed, family members will start to lose track of who is who in photos never mind recalling the relevance of the photos. 
  • At Artifcts… photos, recipes, and objects come alive through stories and histories, but also with supplementary video and audio snippets. Each is easily accessible and reusable from Artifcts – no digging through chats, emails, cloud folders etc. And you don’t get just one crack at it. You can edit and share through time, collecting more information, and more versions of the ‘real story,’ as you go.  

Share the History

The reality is not all families have a family keeper, that person who by choice or default holds onto the heirlooms, photos, recipes, and slews of documents that represent sometimes generations of a family’s history. Or maybe you are the last keeper or recent inheritor of all this family history and are thinking, “Now what? I really don’t want this stuff.” 

There’s a second reality that is then important to recognize: family history is not only family history. Sometimes family history is part of local, national, or even global history. It offers clues to key figures, ways of living, and the social, political and religious practices of a place in time in history. So, consider sharing pieces of your family history with the big wide world through donations. 

  • Philanthropic Donations. Consider galleries, libraries, research centers, foundations, and museums with specialties that may overlap with your items. Donations are not necessarily only in the realm of inherently valuable objects. Often, you guessed it, the story behind the object is the key. Don’t know the story either? That’s okay. Reach out to an institution, share your items, and give them the opportunity to tell you!  
  • Archival Donations. Transform your personal family history into elements of a shared community history by offering your items to professional archives. What types of items might fit this category? As a starter: original works of fiction or non-fiction; scrapbooks, journals, letters, and diaries; original business materials (certificates, advertising, shares, board documents, voting records); media (photographs, slides, film, even websites too). You can learn more at the Society of American Archivists
  • At Artifcts... Before you donate, Artifct to retain the family lore and history that’s relevant to you, and then share with family. Make sure no one else is interested in the item. And attach any documentation related to your donation to the Aritfct. It could add to the story about the full history of that family heirloom and where it ended up as well as support potential tax deductions. And then, rest easy. Your family’s history will be in the capable professional hands of institutions that will preserve and protect them for generations to come. 

Talk Wills, From a Happy Place: Your Legacy

Yes, yes, wills are about death. But what they are really about is easing the burden on those we leave behind. What we love to ignore to our detriment is all – that - stuff. And, no, it will not literally all go into a dumpster or a local donation shop. First someone must go through it all, a family member or two, or maybe a specialist hired to help. And in the end, someone will have to make 1000s of decisions about what becomes of every single item. Do you really want to leave a burden as your legacy? 

Wouldn’t you rather everyone be better prepared and informed? Not only will making a plan and creating documents make it easier for your family to pick up the pieces, but they can also help loved ones understand why you valued the items you are leaving behind. For example, wouldn’t you rather share THAT was the guitar Dad used to serenade Mom on their first date? THAT was the medal you were awarded for your last promotion in the US Navy. THAT was part of a costume you wore in your first school play (before you became an actress!).  

Wouldn’t you rather reminisce together than leave friends and family to wonder and have no way to get answers later? Maybe even know each other a bit better, now, while you can still enjoy? 

(Dramatically) Simplified checklist: 

  • Don’t have a Will? There are many wonderful estate planning attorneys in each community who can help you with this process. But this is an industry transformed by the digital revolution, and then some. If you are looking for a digital, self-guided approach, check out the results of an independent review by Investopedia here.  
  • Haven’t really, um, seen your Will in a while? Give it a checkup. There's no time like the present, truly. Add it to your to-do list this month! 
        • When editing or updating your Will and related documents, see if you can add some non-legal, advisory language to help to explain why you made the decisions or gave the gifts you did.  
  • Confirm: Are the major themes covered?  
        • Estate 
        • Minor children 
        • Relatives with disabilities 
        • Retirement 
        • Powers of Attorney 
        • Living Will 
        • Stewardship of digital assets (profiles, accounts, photos, web pages, etc.) 
  • Is there a list of tangible assets referenced in your Will? Your Will may provide for a separate “Memorandum” that can be updated and changed at any time without making any changes to your Will.  
        • No list? Start. Just take a first cut by looking around the house (or your Artifcts collection!). 
        • Already listed? Are you sure it covers at least those items of greatest financial or heart (sentimental) value? Do you want to leave something to your favorite charity, neighbor, your best friend, your … you get the idea. And, if so, did each person and item get listed? Double check! 
  • At Artifcts… pick three or four of your most treasured items and create and share an Artifct for each with your friends and family. It could be priceless family heirlooms and jewelry or sentimental letters and cards. Anything that has meaning to you. In the description, let loved ones know what you would like to happen to this item after you are gone. Will it be passed down? Rehomed? Sold? You can even export or share the Artifct with your estate planner or attorney to list with other tangible assets referenced in your Will.   

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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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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