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GUEST CURATOR
Father, World Traveler, and Now Downsizer: The True Story of One Man's Triumph Over 'Stuff'

World traveler and five kids. Need I say more to justify how so much stuff can accumulate over time?

At one point in my life, I was moving every few years - living in four different countries overseas in a span of what seemed like no time at all. I've lived the last 19 years in the same house without the natural “cleansing” of a move (although I’ll admit I once had a trash canwith trashthat got packed and moved). And now, as the fourth child goes to college and we have only one left at home, it's time to downsize. It's time to change the narrative of our daily lives.

The children's reactions so far have included stress, from the change, and frustration with the perceived erasing of memories as we ask them to realize they’re moving on and we want to as well. As a person who looks to logic to control emotion and justify circumstances, I try to rationalize that the memories are just that, memories that cannot be taken away. However, those memories are triggered by objects that connect me to a specific time or moment in my past. Objects that often have stories behind them. 

Picture of a cardboard box full of sticks, rocks, and railroad ties

 
 
 
 
Some people tell fish tales. This Artifct is about survival.
 
 
Click the image to view the Artifct.

I’ve realized during this downsizing process just how many of my memories exist in boxes that no one has laid eyes on for a decade or more. If I had collected an actual object to trigger each memory I wish I could recall, I would have run out of space long ago. I've also accepted that nobody, including me, will reminisce those forgotten times or places if those memory triggers are not available.

Along came Artifcts. As I downsize not only what's around the house, in my office, and otherwise a part of our daily lives, but also everything that remained in boxes for decades, I’ve started documenting them in Artifcts.

1980 yearbook from Stonewall "Sabres" Middle School in Manassas, Virginia

Well, hello yearbooks! Click to view the Artifct.

 

It’s much easier for me to share and show those objects, and more frequently recall and tell the stories, using the ‘story box’ (aka the Artifcts app) I now carry around in my phone. There’s little chance of me being near my real boxes of stuff when I want to humble-brag about an object or tell a story about a commonality I discover with someone I've just met. But I’m almost guaranteed to have my phone on hand and the Artifcts app with it.

With Artifcts, I’m also more apt to capture and preserve the objects and stories in the moment as I acquire something (or even sometimes skip the acquisition and just document the memory). Just as importantly, I realized I'm regularly using Artifcts to capture memories as I go through boxes with my mother and other family members, and I have them tell the stories. When a loved one is gone, or I’m gone, it gives me great solace to know my memories can carry on and be used to tell the next generation about what Dad or Grandpop had and did in life. All these little objects form a mosaic, painting a wonderful picture of why we are who we are.

Again, it's rarely the actual object that’s important. It’s the memories triggered by the objects. Artifcts has enabled me to let the objects go as I downsize, or consciously document the importance of an object I keep so my kids will understand what it is when I’m not around to tell the story. Until then, I want to easily access to my objects, or memory triggers, so I can tell the story in person. My kids will probably want a “number of stories told” counter added to Artifcts so they can limit the number of times I reminisce. But reminiscing is a parental right, right?

- Matt Ramsey

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Preserving Your Best Travel Memories

As co-founders, Ellen and I are always meeting interesting people at Artifcts. We were very fortunate to be introduced this spring to Rainer Jenss, founder of the Family Travel Association, former senior executive with National Geographic, and an avid traveler. We loved talking with Rainer so much that we invited him to be our first guest author at ARTIcles. Read on to learn more about his story and experience using Artifcts to remember his May 2022 travels in Africa.

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My wife Carol and I recently returned from a vacation we took to Africa with 25 other people, most of whom we’d never met before, but all who had some kind of connection to the tour’s organizers, Henry and Claire Kartagener. In my case, I’ve worked in the travel industry with Henry Kartagener for years. He’s also been directly responsible for getting Carol and me to Southern Africa several times already, including our first visit back in 1992 that took us on a safari during which we actually ended up getting engaged. Thirty years later, we found ourselves returning yet again, but this time as part of a “Friends of Henry” contingent, some of whom had been to the continent before, many of whom had not.

As I’ve noticed on other trips we’ve been on as part of a group, conversations between people often turn to sharing travel stories. Some just recount something that happened that day, while others recall experiences from previous adventures. It’s as though the act of sharing travel memories with others somehow reinforces their meaning – and all the while, hopefully inspiring those who are listening.

It’s as though the act of sharing travel memories with others somehow reinforces their meaning...

I can relate. For me personally the tales from my life’s adventures traversing the planet and displaying some of the things I picked up along the way represent some of my favorite memories and what I’m most fond of in my life. I think we all probably feel that way in some way no matter how much of the world we’ve traveled. Either way, this idea only strengthens my conviction that traveling is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.

...Travelling is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.

Taking it a step further, if I were asked to recall what our conversations were about, I’d say they usually revolved around the things most of us do while traveling, which include (in no particular order): visiting new places, trying new things, meeting new people, buying souvenirs, and of course, sharing pictures. In fact, it would be pretty easy to argue that thanks to the advances in cellphone technology, capturing and sharing the highlights of our journeys through pictures, whether they be bucket list vacations or just weekend getaways, seems to be the most common activity we almost all now seem to engage in.

 

Victoria falls at sunriseVictoria Falls at sunrise. Click the photo to view the Artifct.

But while putting our best-looking pictures on social media has become such an integral part of what we do while traveling, we usually do so without telling the broader stories behind the images we post. Sure, the photos themselves may look great and often make those we share them with envious. But on their own, they rarely capture why the person took it or what it means to them personally.

 

The king protea, national flower of South AfricaThe national flora of South Africa is the King Protea, symbolizing diversity, change and courage.

After recently having discovered Artifcts, I’ve found that it’s now possible to not only preserve and organize the special moments from my travels, I can now do so by also documenting the stories behind them. The very same stories I just might share with fellow travelers somewhere down the road.

Which brings us to what happened when I returned home after spending more than two weeks in Africa with 25 of my new best friends. As usual, I had 100s of images to sort through and edit. But this time, I did so with a different purpose and perspective. Sure, I still tried to pick out the ones that were the most visually compelling. But this time I made sure to set aside some photos of things I usually wouldn’t display in an album or share on social media. Instead, I paid special attention to the photos and videos of those things that best told the story of our trip. Best of all, I used the Artifcts I created to produce a virtual album I shared with those I spent my vacation with. For the purpose of this story, I’ve also made it available to the public in hopes it might inspire others to give it a try. Just go to my Artifcts page to check it out.

Happy Trails . . . and Happy Artifcting!

- Rainer Jenss

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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