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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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LEGACY, PLANNING & MORE
Swedish Death Cleaning Your Digital Legacy

Reading time: 7 minutes 

Swedish Death Cleaning provides a conceptual framework to encourage us each to organize and declutter our homes to reduce the burden on loved ones who would otherwise need to sift through 1000s of objects one day when we’re no longer here. We might be some of the biggest fans of Margareta Magnusson, who introduced the concept in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, that she’s never met.💗 We all can understand and maybe even relate to the concept but having a term for it gives us a starting point to act on it! 

Artifcts is your best-in-class Swedish Death Cleaning app. It’s a big reason why we write on and provide workshops related to this topic. Today we’re considering Swedish Death Cleaning from yet another angle: Your digital legacy.

Defining “Digital Legacy” 

What ARE we talking about, “digital legacy?” 

Good question! Because, no, in this context, it is not about the entirety of your online life or digital assets, e.g. banking, mortgages, insurance policies, investments, or similar. All critical! All should be a part of your estate plan and/or will. You should also invest in an online digital vault to corral it together, benefit from automated and smart reminders, and enjoy the ease of sharing securely or accessing it yourself in an emergency.

Announcement for Digital Legacy Workshop from AfterLight

 
 
Take a deep dive! Our friends at AfterLight have a new workshop offering expert guidance on organizing and securing your digital estate. Register today.

What we are talking about with "digital legacy" are the digital items that reflect our lives and personal histories as well as who we are as members of families and communities. 

What makes up your digital legacy depends in part on your age as well as your personality and views. Some of us have chosen not to adopt certain aspects of digital life or have intentionally created the smallest digital footprint possible. Others of us go big online for personal and professional reasons. 

Below we’ll provide a framework to help you get started as you organize and maybe declutter your own digital legacy to ensure its best chance of meaning and survival!

What: Take Inventory 

Literally pause, grab a piece of paper or digital notebook, and start jotting down your digital footprint. Yes, you might need to wander your home, pull out some bins, open some drawers, but this is the easy part. We’ll help you get started. Do you or other household members have any of these? 

      • Digital music and/or movie libraries, including media that’s natively digital and any you might have digitized when you, oh, let’s say, “decluttered” that VHS, DVD, or CD collection. 
      • Photographs, again, digital native photos from your phone, most likely, and those pics you have scanned or otherwise digitized over time. 
      • Social media posts, and before those, your blogs 
      • Academic and professional research, including publications, patents, and even genealogy, family history, and DNA information.  
      • NFTs and other digital works stored, for example, in your digital wallet(s).

Where: As Tech has Changed, Storage has Changed 

Before cell phones were our go-to video recorders, there were small handheld versions that were wow’ing, because they had great quality and storage for the time, and were many times smaller than those you held with a strap in one hand or the ones that were so big that they sat on your shoulder. Did you ever download all the videos on your digital handheld camera? Treasures untold may be waiting. 

Think creatively through all the digital tech you’ve used and held onto through the years when you consider where your files may be resting, and in some cases, actively degrading. 

Bulk stashes via old and new hardware.

As time has gone on, we’ve been able to more cheaply and conveniently store massive volumes of data on those things and yet you might be surprised how little you actually saved to some. One of our Arti Community members told us she has 15 thumb drives that each contain three songs her daughter recorded during her spring and fall piano recitals.

Dig out those thumb drives, memory cards that may still be in old cameras or spare cases, disks (floppy, hard, and otherwise), and flash drives. Environmental implications aside, harvesting and storing those digital files together, and backed up in a second location, is a relatively easy, cheap, and fast undertaking. Hurray! 

Desktop and laptop hard drives. 

Hopefully before you donated or recycled old computers, you saved the contents somewhere else, a flash drive, your preferred cloud environment, or your new computer, perhaps. Wherever it went, take stock. And watch out if your employer is okay with you using your work device for personal use, too, as you may have some gems on those devices. 

“The Cloud,” e.g. Google Drive, Box, Drop Box, and Permanent, among others. 

You may have gotten on a kick and started storing stuff within a particular environment because a friend or family member was sharing stuff with you there and you followed suit. But what are you using nowadays? Consider if your habits have changed and you need to rescue files from various cloud locations and move to one central archive for storage. 

Memberships, especially apps and websites you love or loved once upon a time.

If you are worried you might not remember them all, you have some options.  

Option A. Checking billing statements is the best starting point. We hope you’re not paying for something you haven’t used in years. While simpler than scrolling through your email for pages, this still gets messy if you are using many different payment methods (credit cards, PayPal, etc.) and/or other household members might be paying via a family account. So, option B ...  

Option B. Go to the apps lists on your phone, tv, and computer. What’s installed? Are you paying for it? While you’re in there, check which have location, contact, notification, and background refresh services turned on. You might want to lock down your privacy! Bonus Tip: For Apple (iOS) mobile users, you can go to your Settings -> Click on your name/circle at the top -> and click “Subscriptions.” You may find surprises there, too! 

Take a moment to consider first what content do (or did) you create or upload to these memberships that you own and can potentially download to back up elsewhere and/or to then close your account. Then, if you want to keep the account open and have backed up the content, check the account’s settings for legacy contact and/or memorialization options and set yours up so you do not lose anything you created or upload to that membership. You also will then hoepfully avoid falling into a scenario in which inactivity grants the company via its terms and conditions the right to delete your data or use your data in a way you do not support.

Best Practice call out box

Now What: What Do You Value Most? What Do “They” Value Most? 

Life comes with inherent limits. Only so much time in a day, money in our accounts, bandwidth in our brains. We must choose carefully how we spend our resources. What matters to you will help you prioritize how you manage your digital legacy. 

Here are three steps you can take to manage your digital legacy. These are not mutually exclusive! Start at ‘good,’ add in ‘better,’ and laugh, enjoy, and gain peace of mind with ‘best.’

Good. Inventory the items and put physical storage devices, e.g. flash drives, in a fire-safe place. Get rid of what you don’t want. This might mean recycling some tech (options exist!) and cleaning out files. But before you get too aggressive with that decluttering, ASK loved ones if they are interested in the types of materials you are ready to shed. You may be surprised what matters to them versus to yourself! This will help you with the next option.

Better. Digitize items with backups and share access to those resources with loved ones. This is now moving into prime Swedish Death Cleaning territory where we have not just organized but we’ve also decluttered in a way that’s potentially meaningful. Loved ones get the option to raise their hand and say, “Yes, that I want.” And the beauty here is it is digital. It won’t take up physical space so it’s less risky for them to say yes.

Best. While we all love photos, videos, and documentary evidence of cool things, like being the mastermind behind a patent, without context, even digital items become clutter we ignore. Here’s the story of one family’s “great” discovery. Whether your format is Artifcts, scrapbooks, or photobooks, find a medium to gift your loved ones a ‘why’ and not just more digital stuff. What is the story behind this photo? In layman's speak, what was this amazing scientific breakthrough in this patent that bears your name? What did it mean to you

Let us know about your progress. What was the easy part? Are you stuck on any specific digital histories of yours? What was the outcome? 

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More from Artifcts on Swedish Death Cleaning: 

The Joys of Swedish Death Cleaning 

Swedish Death Cleaning a Marriage After Death or Divorce 

How Swedish Death Cleaning Helps During a Move

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Emergency Go Bag: Don't Forget the Memories

Reading time: 5 minutes

As spring cleaning continues and storms rage, we’re taking a moment to help you make the most of that frenzy to also boost your preparedness, a key theme here at Artifcts.

We’ve shared with you the true story of our co-founder Ellen who experienced a home fire at the age of seven and encouraged you to consider what objects in your home matter most. Whether you’re in a location prone to wildfires, floods, tornados, or other extreme weather events, preparation is key.

We also recently shared the story of a woman who proactively relocated her cherished belongings to a secure, climate-controlled storage facility out of harm’s way from the California wildfires only to have a flood at the storage facility destroy many of her belongings, photos, videos, and documents included.

Today is all about your emergency go-bag. Do you have one? Think twice, and consider these essential questions:

      • Does your go-bag address the needs of each person in your household? 
      • Are the items inside fully charged?
      • Have any medicine or food items expired?
      • Did you borrow an item from the bag and never replace it?
      • Have you done anything to include the heart-value items in life that will see you through and beyond a life-changing disaster?

Let's take a closer look at the important elements of your go bag. Read on!

How to Prepare Against the Unexpected – Digital for the Win!

Well, maybe there’s no "winning" when it comes to disasters. Loss is real and painful. But we can mitigate our losses with less effort and time than ever before, along with the promise of far greater security and resiliency. How? Digitizing key personal information is your answer to recover faster and with less stress.

Just like we take advantage of advances in modern medicine to live longer, healthier, more active lives, we should take advantage of advances in digitization that make it easier and cheaper than ever to keep digital copies at our fingertips for critical documents. In an emergency, please have digitized and securely stored:

      • IDs, including driver’s license, military ID, employment ID, passport; it’s especially important to have at least one form of ID digitized that has your photo on it.  
      • Insurance cards 
      • Mortgages and titles for homes, cars, and other high-value assets 
      • Financial details, most likely in the form of online access to your accounts. But we also recommend securely stored digital copies of credit and debit cards for deactivation against fraud and rapid replacement. 
      • Contact lists. Do you know the phone numbers of your neighbors, your financial planner, your insurance company? We’d be shocked if you did. They are likely only stored on your phone. 
      • Photos. Okay, hear us out. We are talking about photos you might have in hardcopy and photos that you may have stored digitally on a drive and not yet backed up elsewhere. We strongly recommend using a backup for your digitized photos and other media.

With all these items digitized, you could in theory gain access to resources to replace what you lose if you need to leave your home urgently.  

Notice that Artifcts will be publishing an article about digital vaults soon

Now, About That Go Bag

Your go bags—which we hope are light weight and at least water resistant—will offer immediate, short-term security. Backpacks are your best bet for any variety of circumstances. DO NOT bet on carting around bins or boxes of any kind. You should hope these are fireproof and redundant. See our earlier point about digitization! 

Suggested contents for a bag can be absurdly loooong. Having consulted those lists and experienced go-bag moments ourselves, here’s what’s always in ours. The big exception is cold weather environments – at the start of the season, we add gloves, hats, hand warmers, and foil wraps.

      • Slip photocopies of a driver’s license, passport, or other ID for each adult in the household and your insurance information (home, car, and health) in an easily accessible waterproof pouch. A plethora of inexpensive pouches are available online and in retail stores, especially sporting goods and luggage.  
      • Changes of clothing, especially undergarments. 
      • Medicines, but be careful they do not expire, and ear plugs. You don’t know where you may need to sleep, and quality sleep is vital. 
      • Multiple battery packs (to charge devices we hope you’ll be able to have with you) 
      • A water purification device, such as a Grayl, so no matter where you are displaced to, you’ll have access to safe drinking water. On the topic of water, we also keep Nuun or similar in our bag for a hydration boost. If you’re in a hot climate, chugging water, working hard clearing property or otherwise on your feet, you may need some electrolytes on your side to pop into your water. 
      • Long shelf-life, macronutrient complete snacks. No, we shouldn’t subsist on meal-replacement bars, but if there were ever a time, this is it. Just make sure whatever you choose aligns with your dietary restrictions. Shelf-stable protein shakes work great, too. Jerkies, nuts and dried fruits, as well, but watch out for nuts which expire more quickly.

Forgetting Something? What Says Home, Comfort, and Family to You?

Creature comforts and irreplaceable items need to make that go-bag. Will you die without them? No. Will you feel better, have an excuse to smile, in a sad and stressful situation? Very likely.

This weekend, ask each person in your home what one or two items would they most want to take in an emergency, and record that information digitally in your mobile phone, so if time permits you are prepared to act, not ask.

      • When kids are young, creature comforts might be a lovey, but you could also prepack a spare of that lovey, along with small games and a cozy blanket and an inflatable pillow.
      • For us adults, your backup drives can live in your go bag if you do not have a cloud-based backup. Any cherished or valuable to you items tucked safely away? Can they go safely in this pre-packed bag instead of the back of a closet or box? When a fire sweeps a home, you may have only seconds to grab and go before smoke or fire stops you.

If your first step is to purchase a pre-made emergency go bag from the myriad of online and brick-and-mortar shops, super. But we hope you'll choose to take steps for you and your loved ones toward a more personal go-bag to protect yourselves. Explore our Allies in 'Stuff' as well for resources and professionals that can help lift the burden off you.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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My Family Wants Me to Tell My Stories. Help!

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Feeling pressured to tell your life stories?

Has a loved one given you a questionnaire about your life that feels like another to-do?

Are you receiving tips on how to to “express yourself” or make your stories “entertaining," "thoughtful," or "compelling" and don’t really know where to begin?

(Are you the one creating the pressure?! Keep reading. Today's article is also for you!)

The Story Burden: What Is It?

Maybe you're not a great writer, maybe you don't want to commit the time, or maybe you don't think you have good stories to tell. But "they" are asking you to write your stories anyway and maybe even throwing money at it via well-intentioned gifts to encourage you. That is what we call the "story burden."

We know the pressure comes from a heartfelt place. Our friends and family may think we and our stories are worth preserving and sharing. And the storytelling industry wants to help us structure our stories to capture people’s attention in an increasingly distracted world.

At the same time, these story pressures can snowball and become a giant turnoff. The well-intentioned tips, classes, and frameworks may backfire and prevent us from making progress. And progress, not perfection, is what matters, just as much as what “they” want. Right?

Name Your Own Story Goal

You can't get there, if you don't know where you're going. What is your goal in recording your stories in one way or another? Perhaps your goal looks like one of these:

      • Private, diary-like reflections that maybe you'll share one day with a chosen few
      • Recording bits of your personal and family history to share your knowledge with your loved ones
      • Capturing moments and memories that made you and others smile before the details slip away. Could make up the pieces to a great memoir one day!

No matter your goal, consider the strategies we've gathered below to see if any will help you make progress without that burden stories can create.

 
Time-Tested Story Capture Strategies

STORY PROMPT BOOKS AND CHECKLISTS

Lacking inspiration, a jumping off point? Download a free checklist of interview questions. A great question source is the independent non-profit StoryCorps (check out the podcast, too) and it's free collection of life story questions aross 17 categories. Or you could purchase a story prompt book like this one to work through at your pace. These resources will avoid set schedules and fixed costs so you don't have to worry if you fall out of sync with their pace or wonder if you're getting good value for your money. It's a free or a one-time fee!

If you're motivated by, let's say, a treat now and then, you could even eat your way to stories. Our co-founder Ellen loves good old-fashion soft caramels and was shocked how game her family was to answer the questions wrapped around each of these caramels during the holidays. Talk about low pressure! 

SUBSCRIPTION STORY SERVICES

Need more motivation? Subscription services like Storyworth can send you regular prompts and by answering them in a timely fashion, by yearend, you’ll have enough fodder to complete and purchase your responses in a book format. For additional fees, you can even add color photos, additional pages, and special covers.

SUPPORT FROM A PRO!

Not happening without human intervention? Hire a life story pro to interview you and write your story. Whether a short 30-minute session to scratch the surface or a full life story multi-month endeavor, you can find an option to fit your goals and budget and remove the pressure from you to pull it all together. There are an abundance of companies that will do this and range greatly in price from $150/hour to a few thousand for a limited scope to $10k-15k and more for multi-month in-person biographies of the highest quality.

Bite-Sized Stories with Artifcts 

We heard a lot about the story burden as we began the research for what became Artifcts. We knew we had to do better and create something innovative that would avoid the story pressure while integrating the best of the tried and tested techniques of story telling AND sharing.

What's remarkable about every Artifct you create is the simple choice as to WHAT you Artifct already speaks volumes. The "story" becomes a bonus, a bonus that can be one simple word—e.g. Dad’s—or a 5,000+ word story.

Colorful floral pattern on dark background tea tin

At Artifcts, you can proceed at your own pace. You won't lose the value of the book you never completed if you don't finish by the end of the year. An Artifct a day, Tuesday evenings with Artifcts, weekend pick me up, seasonal themes, or work your way through one of our amazing checklists inspired by the Arti Community ... whatever works. for. you! No deadline, no quota to meet. 

What's remarkable about every Artifct you create is the simple choice as to WHAT you Artifct already speaks volumes.

We love that Artifcts are also easily shareable to someone who may be assisting you with family history research, writing a memoir, or creating a family videography, saving you countless hours searching for, sharing, and annotating the materials when you’re ready to take that next step. We have great Allies in ‘Stuff’ who can support you and have many more in our “rolodex” if memoirs and personal or family videographies and genealogies are on your mind. Reach out. We’re happy to help: Editor@Artifcts.com

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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#HabitChange: Rescue and Preserve Those Memories!

Reading time: 3 minutes 

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

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

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

If yes, I will Artifct that.  

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

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

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

It’s okay to want and expect more 

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

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

Which is better?

Option 1: Compressed pics with a few details. 

Or

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

You may also enjoy our past #HabitChange ARTIcles:

We're Talking #HabitChange in the New Year

#HabitChange: Back to School Edition

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Telling My Story Without the Pressure of a Memoir

Reading time: 4 minutes 

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the prospect of telling our stories never mind authoring a memoir. One. More. Thing. To do. And, "How do I even get started?”  

Companies exist that will send you daily and weekly prompts to help; some will even call you. You answer a question at a time until you get to some state of "done." This is a solid, time-tested strategy for any of life’s larger tasks, breaking it down into something smaller.  

Those question-by-question approaches are not for everyone. You may feel pestered as well as stressed if you “get behind.” And not all of us are great with open-ended questions that lack true personalization.  

Another option is to work with a professional writer. No, not someone you meet for 30 or 60 minutes and with their notes they write or record your life story. Really? That’s a neat trick. If only life were so simple.  

We’re talking about the professionals like with LifeBook Memoirs, whose work is a true art, a physical family heirloom, and a gift. The level of care, privacy, and personalization to your needs, coupled with the product they print makes anyone a believer in the power of a memoir. 

But what if you want are not yet ready to plunge into the time and cost of a memoir and still want to privately make progress on your own? That's what we're talking about here today.

The Artifcts Approach to Writing Your Story, Your Memoir 

I’ve been telling my story through travel mementos, collections, books, photos and more, slowly but surely through my Artifcts. No outline. No grand scheme. As I come across or receive something that inspires me, I Artifct it.  

I'll use one of my most recent Artifcts as a simple example. I took my 13-year-old daughter to see the Broadway show Six. She loves choir and drama, and yet she couldn’t have been less excited in the days leading up to the show. I stayed quiet (which if you know me is quite a feat) and waited. The lights dimmed, the six wives and the all-female band took the stage. And ... magic! 

My daughter was enthralled, smiling, and shooting looks at me that said, “Wow!” After the show she told me it was even better than Hamilton. Never could I ever have imagined anything would outshine Hamilton in her eyes.  

When we got home, I Artifcted the physical playbill, the digital one with the six wives’ signatures, and a pic of my daughter at the theatre. Why? I’m not going to keep that playbill, but I am going to keep the memory of that day for always, for her, for me. 

Artifct of Broadway musical Six from Egoody

 
 
Fun fact: When I later searched Artifcts to pull up my Artifct, I found a second Artifct for Six. I had forgotten that my co-founder took her daughter to Six, too. Don’t you love uncovering surprise connections? 

The Best of Social Media, Meets the Best of Artifcts 

I always tell people that when we built Artifcts, all the social media giants were on Capitol Hill defending themselves and their policies. We had the opportunity to build something better. So, I’ve been privately Artifcting the big little moments in my life through the objects I collect without the pressure of view counts and follows. 

Then one day about two years into Artifcts, a genealogist challenged me to show how Artifcts could easily help someone to tell their life story. Apparently this is the holy grail of the genealogy world. I eagerly accepted that challenge and gave myself 10 minutes to complete it. 

How? Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I began at the beginning, using the Artifcts I had already created to tell my story in full color (and with audio, video, and supporting documentation, too).  

      1. Created a new Artifct 
      2. Titled it. I was literal, “My Life Story.” 
      3. Picked a category. I used “Life Moments: Other Life Moments.” 
      4. Filled in the story. Within the 10 minutes, I wrote an 1,100-word story that included approximately 40 Artifcts via @ mentions and wove in each of my family members, key friends and other loved ones with @ mentions, too, giving them instant ‘View’ access to my story.
      5. Added documentation. Totally optional, but in this case I chose to privately attach my birth and marriage certificates. 
      6. Tagged it. #LifeStory and #Genealogy made sense to me for single-click sorting to see other Artifcts with the same tags in the future. 

 

 
 
 
This 2.5 minute video shows you the @ feature in action.

Imagine the surprise of the genealogist who challenged me when I privately shared the Artifct with her and it was not just a story, but a multi-media surprise of layered stories about myself, my loved ones, the places of been, and the experiences I have accumulated, aka life!

The text of an Artifct blurred out for privacy but showing the title and names of linked Artifcts within the text

 
 
The green text represents the linked Artifcts that are sprinkled throughout my "life story" Artifct.
 
 
Don’t have 40 Artifcts? You could tell your story in 5 Artifcts, 30, or 100s. Artifcts you don’t weave into your story will always be one click away in your Artifcts collection for the full-er story! 

How Will You Write and Share Your Life Story? 

Artifcts is a gift. The reality is that if I were no longer here tomorrow, my family would know me and remember me with support from my Artifcts. No life story required.  

The life story Artifct I created is simple to create and a powerful, one-stop opportunity to hear the story from my perspective. And, best yet I can go in and edit and add to it any time I want. My story is not done. My perspective may yet shift, even on the way I see the past changes. And, who knows, one day my Artifcts may be the perfect fodder for LifeBook Memoirs to help me write my memoir. 

No matter how you choose to tell your stories, we beg you:

      • Create a digital backup. And make sure your loved ones know your story exists and how to get to it and ALL the supporting materials (photos, documents etc.) that went into it.
      • Do not let perfection or some idea that your stories don’t matter stand in your way. There’s no one “youer” than you!

We promise you it’s the big little details in life that everyone loves you for and wants to remember you for, too.

______________

You may also enjoy these ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Not Sure What to Write? Tips From Author Jeff Greenwald

The Value of Cherished Objects in Our Life Stories

Timelines Have Arrived at Artifcts!

A Family History in Five Artifcts

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How Well-Managed Is Your Family History Estate? 

We’ve all seen recent media articles of Baby Boomers confronting how their possessions should be handled after they’ve died. While the topics of “Swedish death cleaning” and “tidying up” are at the forefront, few articles discuss how “family history” should be passed on, too, so that it contributes to a family’s legacy. 

Even if you haven’t self-published a family history book, researched your roots for years, or even built a family tree, you’ve likely been a “steward” for at least some stories, heirlooms, and “stuff.” 

Family Keeper vs. Family Steward 

There is a big difference between a “keeper” of a family’s history and a “steward” of items which make up that history. Different mindsets seem to govern how each person approaches their possessions.  

A keeper often has a protective sense of ownership of items and sometimes becomes defensive when asked to share them. You may have encountered an aunt or an uncle who is sitting on family photo albums, boxes of heirlooms, etc. They tend to treat these items as “holy relics” and have a wealth of stories to go along with each item. And when you ask them how they plan to pass those items on to someone else in the family, often they evade the topic or are at a loss for words (and plans). 

A steward takes a very different approach, like someone tending a garden. Not only have they taken the time to preserve photos and heirlooms against damage and loss, but they’ve also documented the stories that bring those items to life in fixed form, not just in your memory. And after years of cultivating that family history “garden,” they are willing to pass the items to a younger generation of stewards who can continue to preserve the family’s legacy. 

Cultivating Your Family History Garden 

Going from keeper to steward can be challenging. Here are some tips and tricks on making that journey:

  • Take a deep breath. If you are in possession of years of photos and other family items, start with small mini-projects to avoid becoming overwhelmed. This could mean simply sorting photos from slides and negatives. The next project would then be to decide what gets scanned and how to scan them. Then move on to the next project, and the next project, and so on. 
  • Create a stewardship plan. If you find yourself jumping from project to project without making any progress, create a simple plan. Name the task, write a short description, enter a start date and desired end date. Add a notes section so that if you do jump to a new project without finishing the current one, you note where you left off. 

Use Artifcts timeline time period notes to support research planning

  • Set priorities. Some stewards will “rank” their projects using a “1, 2, 3” method. A 1 signifies high priority projects such as interviewing the oldest relatives in the family. Use a 2 for medium priority projects such as documenting family stories and getting them in a fixed format. And finally, 3 is for low priority projects such as file renaming of scanned photos. 

 
 
About those oldest relatives, legendary television news anchor Bob Jordan agrees. Watch this snippet. The complete discussion from Evenings with Artifcts with Bob is available here.
  • Leverage technology. Today many tools are available to assist with completing those family history projects, and it can be difficult to determine which tools are the best. Look for tools that help you document family stories and heirlooms—like Artifcts—and allow you to share that process and results with other family members.  

Artifcts can help you build a virtual “family history library” that is easy to pass on to others in the family. Consider using the QR code available for each Artifct you create and place it on or near an heirloom. The next time family members visit, sit back, and wait for the younger ones to scan the code with their mobile device to learn more about that heirloom. I also recommend printing the QR code for your entire Artifcts collection and including it with your important documents, like your will, deeds, and insurance policies. 

Tip from Artifcts - Use the In the future field for decisions on disposition of assets

Conclusion

We all want to be good caretakers of our family history, but the mere idea of passing away can cause the work of stewardship to be delayed. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many products, tools, and services that can help you go from keeper to steward.  

And there’s no reason why you can’t involve the younger generation NOW rather than waiting until it is too late. Create a series of family projects using Artifcts to document family heirlooms and to share their stories so those precious items finally have a voice and can be heard. 

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If family history and genealogy are on your mind, we have additional ARTIcles by Artifcts that might interest you!

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