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Five Lessons From Artifcting With My Mother

Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts
April 12, 2022

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

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

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

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

handwritten list of objects on notepad

Lesson #1. Know your goal.

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

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

Lesson #2. Is anything off limits? 

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

Lesson #3. Take breaks to photograph. 

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

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

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

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

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

Click the images to view the related Artifcts!

Lesson #5. Glad I asked! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Artifcting (with Mom)!

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

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Artifcts Gift

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

© 2022 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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Use Your Voice: Artifcts Now Offers In-App Audio & Video Recording

There’s something magical about hearing a story from the voice of the original storyteller. The melody of their voice, their points of emphasis, the word choices that are uniquely them.

While you might be the type who has lots of videos and voice memos on your phone at the ready to Artifct, others of us might be more of the spontaneous variety. 

Our newest update to the Artifcts app is going to support you as you capture these stories. 

Update the Artifcts App Today: Record Audio and Video Directly in the App! 

Next time you open the Artifcts app, you’ll see an update is required. Accept it, wait moments, and voila, you’ll have our brand new recording feature. (Haven’t downloaded our app yet? Eek! Here you go for iOS/App Store and Android/Google Play.) 

When you click to create a new Artifct—or add a new media file to an existing Artifct—you will be able to choose to record audio or video in the moment.  

And we went a step further, too, to remove any frustration by making it simple to: 

  • Trim your recording to fit the file size available for your Artifct.
  • Compress your recording if you want to make room for longer recordings.
  • Strip out the video to keep the audio only.
  • Download your recording to your device to edit later.

Here’s a case when “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” In the pictures that follow, we show you what it looks like step by step to record a video within the Artifcts app when you are creating a new Artifct.

Step 1 - Open the Artifcts App

Step 2 - Choose '+ Artifcts', Artifcts App

Step 3 - Record and Save, Artifcts App

Step 4 - Enjoy & Share, Artifcts App

Try it out and see what you think! 

Next time you’re inspired, or a friend or family starts telling a great tall tale, grab your phone, open up the app and record.

Don’t worry if your story runs long. You will have an option to trim it, compress it, or save it to your device in its entirety before trimming the best part to include in the Artifct. You can always link later in your Artifct to the full hour-long saga if you wish for posterity!

Need inspiration? The options are endless. Here are a few from the Arti Community: 

      • Ghost stories: Grandpa telling a ghost story + photo of the person who was a ghost.
      • Attic cleanout: Auntie Tess holding up an old gown + recording of her talking about her Broadway debut (Broadway Street in Kansas City, Missouri, that is).
      • Get cookin’! Photos of the recipe card, key ingredients, and end result + video explaining how to wrap the dumpling just so.

Great Great Grandma's Wedding Ring, Artifcts

 
 
Bonus example: Our co-founder @egoody captured some family history in a sitdown with her great aunt. Whose ring was it originally anyway?

As always with all of the features of Artifcts, but especially major new deliveries like this one, we love and appreciate your feedback. You can contact us at Hello@Artifcts.com.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What Should You Do With Old Photo Albums?

Reading time: 5 minutes 

Dusty albums. Bulky albums. What do we do with you? We want to lighten our loads and declutter without guilt. 

Who among us compiles physical photo albums anymore? "Back in the day” a store like Target would have had a huge photo department. You could purchase and process film and buy photo frames and albums, along with supplemental inserts in a dizzying array of designs and sizes. 

No, not so anymore.

As we’ve shifted to digital photos, we’ve likewise replaced physical albums with digital-friendly options, including build-your-own photo books, shared digital albums on social media and cloud storage sites, and digital photo frames, like the beautiful frames from Aura. Physical photo albums today are usually reserved for major milestone events, like weddings, trips, and anniversaries, when we feel it’s worthwhile to sit down and thoughtfully curate those experiences.  

Those of us with photo albums tucked in our closets and bookshelves, those that we have created and inherited, not to mention the albums our parents and grandparents own and we’ll inherit one day, need solutions. What do we do with all the existing albums, so they avoid landing in a craft shop or, worse, a dumpster when the details about the people and stories within are lost to time? 

Photo Albums Have Problematic Similarities to Scrapbooks 

Like scrapbooks, photo albums are designed to be shared, in person, and talked through, reminiscing about and reliving with the telling the places you’ve been, the experiences you have had, and more. Unfortunately, also like scrapbooks, photo albums present long-term challenges: 

      1. Do you know the stories behind the photos? (We have tips for that!) Will you remember them? Scrapbooks tend to at least provide more leeway to add notes and stories than photo albums. Stories behind the photos are incredibly vulnerable to being forgotten. We can animate photos in creepy ways, but they cannot remember for us the stories lost. Look back through your albums. Do you recall all the people and events in a way that’s meaningful anymore? 
      2. Albums, the pages within, and the photos will deteriorate. Little known fact outside the photo industry: Those photo prints you ordered in single and even triplicate were never meant to last more than a dozen years, and that's for the highest quality pritns! That’s why the colors change as the chemicals used to create the images degrade and the paper eventually becomes more fragile, too. 
      3. Your album is singular and unique, unless you have access to the negatives. But even then, those are decaying with every passing day as well, so ... 
      4. Albums can be bulky. Do you have room to continue to store them? What about those you may inherit? They are substantial in size and often uncooperative with short shelves and shallow storage. In the words of one Arti Community member, "I’m in my 40s and my albums are still at my parents’ house. I didn't feel the need to take them with me, but, yes, someday I’ll hold onto them. I don’t want to throw them away."

How Can You Preserve Photo Albums?  

And maybe even let some photo albums go ... 

Share the love. At the risk of making a lot of people very angry, we have to say it: You are not beholden to anyone to hold onto your own albums or anyone else's albums. Ask! Do YOU want them? 

Don’t fall for the guilt trip you are getting or think you’ll get. Ideally, you should consider yourself a steward of the history within those albums and as such, ask family members if they want the albums before you take them apart or get rid of them. It’s the kind thing to do. But beyond that, ...

... Digitization has never been easier or more affordable. We have shared tips about digitization in general. You can buy machines to do it yourself, but there’s a catch. We turned to Cathi Nelson, founder and CEO of The Photo Managers, to explain: 

"Many people created scrapbook photo albums during the decades of scrapbooking and those albums are often 12x12, which is too big for traditional flatbed scanners. You can outsource this project to a professional photo manager whose scans allow them to capture the entire page and individual photos.  

If that is not in your budget, and you have a flatbed scanner, such as the Epson v600, scan each page and use photo stitching software to magically merge the pages.  

Another option is to carefullly remove the photos and scan them (front and back). If they are stuck to the pages, you can use a butter knife or dental floss to gently remove the photos."

We want to also celebrate the amazing ease with which apps from modern photo companies like Photomyne and VividPix —with scanners at local museums, libraries, and historical societies that can scan whole album pages up to 11.8" x 17″—can slice up each photo on the page into its own file photo or image file. No need to take the pages apart or tediously scan them one by one. This is great for do-it-yourselfers!

Digitization Wisdom

Before you and as you digitize, keep three things in mind:  

  • Photo layouts may be a part of the story. Some albums may be chronological or thematic. Others are designed for people to arrange photos in a way that may inherently help them to share stories, too. Take this example:

yellowed photo album page with baby photos

Had I scanned each photo and then disassembled the photo album, I would have disconnected these photos from the story of that day as captured in the Artifct, zapping their collective ability to convey a piece of my childhood. Instead, I could photograph or video the album before dismantling, if that’s what I decide to do with the album.

  • Capture ALL the details. You scanned the fronts to get the job done quickly, but did you even look at the backs? Now that you have, how will you preserve the additional details on the back with the photo? In a good-better-best plan, this could be: 
      • Create an index as you go for your photos with the file name and other details you care about (location, people, event, ...) or edit the photo metadata (e.g. date, location, and other information stored with the image file) with the additional information; 
      • Transform the album into a photo book and add the information in the image captions;  
      • Artifct the photos and include what you know about them. Check out our interrogation techniques for photos.
  • Share the stories behind the photos. CONNECT with your loved ones. Don’t be annoying and share 100s of photos from a single trip. Tell them the “best of” or most meaningful moments. Artifct the best ones! Artifcts are easy to share, helping you get the story out there so it can live on. You might also share the Artifct with a friend who is going on a trip to the same place you went and want your tips! You can also easily share an Artifct to a friend’s or family member’s digital photo frame. Ask them how.  

If you are taking the time to create photo albums, maybe take time to create an additional Artifct or two to go with each album, even if the Artifct is of the album itself, and is your story of why you created it, what it means to you, etc. Bonus, you can include audio and video and bring your photo album to life for the next generation.

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Other ARTIcles by Artifcts you may enjoy: 

Photos + Stories Go Better Together: A Conversation with Cathi Nelson, CEO of The Photo Managers

Storytellers, Beware!

Rescue Mission: That’s More Than a Photo

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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