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What Should You Do With Old Photo Albums?

April 03, 2024

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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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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Join Us for Evenings with Artifcts, Spring 2024

Spring has arrived and with it new energy for the return of Evenings with Artifcts and the generous guests who offer their time and expertise to all of us here in the Arti Community. This spring our 5-part series is anchored on the concept of decluttering.

No 'stuff' shaming or extreme minimalism hacks here. We'll talk frameworks to tackle the sentimental clutter and photos, supporting those going through life transitions and parsing through their belongings, and rethinking what exactly a "collection" is and why it holds value to us.

RSVP for the Evenings event each week; Zoom links will be available from our weekly email and our social media channels on Instagram and Facebook. Follow us so you do not miss out! And please share with friends, family, and others you meet. The more the merrier!

If you missed any of our past Evenings with Artifcts, catch up now!

 
 
 
 

ENJOY A RECAP OF EVENINGS WITH ARTIFCTS, SPRING '24

 

Zoe Kim joins Evenings with Artifcts

Week 1: Zoë Kim

@RaisingSimple, author of Minimalism for Families

DECLUTTERING, WORKSHOPS

 

Related content: 

- Watch the replay on YouTube ->

- Zoë's 7 Key Questions to Help You Declutter

- More decluttering strategies from Artifcts ->

If you'd like to suggest a topic or speaker for future events, share with us at Editor@Artifcts.com.

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© 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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