Tell Your Story: Gather the Stuff & Organize It

This was written for a blog post in June 2017, and never published.

You may remember, Problem #4 was that I have pieces of memorabilia and photos scattered throughout my house.

As I do my organizing & cleaning this spring & summer, I am purposefully seeking out and gathering all of the old journals, planners, calendars, photos and memorabilia that I have stashed in various spots throughout the house into one easily accessible spot in the house. If an item is dated or if I can quickly determine the date, the items get filed in monthly file folders. Anything that’s too large for a file folder or if I can’t determine the date it gets placed in a bin next to my desk. Sunday evenings are my memory keeping and story-telling time. Most of that time I can be found scrapbooking.  Two Sunday evenings a month I dedicate at least some of my time to getting organized.  At the beginning of each month, I make sure that all of the photos from the previous month are tagged in Lightroom and backed up to my external hard drive. I recently added Google Photos, Prime Photos and DropBox to my back up list. I am in love with Google Photos. I also continuously back everything up with Backblaze, which has saved me several times. My other Organization Sunday rotates to whichever Sunday I just don’t feel like scrapbooking. That’s when I go through the bin next to my desk and try to determine dates for the old photos and memorabilia. When I can determine the date, I file it in its monthly file folder. If I have time or if I find really something really important, I will scan or photograph it that night as well. For documents or pieces of kids’ artwork that I want to include in our family album, I take a photo with my Samsung phone camera on my white desk. If it’s a photo or an important document I scan it using my 10 year old Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner.  That scanner is amazing! I scan documents at 600ppi and important photos at 1200ppi. 

Just before Christmas, while I was cleaning out our extra bedroom/storage room in the basement, I found a box of letters my granny wrote to me while I was in college. I was taking a Family History class and asked her to write me letters about her life so that I could write her biography. She wrote me a few letters with enough information to write my required 5-page biography of her life. After I finished the class, the letters kept coming. They were more detailed and jumped around to different parts of her life. I read each letter and loved receiving them, but my 20-year-old-self didn’t do anything else with those letters. So, my organization Sundays in November and December were spent scanning and backing up those priceless letters from my now-deceased Granny. I haven’t done anything else with them, but finding those letters started this urgency within me to tell our family story, and to back it up! What else do I not have digitized?! My goal is that when my grandkids ask for information to write a biography, I can point them to the rows of completed scrapbooks, or I can email them completed pages, and we can sit down together and I can show them our story, not only the good and fun things, but also what we learned from the things that maybe weren’t so good. I can’t think of anything better.

Tell Your Story: Identify the Problems in Your Memory Keeping

This post was originally written in May 2017

About a week ago, I talked about how I felt like I was failing at telling our family’s story. I was completely overwhelmed and quite honestly, I was avoiding the issues. I am happy to report that I am feeling much more positive than I was last week.  And I have learned that I am not alone! A lot of people are having the same issues as me.  I have done quite a bit of targeted research over the last week. It’s amazing how information can help you become empowered. I’m no longer avoiding my scrapbook and personal history writing issues, I’m tackling them and learning from my mistakes. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing information I’ve learned with you. I hope that it helps you feel empowered to tell your life story, too!

Step 1: Identify the problem(s)

Well, that sounds like an obvious step, but it’s one that I hadn’t done yet. I complained about not having things done, but I had never written down all of the problems. I am a visual person and writing something down helps me process it better. If you’re like me, grab a piece of paper and start listing all the issues you are having with your memory keeping process. You could also do this in Evernote or really anywhere you can make a list. Your list may be very different than my own, and that’s okay! We are all on our own memory keeping journey, and everyone’s path will be a little bit different.


  1. I have big holes of time that are not scrapbooked.
  2. There are big holes in the content of our story.
  3. We may have incomplete photo backups, local & online
  4. There are pieces of memorabilia and photos scattered throughout my house
  5. I have boxes of 35mm film that has not been digitized
  6. Not all of my images are tagged or organized
  7. No one in our house has their entire personal history written

Step 2: Research

Armed with my list of problems, I headed out in search of answers! I will share my research findings in future posts. I’m still learning, so adding to this section will be ongoing.

Step 3: Design a Plan of Attack

For each problem, list a couple of different possible solutions. I used post-it notes so I wouldn’t have to scribble things out. Plus, I really like the colors. I’ll share my post-in notes in future posts, too.

Step 4: Implement the Plan

Just do it. Come up with a plan and commit to it. Add entries to your calendar. Set goals. Make yourself accountable for your plan. Come up with a system to reward yourself for meeting your goals.

Step 5: Evaluate the Plan

In 1 month, take a step back and evaluate your plan.  Are you happy with the progress you’ve made? Do you need to adjust any goals? Set a date with yourself and your memory keeping each month to evaluate where you are and if the plan is still working for you. If it’s not working, go back to Step 3 and see if any of your other possible solutions would work better for you. If those don’t seem like they would work for you, go back to Step 1. Is the original problem still a problem you care about or has something else become more important? While it’s important to set goals, remember that they aren’t written in stone. They can be updated, changed or even replaced with new and better goals. This is YOUR family’s personal history. You have to do what’s best for you.

Repeat this process as often as is necessary.

What’s on your problem list?