Monthly Archives: February 2017

After the Storm

It’s scary to think that I’d ever be chased out of my house because of a flood, a fire, or a hurricane.  Will I have time to grab anything before leaving? What will I be sad to have lost?  Will I be able to replace essentials quickly?  Will I know what to list on insurance forms to document what was lost?

I am fortunate to have never experienced that, but I know of many who have.  My brother lost everything he owned in Hurricane Katrina.  Three co-workers of my husband have lost their homes to fire.  As a volunteer with my church’s emergency disaster relief organization, I have worked to clean out flooded homes after both the South Carolina flood of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.  It isn’t just something we hear about on the news, such as the horrific and deadly fires in Gatlinburg TN or the threat of a spillway failure in Oroville CA that has caused an evacuation of 188,000 from potential flooding.   It isn’t something that happens to other people, somewhere else.  It happens to our neighbors, it happens to our families, it happens to us.

It may not be possible to lessen the impact of such a disaster, but there are a few things we all can do to  be better prepared…just in case.

In the case of house clean outs that I worked after a flood, the structure stood but the contents were destroyed.  All of the things that the homeowner would touch, see, and use daily were now water logged, moldy, and useless to these families whose homes were in the water’s path.  It’s amazing how quickly mold grows from flood water.   My team and I covered up with face masks, gloves, and safety goggles to minimize contact with the allergens in the air and on the contents.  We carried item after item out of the house, stacking it alongside the road in piles to be picked up for disposal.  A person’s possessions were quickly categorized into construction debris, appliances, furniture, and everything else.  Trucks would drive by ready to haul off appliances.  Dump trucks would come by to collect the construction debris for proper disposal.  Everything else would be picked up and hauled to the landfill.  A lifetime to accumulate, a moment to wash away.

So how can I prepare for such a loss?

While we can’t eliminate all of the stuff in our lives, as a good bit is necessary for our everyday living, we certainly can reduce much of what we have.

Open any closet in your house.  What do you see?  Can you even see everything?  Is everything in there useful?  Is there anything in there that would devastate you to lose?  What about the rest of it, is there a reason to keep it if it isn’t useful or meaningful?

Can you look at each room, each closet, each nook and cranny, and start pulling things out and discard what is not useful or meaningful?

It’s OK if you can’t, that’s what I’m here for.  I will be happy to help you work through that process.

Then when we finish, I’ll get you prepared for the “just in case” disaster.

Important paperwork stored in the proper container.  Meaningful family heirlooms displayed, used, or stored properly.  Portraits, photos, letters, cards, etc. digitally stored and backed up properly.  An inventory of items to be reported for insurance purposes.  Clean floors, organized closets, uncluttered space….and a new sense of calm.

Please don’t wait for the day Mother Nature comes sweeping through your house to cleanse it of your belongings.  Start today to simplify your life.



Photo Organizing Tips

How Do I Reduce All of These Pictures?

Boxes of printed photos. Album after album containing a lifetime of pictures. Inherited photo albums from beloved family members long gone. It may be time to reduce all of it, or maybe it’s time to share it all with others. Where to begin? What is the plan of action? How do I get there from here?

I’m here to help. I will take your vision of what you want to do, and run with it and produce results. Before long you will have your lifetime of pictures telling the story of your life; manageable, organized, and viewable for you and for generations to come.

If you want to get started without me, leaving me with the grunt work, I want to give you a few tips on how to get started.

First, and most important, gather up those photo albums with the magnetic pages (commonly used in the 1970s and 1980s), and remove those pictures! The pictures are likely sticking, the color fading, the paper deteriorating. This is the first priority! Stop the deterioration and gently remove each picture. If the sticking is bad, try using dental floss to separate the photo from the page. As you remove the pictures, keep them in order and place them in an archival photo storage box (available at all craft stores). If you need to copy any written information from the album page, either lightly pencil in that info on the back of the picture, or write it on a sticky note and attach to the back of the picture.

If you don’t want to tackle this task alone, please reach out to me! I will do this for you.

Once that is done, start with your most current photos. We are going to work backwards through time. It is surprisingly easier to work backwards than to work from the beginning. Most of my hands on help will be with tackling printed pictures, but you likely have 15 years worth of digital pictures. Some of those years may have an overlap of both print and digital because you took film to be developed and ordered both the prints and floppy disk or CD (remember those??).

Working backwards from the current month, gather the digital prints and drop them into a folder labeled with the year_month. Depending on how many pictures, how many separate events, and how you want to group the pictures, you may want to extend the folder name to group further than the year and month. For instance, if in January 2017 you have pictures from a birthday party, a family dinner, and an outdoor event, with several random pictures snapped for no apparent reason other than a perfect moment on random days, you may list the folder this way:





You get the idea.

Once you get to the printed pictures, double check your records, your cabinets, your desk drawers and see if you saved the floppy disk or CD (I can transfer files from floppy and CD to a flash drive for you). No use scanning in when a digital copy already exists. When sorting printed pictures, keep with the same grouping as you did with the digital files.

Within each event, discard all blurry shots, unidentifiable shots, and unflattering shots. Now that you’ve reduced your photos by half, staying within your comfort level, further reduce the photos to cover these basic categories (interpreted from Life magazine’s photo story requirements of photo journalists):

  1. Signature Image. Which picture gives the strongest visual impact? This is the event cover story, inviting the viewing into the story.
  2. Portrait. Who is the key player of the event?
  3. An Over-all View. This wide view image gives a sense of the space in which the event occurred.
  4. Detail. One picture that delivers an eye catching detail of the event.
  5. Action. Which picture shows what is going on?

For some events, you will keep as few as five pictures. But there will be events when you need to expand a bit more. A few additional categories to consider:

  1. Sequence. Longer events can’t be captured in one single picture, and you may want to keep a few sequential pictures that help move the storyline along.
  2. Medium View. Similar to a sequence shot, a step in from the overall view, but not as pronounced as the detail or signature view, the medium view offers a bit more detail.
  3. Closing. The end shot may be significant to the story line. Finish telling the story with a picture of the closing.

Once you’ve worked backwards from digital to print only, you want to scan those prints to a digital file for permanent preservation and for sharing.

There you have it. Photo Organizing 101. Make a commitment to work on one month at a time, working backwards. If you are uncomfortable getting rid of pictures, still sort as I recommend, but move those not chosen to a storage file for now, still keeping in chronological order. Whether print or digital, you don’t have to destroy those pictures forever, but you do want to keep out unnecessary pictures from your photo story lifeline. Just as too many redundant and unnecessary words can make a story unreadable, too many redundant and unnecessary pictures can make the picture story too cluttered to tell. Reduce it down so the story your pictures portray is the clear and beautiful story of your life.