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How to preserve special memories and save space

Article by Cassie Tillett

Scan (as in find) and save (as in space)…
You know those photographs that we all have around the place? If they were taken earlier than the last few years, they’ll be prints – or sometimes transparencies (remember the slide projector?) or even, perhaps, all that remains is the negatives. If they are more recent, they are probably in digital format on your computer – or perhaps they are still on your camera (or mobile phone) because you haven’t got round to downloading them yet? – with the result that you almost never get to look at them, and probably can’t find them when you do want them.

One of my favourite aspects of the digital age is the ease with which I can preserve memories in ways which are beautiful, special and easily treasured. I’ve been a keen photographer since I was very young (with my first Kodak Instamatic); I loved nothing better than creating a ‘project’ for a special purpose (a book for my parents’ silver wedding anniversary, a project about our local Guide company as a gift when the leader of many years retired, a school visit to France). In those days, I remember being continually frustrated by my inability to produce something really beautiful. No matter how careful my handwriting or my arranging of the photos and text, the results always fell short of my design ambitions.

Now things are so different. Not only can we share our photos quickly and easily with friends and family, near and far (have you tried sharing through Google Picasa or Flickr, to name but two?), but we can also create amazing gifts – at extraordinarily reasonable costs.

Creating photobooks for friends

My very first photobook was created for a friend’s birthday. She was always requesting copies of recipes after I’d cooked her a meal, and frequently lost the copies… so I put her favourites into a photobook, illustrated each page with a photo of the two of us together on assorted silly occasions, and she was thrilled with the results.

There are many companies that you can use for this procedure. My favourite is www.blurb.com. Download their free software, import your photographs, either use their suggested templates or start your own from scratch, and away you go. At the time of writing, a book with 40 sides (20 pages) of full colour photographs – with or without text – in a hardback with dustjacket, 10″ x 8″, will cost you around £18 plus postage. Choose from many sizes, orientation, quality of paper, softback or hardback… wonderful. I’ve used them for gifts after family visits and holidays, for mementos of plays I’ve been in, a memory book of somebody’s life after their funeral, baptisms and weddings.

Blurb isn’t the only company that operates this system. Prices and offerings vary; but check them out and see what suits you. Try Bonusprint, Snapfish, PhotoBox, YoPhoto.

And why stop at books? There are calendars, posters, mounted pictures, mugs, diaries… all special, personal and unique to you and to the recipient. Oh, and there’s also the option of a digital photo frame… a continually changing selection of your favourite images.

Preserving your childrens artwork

Moreover, why stop at photos? Have you loads of precious artwork around the place created by younger members of the family? So hard to dispose of, but if your youngster is an enthusiastic artist, the results can take over the house! Scanning and saving the results into a book not only preserves these amazing creations, but makes them available for doting grandparents, too. (Oh, and if you haven’t met him before, you need to take a look at the superb website of inspirational six-year-old Jack Henderson: http://jackdrawsanything.com/. His own little story, and a large number of his creations, are found in a superb little book; think how easy it would be to make your own youngster a published author, too.)

To me, it’s a win-win situation. Images that are hidden away on a computer or in a box are almost always wasted, seldom seen, forgotten about. Make a book, a calendar, a diary or any of the other suggestions above, and they are likely to be shown around, appreciated, enjoyed – and, in turn, take up so much less space. (You’re also much more likely to be selective; rather than having a dozen variations on the same theme, you’ll choose the absolute best for your creation and discard the second-rate. Always a good policy when decluttering!)

Finally, a word of caution: if, having scanned and saved, you are going to discard the original images as a result of this project – or if the originals are digital to start with – you do have backup, don’t you? Please tell me that your computer data is backed up… so if your laptop was lost, stolen, in fire or flood, or the victim of a virus or hard drive failure, your precious images will not be gone forever. There are many cost-effective and simple ways of backing up online these days – my own personal favourites being www.mozy.com and www.dropbox.com – but search around for your favourites. Both these services have a ‘free up to 2GB’ account to get you started.

And if you need help with any of the technical aspects of these suggestions – the scanning, the book creation software, the backing up – either talk to your own local pet geek, or give me a shout!

Cassie Tillett of Working Order (www.workingorder.co.uk) has been helping her clients to find solutions to problems of space, clutter and storage since 1997. She is President, and one of the founder members, of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (www.apdo-uk.co.uk).

Photo credit: Markuso

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