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  • July 16, 2024 10:39 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Heather Nickerson


    Artifcts thanks Sarah Reeder, Artifactual History Appraisal, for her contributions to the following article.

    You may have one or many collections, intentional collections and accidental collections. Part of the fun of collecting is keeping track of it: Knowing what you have and what you’re still hunting for, what is sentimental vs. valuable, and what is okay to sell some day versus you’d prefer to pass down to someone special.

    We know a thing or to about accidental collections. Try out our free checklist available here.

    If you were a professional archivist, librarian, or appraiser, you’d have a ready tool in your pocket to help manage your collections. It’s called a finding aid. But guess what? As you Artifct your collections, you are implicitly leveraging the best of finding aids, but in a friendly form that all can enjoy and benefit from. 

    Here’s your peek inside the world of archivists where we show you how finding aids and collection management are made easy and meaningful with Artifcts!

    What Is a Finding Aid, and Why Should You Care?

    Unless you are a collections professional (archivist, librarian, appraiser…), the concept of a finding aid is likely foreign to you. For the longest time at Artifcts we even mistakenly referred to them as finding keys. Oops!

    A finding aid is exactly what it sounds like: A tool that helps you locate items within a large collection in a fast and efficient way. A finding aid is a guide that describes the contents of an archival collection. A well-designed finding aid makes quick work of determining the topical relevance of any collection. After all, what good is a collection if discoverability hinders locating and using elements within the collection in the future.

    Many of us have experienced the feelings of dread and being overwhelmed upon contemplating many boxes of inherited items that probably have something important contained in them but what and where? Imagine if you had a finding aid that told you exactly what was important and where you could locate it!

    This is the magic of what finding aids do.

    To a large degree, information within a finding aid is standardized per guidelines from the Society of American Archivists, “Describing Archives: A Content Standard,” better known simply as DACS. Standardization means a professional could work with or for any gallery, library, archive, or museum (aka GLAM) and their collections without much difficulty. They might simply display the information differently than one’s accustomed to.

    A finding aid would have information such as: reference code, title, date, extent, name of creator, description, dates, and location. Does that list look familiar? If you Artifct, it should… 

    For those of us who didn’t go to Library Science school, in our daily lives we probably do not want to think about taxonomies, metadata, bytes of storage, or even finding aids. We want to enjoy and share the meaning behind the items we’ve collected and ensure the stories and value behind them live on!

    Enter Artifcts: Solving Age Old Problems of Finding Aids for Every-Day Collectors 

    What we created at Artifcts is the solution to several age-old problems of finding aids in an individual and family-friendly fashion. And this means great things for you all!  While finding aids are brilliant tools for professionals, they are disconnected from how most of us describe and catalog the ‘why’ of our collections. We need more multitasking support in our lives.

    Here’s how you can use Artifcts to preserve the history and the value of your collections beyond the constraints of traditional finding aids.

    Use those QR codes.

    If you were to work with a professional appraiser, archivist, or collections manager of any type, they will likely offer as part of their services a description of the collection and list organizing the inventory within your collection, a finding aid of some sort. But how do you link that list to your physical collection? At Artifcts, you can print a QR code or use Artifcts QR code stickers to link the physical and the digital.

    An Artifcts QR code unlocks the story and value!

    Record your stories.

    Move beyond “scope notes” and “meta data” inherent to the archivist’s expertise – “This is a 19th-century {name of item}” – and breathe life, context, and personal meaning into the objects in your collection, e.g. “This is what Great Great Grandma brought from France when she moved to New York. And I’m giving it to you now.”  

    Artifcts offers the options to share your story, indicate what you want to do with items in the future, and supply critical other information like where on earth you’ve stored the item in your home or elsewhere and the supporting documents (receipts, appraisals, and more). 

    Connect the dots.

    We typically describe each Artifct you create as connecting the dots, because only you know how photos of those specific items relate to shape a story or history. But we help you go a step further, too. You can use our @ feature to cross reference one Artifct with another, tying together pieces of a collection and pieces of a story that others may not otherwise realize relate.  

    Simply type @ as you add the story or description to your Artifct to link to other Artifcts.

    Leverage your community.

    Let’s not forget the value in sharing and collaboration to learn more about items in your collections. Through Artifcts Circles and the option to give ‘Edit’ permission to other paid Artifcts members, you can crowdsource information from your loved ones and experts alike to capture important details about your collections that may add historical and family history information as well as increase the value, too. 

    Preserve what is.

    Add the photos, videos, and original documents you have to your Artifcts. There’s a spot dedicated to securely preserve each as is. No compression. No conversion. What you upload is what you can always download again, too.

    In our spring 2024 series finale of Evenings with Artifcts, our expert guests shed light on the 'why' and 'what' of collections.

    Ensure that if you work with an appraiser or other collections manager in the future, they provide documentary support through Artifcts, so that you can protect and share the value of your collections with friends and family as well as knock off those “to dos” with your insurance company, financial planner, and estate attorney. 

    For more information, contact Heather Nickerson.

  • July 15, 2024 7:47 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by C. Lee Cawley

    C. Lee Cawley

    July is National Family Reunion Month, a time to reconnect with loved ones and create lasting memories. But planning a large gathering can feel overwhelming! Fear not, with a little organization, you can transform reunion planning from a stressful marathon into a joyful sprint.


    The Planning Phase - Laying the Foundation for Fun

    1 - Communication is King: Create a central hub for information sharing, like a dedicated email address or online forum. Send digital invitations with details like dates, locations, accommodation, and directions. Online tools like shared calendars and collaborative documents will help keep everyone on the same page.

    2 - Name Tag Know-How: Designate different colors for family branches.  Add space for nicknames, fun facts, or hometowns to spark conversation. Have extras on hand for last-minute arrivals.  

    3 - Conquering the Culinary Conundrum Harness the family's culinary talents! Create a potluck sign-up sheet to ensure a diverse spread and encourage guests to indicate dietary restrictions. Delegate tasks like appetizers, drinks, and grilling among trusted family members. Plan ahead for leftover storage to avoid waste and allow second helpings at home! 

    4 - Catering to All Ages: Schedule a mix of activities for different age groups and interests: board games, crafts, scavenger hunts for the young ones, or hold a family talent show. Create quiet relaxation areas for older relatives or parents with young children.  Consider hiring babysitters or organizing supervised group activities for young children.


    Event Time - Making Memories Together

    5 - Embrace the History: Create a visual family tree with names, ages, and maybe even photos. Set up a space to display family heirlooms and photo albums.  Encourage guests to bring their contributions and share stories.  Designate someone to capture photos and videos throughout the event for a lasting record.

    6 – Activities for All:  Plan a mix of activities throughout the reunion.  Think: water balloon toss with sponges instead of balloons, a beanbag toss competition, or charades. Award silly prizes and celebrate participation over winning.

    7 - Delegation is Key: Delegate tasks throughout the event.  Assign someone to manage the music, oversee the games, man the grill, pack up leftovers, refresh the ice, be the clean-up crew, or snap photos. This distributes the workload and ensures everything runs smoothly.

    8 - Embrace the Unexpected:  Leave room in the schedule for impromptu storytelling sessions or games. The most cherished memories are often born from unexpected moments of connection.


    Afterward - Keeping the Spirit Alive

    9 - Share the Memories: Create a shared online album or video montage to capture the reunion's highlights. Post it for family members to relive the fun!

    By following these tips you can ensure your family reunion is an organized and joyful event filled with lasting memories.  So get ready to reconnect, reminisce, and create new family traditions – your stress-free, well-planned reunion awaits!


    Bonus: Reunion Supply Checklist!

    Sunscreen (if outdoors)

    Hand fans (if outdoors)

    Bug spray (if outdoors)

    Hand sanitizer

    Trash bags

    Plates, cups, utensils (if not provided at venue)

    Condiments and serving platters (for potluck dishes)

    Food storage containers (for leftovers)

    Coolers (for drinks and leftovers)

    Games and sports equipment

    Chairs (if not provided at venue)

    Flashlights or lanterns (for evening events)

    Toilet paper (especially if using outdoor facilities)

    S’mores supplies (if having a bonfire)

    Cash for any unexpected expenses

    For more information, contact C. Lee Cawley.

  • July 15, 2024 7:43 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    We all have a collection (or two). Even me!

    From my perspective, it’s NOT OK to collect, for the sake of just having things. But it’s OK to have a collection. What’s the difference, you ask? In my mind, a collection is a group of items you gather together and take care of and it’s things you love. To collect is to keep things without meaning or usefulness.

    A collection is a select number of any one type of item that you take pleasure in owning. 61% of us accumulate items of a similar nature (coins, toys, trading cards, jewelry) according to a 2022 survey by Magnify Money by Lending Tree. Being a responsible collector means taking care of your collection, especially if you want it to retain value over time.

    Here are 5 things you need to do to take care of a collection:


    A detailed inventory is a good tool when you need to assess the value of your collection. Whether you create a spreadsheet of information or use a service or app, it should include a description of each item, with measurements and flaws, and note where you purchased it and what you paid. Some inventory applications that you may want to check out are ArtifctsHomeZadaSortly, or Pinventory. to name a few. There are many of them out there, so do some research to find the right one for you.

    Accurately Value

    You should know the general worth of your collection. An easy way to do this is to search for recently completed transactions on eBay for the same or similar items. If you want to work with a professional, find an appraiser through the Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers. Expect to pay a flat or hourly fee to work with an appraiser.

    A few things to note

    • Know the difference between an appraisal for fair market value or replacement value.
    • You may want to get items graded, which means evaluating the condition each item is in.

    Proper Storage

    Where you store your collection is important. Look for a cool, dry, and dark place. But, your basement may not be the best storage option. The humidity in some basements may cause mold or mildew, so run a dehumidifier to protect your items from damage. Even if you want to display your collection it’s important to preserve their value when displayed. There is a great book called Saving Stuff, written by Don Williams, a Smithsonian Senior Conservator that covers how to preserve a wide variety of collections.

    You should also store receipts and the original packaging, since these may make your items more valuable. so consider how much space you will allot for storage when starting a collection.

    Keep Clean

    Be very careful with how you clean your collection. Again, a little research may go a long way to not making a mistake with cleaning products that could degrade your items. Even refinishing and repairing an item could lessen its value if you want to sell it in the future. Now, if you want to use the item, then go ahead and make it functional. I say enjoy those things that you love and make more memories around them.

    Plan for the Future

    Who will inherit your collection in the future? If one of your children loves the same kind of collecting you do and wants your collection, then count yourself lucky. Most of the younger generation isn’t interested in the same things. either way, your heirs will benefit from all the information you have gathered about your items. Make sure you note in your estate plan which person should be gifted your collection. Write down why it’s important to you, what they might do with it, and where/how they might liquidate the collection.

    What Not To Do

    Don’t stress over the value of your collection. The going price of anything fluctuates with time, so it can be unpredictable. My advice to you is, if you think your collection is valuable and you are saving it for your kids, take the time to sell it now. Don’t leave that project to someone else.

    Bottom Line

    Care for items while they are in your possession, but if they no longer bring you joy then sell, gift, or donate and let someone enjoy it.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • June 25, 2024 8:27 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by C. Lee Cawley

    C. Lee Cawley

    Believe it or not, June 25th isn't just another summer day!  It's also Half-Christmas, also known as “Leon Day” (LEON is NOEL backward) a fun and quirky way to mark the halfway point to the holiday season.  While the snow might not be falling and carols might not be playing, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas in June!

    1.     Plan Your Perfect Holiday: 

    Six months might seem like a long time, but Half-Christmas is the ideal opportunity to start planning your ideal holiday season.  Do you want to host a tea party for friends?  Or do you dream of a festive getaway to a winter wonderland?  Use this time to send a “save the date” email, research travel options, brainstorm gift ideas, and create a realistic budget, The earlier you plan, the less holiday stress you'll face in December!

    2.    Get a Jump on Greetings: 

    If sending cards brings you joy, why not jump ahead of the curve and order your holiday stamps online during Half-Christmas?  You can find a variety of fun and festive designs that will add a touch of cheer to your holiday mail.  Plus, by getting your “Forever” stamps early, you'll avoid the last-minute scramble closer to the holidays.

    3.    Reflect and Refine: 

    Half-Christmas is a great time to reflect on your past holiday traditions.  Think about what aspects of the season bring you the most joy – the annual cookie baking marathon, the festive carol sing-along, seeing The Nutcracker or the charity drive you participate in.  Use this time to list your favorite traditions and drop the activities that seem like chores.

    4.   Cut the Christmas Card: 

    Speaking of which, perhaps you've always sent out traditional paper Christmas cards, but don’t enjoy it anymore.  Just stop! This year, send your greeting on Valentine's Day instead, or consider sending out digital greetings with photos or even embedded videos.  It’s a great way to save money on paper and postage, while still spreading holiday cheer.

    5.    Change Gift Giving Expectations

    Perhaps you are all out of ideas of what to give?  Instead, suggest that your extended family enjoys a special outing together instead of exchanging gifts?  Or that only kids under 10 get gifts. Or do “Secret Santa” and only purchase one gift for your crowd of friends. Making the suggestion NOW gives everyone time to get used to a new idea.

    6.   Budget NOW for Spending Later: 

    Do you get caught up in the season and overspend? Don’t forget to make room in your budget - not just for gifts but for special food, events, travel, donations, and more. If you plan now and earmark a bit each month you won’t get caught out with huge bills in January.

    7.    Add in Something New: 

    Half-Christmas is also a fun opportunity to plan a new holiday tradition.  Maybe it's sending letters to the troops, or creating an advent calendar filled with self-care activities instead of candy.  Think about what would fill you with joy and do it!

    So, there you have it!  Even though December might seem far away, June 25th offers a unique opportunity to celebrate Half-Christmas and get a head start on planning a joyful and stress-free holiday season.  So grab a summer drink, crank up some carols (if you dare!), and start planning.

    For more information, contact C. Lee Cawley.

  • June 20, 2024 10:11 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by C. Lee Cawley

    C. Lee Cawley

    We've all been there: staring into a cluttered room, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of "stuff."  Maybe it's a messy desk, a chaotic kitchen, or even a closet overflowing with unworn clothes. The solution seems simple – “clean” it up! But before you grab your cleaning supplies and go to town, it's important to understand the distinct roles of four key concepts in conquering clutter: declutter, clean, organize, and tidy.

    Let's break them down:


    Imagine your wardrobe.  Editing the excess is always the first step.  What needs to be banished?  Be honest –will you wear that too-tight skirt or ever replace a random button from the big bag you’ve collected over the years?  Don't be afraid to donate, sell, or recycle what no longer serves you.  Remember, less is often more when it comes to creating a functional and inspiring wardrobe or workspace.

    2 - CLEAN

    Once the decluttering step is complete, it's time to brandish disinfectant wipes, vacuums, and dust cloths. When you have a clear surface, nothing on the floor,   and empty drawers after your decluttering edit, it’s an ideal time to clean before you put things back. However, cleaning isn't magic – it can't make clutter disappear.  A clean space overflowing with stuff is still a cluttered space, so that is why decluttering first is key.

    3 – ORGANIZE

    Think of organizing as creating a designated home for everything you've thoughtfully kept during the decluttering phase. This is where systems and strategies come in.  Invest in shelves, bins, and drawer dividers to categorize and store your belongings efficiently. The goal is to create a user-friendly system that minimizes clutter build-up in the future.  Think of it as creating a flow in your space, where everything has a designated spot and is easily accessible. Being “organized” means you can find what you need when you need it!

    4 - TIDY

    Tidying is the final piece of the puzzle – the daily or weekly habit that ensures your organized space stays that way.  It's putting things back in their designated spot after use.  Did you try a dress on but choose a skirt? Hang the dress up, don’t leave it on a chair. This simple act of daily tidying prevents clutter from accumulating and maintains the clear order you established during the organizing stage.

    Why the Order Matters

    Treating these activities as separate steps ensures a more efficient and effective final outcome. Imagine cleaning a cluttered room – you might move things around to vacuum, but the clutter is still there.  By decluttering first, you eliminate extra work, making cleaning, organizing, and tidying a much smoother and more satisfying process.

    So, the next time you face a cluttered space, don't feel overwhelmed. Embrace the power of decluttering, cleaning, organizing, and tidying.  By tackling them in this specific order, you'll transform chaos into a haven of functionality, one room, closet, or pantry at a time!

    For more information, contact C. Lee Cawley.

  • June 19, 2024 8:32 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Diane Greenhalgh

    Tiny to the Max

    Fed up with feeling overwhelmed and just want to make your space work for you? With “a place for everything and everything in its place”, organizing can give you a calm space where you can chillax and connect with the people you love. But it also gives you so much more…

    Room to live

    When you organize, you create space to live the life you want for you and your family. The spaces in your home become more functional, and you’re able to find things when you need them.

    Imagine having uncluttered counters to make dinner or not having to constantly search for the TV remote. And if you’re like a quarter of Americans who can’t fit your car in your garage, imagine being able to pull that baby in to where it belongs!

    Time saver

    With everything in its place, no more daily hunts for your wallet and keys before you head out the door. That saves you time and energy for more worthwhile pursuits. How much time? According to the 2017 Lost & Found Survey by Pixie, Americans spend 2.5 days a year looking for misplaced items. That’s greater than 190 days over the course of the average lifespan!

    What’s more, the National Soap and Detergent Association says that decluttering and organizing cuts 40% of housework in the average home. Less cleaning?! Sign me up!

    Show me the money!

    (Famous line in Jerry McGuire)

    Getting organized can save you a buck or two. American women have an average of $550 worth of unworn clothes in their closets, according to a 10 Yetis study. So much buried treasure in our closets, yet the Pixie Lost & Found Survey revealed we collectively spend $2.7 billion replacing items each year. No more buying stuff you already own when you know what you have and where it is.

    More ways you save money:

    • Eliminate late fees by keeping up with deadlines

    • Locate receipts for returns and warranties

    • Deposit checks before they expire

    • Use gift cards and coupons that were buried in the junk drawer

    • Eat out less because meal planning and prep is easier

    • Get rid of storage unit fees

    • Prevent the need to upsize to a bigger, more expensive home

    • Pay less medical bills with less stress (see below)

    Happier + healthier

    Clutter has been shown to cause people stress, but when you don’t have to remember where things are, you eliminate an element of chaos and uncertainty in your life, relieving stress and anxiety. This is because there is comfort in predictability and your newfound sense of control. What’s more, clearing your mind creates space for other things, like curiosity and creativity.

    Less stress leads to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which means better health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 80% of medical expenses are related to stress.

    Getting organized also helps you eat healthier and get active. A top strategy for building healthy habits is to make doing them as easy as possible. Along with creating extra time, organization helps you create a space that supports the goals in your life, including eating healthy and staying active. Easily accessible equipment, uncluttered workspaces, and systems for planning ahead all help keep you on track.

    Stronger relationships

    Organization creates the space, and the time, to do fun things together with your family or roommates. And once you don’t have that mess to be irritated and stressed about, you’ll be nicer to each other, especially if you’re the one upset by the mess. If your clutter is causing the friction, getting organized can be an act of love or respect towards the people you live with.

    Once you have a home you’re proud of, you can also invite your friends and family over for regular get-togethers. Or have a party to make new friends. Added bonus… a kick in the butt to tidy up.

    Become a rock star

    Being organized seeps into all aspects of your life and makes you more productive and better at getting things done. Gone are the days of missed events and late arrivals (or at least a lot less). For instance, an IKEA study found that women with shoe racks are 7 times more likely to be on time for work. And that’s just a shoe rack. Imagine what a fully organized home can do!

    Seeing how organization and productivity improves your life teaches your kids valuable skills and encourages your partner or roommates to jump on board the organizing train. Destination? A boost of self-confidence!

    Caution for people with addictive tendencies

    I am not a medical expert. Consult your psychiatrist or therapist for advice specific to your situation.

    If you have the tendency to go down a spiral by things like “don’t break the chain” or get overly invested when trying new habits, exercise caution when organizing. It can become obsessive if you’re not careful. Don’t aim for perfection, focus on what’s realistic (this goes for everyone actually).

    If you fall into this category, including if you have been diagnosed with OCD/OCPD or hoarding disorder, consult your therapist before starting your organizing project and consider hiring a professional organizer trained in obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Organizing can exacerbate your symptoms.

    Whether you’re jumping in feet first or taking it each small project at a time, there’s no time like the present to get started on your organizing transformation. So, check out my free step-by-step organizing how-to page and know that I’m here to help you every step of the way.

    Consider me your organizing coach.

    For more information, contact Diane Greenhalgh.

  • June 18, 2024 10:51 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Heather Nickerson


    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.

    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.

    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? 

    For more information, contact Heather Nickerson.

  • June 15, 2024 6:49 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    Did you know that opening envelopes is the key to mail and paper management?

    It’s a mistake to leave mail unopened or to place the contents back into the envelope after reading the material. Opening each envelope and discarding the unwanted inserts will greatly reduce the volume.

    Once you have eliminated the excess, unfold everything that remains, staple pages together if needed and (if nothing else) place everything in an action tray for later. You can choose to go further and process your daily mail each day or decide on a regularly scheduled time that you’ll do your mail processing each week. How about Saturday morning over your first cup of coffee or one evening a week, when you are watching your favorite TV show? The processing can be simplified by asking yourself “What’s the next action I need to take on this piece of paper?” The usual answers to this question are: file it, read it, do some action (like send an email or make a call, etc), and then there are the bills. By opening envelopes, unfolding the paperwork, and discarding said envelope you are miles ahead in your paper management.

    Also, I need to mention junk mail. There are several ways to eliminate most junk mail, which will greatly reduce your paper processing time. Here’s another blog post that will help you get off those pesky mailing lists.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • May 27, 2024 12:55 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing

    A gorgeous landscape with rocks, stepping stones, and a stream surrounded by a lush lawn and trees with fall colors

    The Story

    If you have ever seen the homepage on my website, the Loving Kindness Meditation is featured prominently on the page:

    "May I feel safe,

    May the path before me be smooth,

    May my surroundings bring me calm."

    -Loving Kindness Meditation

    I placed this meditation front and center because it plays such an important role in my organizing practice. Here's why.

    History & Meaning of the Loving Kindness Meditation

    The first time I heard the Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) was in yoga class about 7 years ago, right before I started my organizing company but during a time where I was already working with clients. I was very taken with the words and I felt transformed after saying it. I was intrigued and googled this meditation the very same day. I found the following information:

    • The Loving Kindness Meditation, also known as the Metta Meditation, originated in India about 2,500 years ago and was later incorporated into the Buddhist tradition.

    • Repeating this meditation every day is thought to calm the mind and create a sense of peace and love with ourselves and the world.

    • There have been multiple studies like this one that showed that subjects experience more self compassion and less judgement for themselves and others after saying this meditation for an extended period of time.

    • The LKM creates positive emotions that have been proven to create lasting positive change for those experiencing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental health struggles.

    The Connection Between Loving Kindness Meditation & Organizing

    What initially drew my attention to the LKM and organizing was the line: "May my surroundings bring me calm." But as I practiced this mediation alongside my organizing practice, I noticed other connections:

    A woman in yoga clothes and her hair in a bun standing on a yoga mat indoors in tree poste

    Combating Anxiety

    I am an organizer that brings mindfulness to my practice. I struggle with anxiety and I know that the Loving Kindness Meditation helps to calm my brain and combat overwhelm so I can approach my day with clarity and compassion. It is important to me to showcase this calm   approach as the center of my organizing practice. In fact, I begin every organizing session with an invitation to my clients to practice breathing or other mindfulness exercises because I find that it helps my clients cancel out all the "noise" that might have been going in internally before I come through their door.

    Increases Self-Compassion and therefore, compassion for others

    In this meditation we are saying that we all deserve goodness. Therefore, recitation of the LKM fosters self-compassion, which, in turn, expands into compassion for those around us. . Developing Self-compassion is another important component of organizing, on both the organizer and client end. If you are wasting your energy berating yourself for your clutter, then you won't have the energy and openness for self-discovery and development of new habits and routine that work for you. Likewise, my job as an organizer is to create an environment without judgement and to model compassion.

    Emotional Regulation

    The Loving Kindness Meditation also helps with emotional regulation. Many of the people I work with, struggle with executive functioning (including myself!) and one of the challenging pieces is to learn how to balance a barrage of emotions in order to work through them in a healthy way. The balm of wishing upon yourself a safe, smooth, and calm space creates a sense of stability the sets the stage for emotional regulation. When we are emotionally regulated we are ready and open to learn, explore, and discover.

    General Positivity

    Guess what? Not everyone is as psyched as I am to organize and declutter! But the loving kindness mediation is all about positivity. And having a positive approach to organizing can breed success. So say this meditation and create the positive vibes you need to get you through! It's a neat trick to say the words of the meditation to psych yourself up when you need to complete a less desired task. Trust me, it works! I consider it one of the "fake it until you make it" approaches (a subject for another blog post, perhaps?).

    In Conclusion

    Today, I incorporate the Loving Kindness Meditation into my organizing practice by practicing it myself and offering this practice to my clients before our session. This practice has not only transformed my approach but also enriched the experiences of my clients. Here are some guided loving kindness meditations if you are interested in exploring this practice.

    Wishing you and your loved ones safety, a smooth path, and calm surroundings.

    Do you have a meditation practice that you love? Have you ever tried the Loving-Kindness Meditation? Please share with me in the comments.

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.

  • May 15, 2024 6:51 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    Want to accomplish a challenging goal? Better focusing will help. Easier said than done, Right?

    Being able to focus on the task at hand will be the key to conquering a challenging goal.

    Not rewards, sheer willpower, self-discipline, or motivation will work. (We’ve all tried those!) Maintaining focus is the only way you will reach a challenging goal. What do you think?

    Here are a couple of suggestions on ways to make focusing on the important easier for you so that you can achieve that one big goal.

    Know your best time of day.

    When are you most productive? Early morning or late at night? It doesn’t matter. What matters is you use that time to work on moving forward on a project that will get you to a goal. When you work during your most productive time it is easier to focus or get in your zone. Time will fly, but so will the amount that you move forward to meeting your goals.

    Create a deadline for yourself.

    Remember being in school, where deadlines reign? You knew exactly when that term paper needed to be turned in and you knew the consequences if you didn’t complete it on time. In your work or personal life, there aren’t always deadlines. So how do you use a deadline to create focus? Why you can make one up! It can be short-term – I need to finish this before I stop for lunch or I’m going to deliver this report before the end of the week. All of a sudden you’ll be more able to focus on the task at hand.

    Prep before you start.

    I’m a big fan of prepping for tomorrow. Just spending a little time clearing things up at the end of the day and planning for tomorrow can help you jump into work the next day. Always looking forward will help you get a jump-start in the morning so you don’t waste any precious time when you sit down at your desk.

    Focus on your goals today!

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

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