Over the past few years, I have gradually helped my mom go through my late father's papers. He liked to make prolific notes, keep mail and collect interesting articles. George Sr. was a proverbial packrat and George Jr. (me) inherited most of those traits. The process has been both curious and fascinating — and a bit sad since the weeding process is like taking a cosmic eraser to the evidence of his life.
Whether a child's kindergarten masterpieces, t-shirts that no longer fit or family photos, what are some creative ways to make the memories last — while reducing clutter to start a new year?
Take a picture or scan it. Consider storing the item digitally. If you photograph drawings or art, experiment to make sure the picture is a good likeness (exposure and flash); if scanning, make sure the file is large enough for storage and later reproduction or enlargement (resolution).
A service like ScanYourMemory.com offers to scan artwork at 300 pixels per inch (ppi), plus a lower-resolution image (100 ppi) for use in emails. A very large image may require multiple scans and software such as Photoshop or stitching software like Hugin (hugin.sourceforge.net) to reassemble it.
Decorate with it. Purchase frames or displays to highlight anything from drawings to baseball cards, and then rotate them throughout the home. Make shelves and wall groupings of action figures or dolls. Put collectibles under glass in a coffee table. Additional ideas can come from searching the words "collection display."
Gather it. Use binders or scrapbooks to group art, postcards or ticket stubs, or form a collage using software such as ShapeCollage.com or Photovisi.com to create a larger image.
Convert it. A drawer full of t-shirts can be turned into a blanket or quilt, either through a step-by-step process (tinyurl.com/wikiquilt) or with a service like The Quilt Loft (tshirtquilt.com) or Keepsake Theme Quilts (tshirtquilts.com). Photos can be transformed, as well (PhotoQuiltCreations.com or PortraitQuilts.com).
Old letters and notes can be saved. The Legacy Project (warletters.com/preserve) has ideas. Even emails can be saved as PDF files (tinyurl.com/PDF-emails). For home movies, FilmForever.org has in-depth preservation information.
Protect it. From books to clocks, protect items from the ravages of time. The Canadian Conservation Institute (tinyurl.com/preserving-stuff) can help.
Share it. Use sites such as Facebook and Flickr to make albums for family and friends to view. Set your computer background and screen saver to display the low-resolution images (tinyurl.com/wikipix or photojoy.com).
Consider donating letters or a collection to an historical society, museum, children's hospital or community organization.
Make gifts. Convert your photos and art to plaques, prints, calendars, stationery, books and decals. Shutterfly.com and Snapfish.com work with photos; KidsArtEtc.com can take uploaded or mailed art to turn into anything from tote bags to pillows.
Update regularly. Once there were floppy disks. This year laptop makers are starting to eliminate DVD drives as standard equipment. The lesson? Remember to wash, clean and stay current with storage preferences (tinyurl.com/picture-file-format).
Weed or toss it. The final option? Consider the value to you and future generations. Help them now by weeding, or take the plunge and throw it out (before your kids have to!).
Once they are gone, memories die. But creatively consolidating, displaying, storing and sharing materials can keep that cosmic eraser at bay.
Here are some other links for the web version of this column:
Suggestions on children's artwork:
Suggestions on t-shirts:
Suggestions on displaying collections:
- Displaying childhood collections in a grown-up home
- Flickr finds: 10 best display ideas
- Displaying Collections
- Some ideas for displaying those collections
- Collections on Display: Shells and More
Suggestions on keeping letter collections:
- PreservingYourLetters (PDF download)
- Organizing and preserving written letters
- Six Creative Ideas for Preserving and Displaying Love Letters
- Saving email letters
Ken Satterfield is advertising coordinator for Word&Way.