Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gift Giving for the Whole Year

I fully intended to have posted a couple of blogs in December with some great Christmas ideas, but the insanity level around here was at an all-time high and the blogs just never materialized.  I decided to not feel bad about it, after all, you’re probably too busy to read it anyway, and well, it just doesn’t really matter in the grand scope of things! 

This apparent lack of concern is a very new approach for me.  I’m actually the over-achieving, Type-A, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist of the family.  But I must say, the change in attitude has helped a lot with the stress I normally impose upon myself throughout the holidays.  I just have to keep reminding myself of the fortune cookie I got a couple of weeks ago.  It said something like, “Don’t worry about what you SHOULD do, concentrate on what you CAN.”  Great words of advice. 

So instead of worrying about the fact that half my gifts still haven’t made it to the post office or that I forgot to offer the eggnog and cider to our guests on Christmas Eve, I intend to sit back and drink that eggnog and cider myself while I watch my family play with the gifts that DID get finished.  Oh, and all those blog ideas?  Well, how ‘bout we turn them into projects and gifts you can make and use throughout the year?

For a quick and easy gift idea, try making one of these cute little gift tag sets:

These are some cute little gift tag boxes I made for teachers and a few friends.  I loved making these, they are such a simple concept and yet so versatile and VERY easy to personalize.  The original idea for these comes from the Splitcoaststampers website and were first presented to me by Stephanie G., a very talented Stampin’ Up demonstrator we know.  Later, Pam used this same concept as the basis for one of her classes on our fall cruise.  The tags can be put together in endless combinations, and I’m considering putting together some generic tag sets to use for birthdays, showers, and other gift-giving occasions.  If you want to see some more ideas along these lines, check out the Splitcoaststampers gallery.

Several of us belong to a Stampin’ Up! hostess club, and this month we learned how to make these lovely coasters/trivets.

We used Staz-on inks, Stampin’ Up! Craft Inks, Stampin’ Up Classic inks, stencils and stamps.  The tiles were baked at 350° for 10 minutes, cooled, and then sprayed with a sealant.  Felt pads on the bottom will protect your furniture.  I bundled up the four NOEL tiles in a pretty ribbon and presented them to my sister-in-law.  Monograms, names, special words, or even pretty designs can be used to personalize these for any occasion.

Speaking of monograms…

Last year, I made several monogram wall ornaments to give as gifts to my kids, nieces, and a few favorite teachers (see more in my December 2009 blog entry). 

This year, I had to make another one for my brand new nephew, Billy, and his two older brothers who live in another state, Todd and Ryan.  These are super cute and simple to make.  The cardboard letters are available at Hobby Lobby, or you can use wooden letters available at most larger craft stores.  Some 3-in-1 glue (it’s the BEST for sticking paper to chipboard!), patterned paper, and a little creativity can turn it into a very personal and lovely gift for people of any age.

Need something a little more elaborate or personalized?  What about a perpetual calendar?

I made this perpetual calendar for my mother for Christmas.  She’s a huge NASCAR fan, so I thought I’d do up her calendar in that theme.  It was a really fun challenge, and I’m really pleased with the results!  I’ve also seen University of Texas themed calendars, color-themed calendars, and really, just anything you can imagine!  If you’d like to give one of these a try, I teach it as a class (usually no more than 2 or 3 people at a time) and I provide all of your general supplies.  It’s a great deal, and you can create something completely unique!  For more information please see our website.

Okay, so you’ve made Aunt Sallee a really cute set of coasters for her sunroom.  You wouldn’t just throw it in any old box or bag would you?  This idea came from another awesome Stampin’ Up! Demonstrator (Sharon A.), what about making a super cute gift bag from an ordinary lunch sack?

Or what about making a beautiful tag?

I started making tags several years ago after another scrapbooker told me that she always makes a card with the scraps from every scrapbook layout.  She pointed out that your “theme” is already set, so are your colors…all you have to do is assemble it!  After she told me that, I started making LOTS of cards with my layout scraps.  But sometimes, there’s only so many red, white and blue cards that I need, so I decided to make tags, too.  Now, whenever I finish a page, I make a quick card and a tag.  All of these tags were made with my Cricut using a 5-inch "Tag1" shape on the Plantin Schoolbook font and various other cuts from other fonts.  The fun challenge with tags is that I sometimes try to make Christmas tags using non-traditional colors – like a pink and black snowflake card.  Some of them have turned out quite good, I think. 

So that’s it for my gift-giving, post-Christmas blog.  I hope your holiday season has been filled with all the good things in life:  friends, family, faith, food, and fun! 

Merry Christmas!
The Crafty Neighbor

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Two posts in November?  Yes, it's been a goal of mine for quite some time to actually blog more, but I didn't think it would come this soon!  So what got me so excited that I just jumped right in there and posted a second blog in the same week?  Procrastination!  Yep, unlike what I usually do, I just couldn't wait!  I had to share this article with you about procrastination.  It's from one of my favorite bloggers:  Christine Kane.  So without further adieu:

9 Simple Solutions for Procrastinators

by Christine Kane

Irony: As I started to write this article, I thought, "I'll just go play one Sudoku game first." I caught myself in the act and marched to my laptop.

People who say that procrastination is about laziness are probably the same people who think that anorexia is about not eating enough.

Procrastination isn't about laziness. It's about fear. It's about perfectionism. It's about overwhelm. We all experience it, and there are some tricks to help you get moving again.

Here are 9 ways to break the procrastination habit:

1 - When you get an idea, do some little thing to begin. 

When I read Stephen King's book On Writing, I noticed something. I noticed that when Stephen King gets an idea, he writes it. Immediately and imperfectly.

Most people get an idea. Then they sit there. They wonder if it's a good idea. Then, they wonder if it's a good idea some more.

Got an idea? Begin it now!

2 - All hail small chunks of time! 

Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have lots of time. It just doesn't happen to be all at once.

Are you waiting for many hours of spare time to begin your idea, your project, or your taxes? Stop waiting! Learn to use the spare half hour that comes up here and there. (I gave myself 45 minutes to write this article just to take my own advice.)

3 - Agree to do it badly. 

Set a goal to do it badly. Set a goal to show up. Let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL.

Some of my coaching clients' biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear, than they do about getting it all done perfectly.

4 - Commit aloud. 

Call a friend and say something like this: "I'm going to spend the next hour working on creating my new product." Then go do it.

Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Repeat daily.

5 - Define quantities. 

Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. "I'm gonna get my office organized" is a lot like saying, "We oughtta do something about Global Warming."

Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done NOW.

When are you going to do it? For how long? Which part of your office? The file cabinet? Or your desk?

Define the goal and acknowledge its completion.

6 - Install this System Upgrade into your Mental Hard Drive: Less is More. 

Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week.


Because you're not lazy. You're just trying to do too much.

Find out what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything. Wow - what a difference this makes!

7 - Do it first. 

My first coach made me write songs first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour chunk as my first activity upon waking.


"Because you're telling the universe that this is your priority. And then the universe lines up everything toalign with your priority."

Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you're not wasting energy thinking about this thing you're supposed to be doing.

8 - Avoid nose-bleed activities. 

Email, voicemail, web stats - any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity. It becomes a nose-bleed.

When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you. Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.

9 - Don't ask how you "feel" about doing the activity.

Have you ever committed to getting fit? And then when the alarm goes off, you lie in bed thinking, "Do I really feel like going to the gym?" (Like you even have to ask!)

Change this pattern. Make your decision the night before. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don't have coffee and sigh and think, "I'll probably feel more like it at lunch time." You won't!

If it's a priority, don't waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.


There. I did it. I wrote this article. And now, I don't even want to play Sudoku! How about that?


Please do! Just be sure to include this complete blurb with it:
Christine Kane is the Mentor to Women Who are Changing the World. She helps women uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success. Her weekly LiveCreative eZine goes out to over 12,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at

See Christine's blog at  

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Card Ideas

You've probably noticed that most of my cards are square (6"x6", to be exact) and that they often use the same line of paper.  We'll, that's because of something I mentioned in an earlier blog.  It was a time-saving tip from a fellow scrapbooker that I adopted for my own.  Whenever this crafty neighbor finished a scrapbook page, album, or craft project, she would immediately use the scraps to make as many cards as she could with the leftovers.  This method ensured that she wasn't building up piles and piles of scraps or simply throwing away and wasting whatever pieces were left over from her projects.  It also meant that she always had a ready supply of cards made up for just about any occasion.    I loved this idea so much that I've been doing it ever since!

So why make 6"x6" cards?  That, too, is a time saver.  Since all my supplies are the result of some other scrappy project, I am usually left with 12x12 paper and scraps.  The fastest way to use them?  cut it in half, fold that in half, and Voila! an instant card.  Of course, this means that I need an odd sized envelop for my odd-sized card.  I generally like to use clear cellophane envelopes.  Not only do they come in a variety of sizes that fit my cards perfectly,  but you can see the card through it!  Why hide a beautiful card behind some plain old envelope?  Not me...gotta go flashy all the way, right?

Oh and one more note...if you decide to make some of these square cards, be sure to double up on the postage.  Two stamps should generally do it if you don't want to weigh it.  You wouldn't want your recipient to have to pay the extra postage!

Here's a few new birthday card ideas featuring Basic Grey's Ambrosia and Lime Rickey product lines:



Friday, October 1, 2010

Reader Gallery!

We love it when readers send us pictures of what they're working on!  Here's a card and some fun and funky layouts by "Scrapscot"....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

3rd Annual Pam's Pals Benefit Crop

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who has helped make our 2008 and  2009 Pam's Pals Benefit Crops such a SMASHING SUCCESS!  Together, we have raised thousands of dollars to help Pam, and it doesn't stop there! We had such a great time and breast cancer is such an important cause that we've decided to do it again and again and again!

What is Pam's Pals? 

Pam's Pals started as a group of friends getting together to help our good friend and fellow scrapbooker, Pam Wilemon.  Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.  Shortly after that, a group of her friends got together in Conroe, Texas to raise money to help pay some of her medical bills.  Crafty Neighbor wanted to help, too, so we organized our first ever Pam's Pals Benefit Crop.  The event was a huge success and helped to raise several thousand dollars to help pay Pam's medical bills.  We repeated the event again in 2009. 

We had to skip 2010 because of the timing of our cruise, and Pam is doing much better, but this cause is so important to us that we think it's worth doing every year!  So for 2011, we're hosting the Pam's Pals event in March and we're donating the proceeds to a charity that is very close to Pam's heart -- the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 
So put on your pink and join us for our

3rd Annual Pam's Pals Benefit Crop!

March 12, 2011

10:00 AM - Midnight
Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas
Joann Fogg Service Center
6001 Summerside Drive
Dallas, Texas 75252

Profits to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure
If you would like more information about Pam's Pals or our benefit crop, please send us an email at:

For more information about the Susan G. Komen Foundation, visit:
Your registration includes your crop fees, lunch and dinner.
Don't wait!  Space is limited!  Register early to secure your spot!  
$ 50.00Click here to Register Now!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Class Registrations Are Now Open

Registration for classes on our 3rd Annual Scrapbooking Cruise is now open.  Four classes will be offered on the cruise.  See below for full class descriptions.

We will be accepting registrations for classes through August 15th.  To register for classes, simply add them to your cart.  Please review your cart carefully before checking out.  We will confirm all class registrations via email.

Sunday 19th –
Mini Album Class - 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon
Layout Class - 2:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday 22nd –
Tag Box Class - 8:00 a.m. till 10:00 a.m.
Card Class - 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon 

About our instructors:
Christen Murray: You may have met Christen at a crop or your local scrapbook store. Whether she was working or cropping, you can be sure she was having fun. As a Visual Arts major at the University of North Texas, Christen Murray was drawn to scrapbooking and paper crafting of all kinds. Christen's other artistic interests include jewelry making, painting, and graphic design. Her sense of style is playful and fun, and she's not a bit afraid of bold color combinations and dramatic contrasts. Christen is the daughter of Cindy Murray

Cindy Murray:  Cindy took her first amateur photography class in 1985 and was thrilled to discover that it went hand-in-hand with another favorite hobby – genealogy. Preserving her family memories eventually evolved into scrapbooking and the rest is history. Cindy began teaching scrapbooking classes in her home a few years ago in an effort to promote preservation of photos and memorabilia in her son’s Boy Scout troop. Cindy looks forward to sharing some of the amazing and beautiful techniques she’s learned over the years, and hopes her enthusiasm will influence others to love the art as much as she does.

Pam Wilemon:  Pam has been scrapbooking for about 11 years. She has created and taught many interesting projects and classes during that time. You may have taken classes from her either while teaching at the Scrapspot in Plano, The Scrapbook Barn in Carrollton, or at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in Arlington. She enjoys the people that she meets thru her craft and especially enjoys the adventures that she is able to participate in thru her creativity.

Cruise Memories Mini Album Class - $25
Sunday 19th – 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon
Taught by Cindy Murray

(click on photo for more detail)

In this class, you will learn how to make a mini "Top 10 Cruise Memories Album".  Made from a surprising and commonly found household item, this album is packed with techniques, including:  faux rust, faux steal, alcohol inks, and ITS image transfer.  If you love Tim Holtz products, we've got lots of that, too!  This is the perfect little mini album to highlight your favorite cruise memories!

Supplies you will need: adhesive, bone folder and/or brayer, scissors, paper trimmer, heat embossing tool, emery board or sanding file.  Optional:  paper piercer, hole punch, finger sponge, tweezers.

Tropical Layout Class - $25
Sunday 19th – 2:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m.
Taught by Christen Murray

(click to view larger image)

Explore bold uses of color in this tropical layout class using SEI's "Jocelyn" line.  Learn a new way to create a hidden pocket that holds a simple mini book for extra pictures or journaling.  Other techniques include altering glass tiles and distressing paper.
Supplies needed include: adhesive, paper trimmer, scissors, and a pencil.

Gift Tag Box Set - $25
Wednesday 22nd – 8:00 a.m. till 10:00 a.m.
Taught by Pam Wilemon

(actual class colors may vary)

This class will teach you how to create a divided box and will also include instructions to create 5 each of 4 different gift tags for that someone special. Pam will also have supplies to create the same Gift Tag Box Set in Christmas tags if you would like to design a second box.

Supplies you will need include: Scor Pal – or other scoring tool, tacky tape 1/4” wide, paper trimmer, xacto knife, ruler, pencil or pen , paper piercer or small hole punch, and scissors.

Christmas Tree Cards with Decorative Card Box - $25
Wednesday 22nd – 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon
Taught by Pam Wilemon

(actual class colors may vary)

We will be creating 6 different Christmas Tree Cards using a variety of techniques with a bonus box and decorative lid. This class is another great project that will be perfect for gift giving.

Supplies you will need include: Scor Pal – or other scoring tool, tacky tape 1/4” wide, paper trimmer, ruler, pencil or pen , adhesive, paper piercer or small hole punch and scissors.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Clutter Busting

From time to time, I read a blog by someone else that is so on target that it just knocks me off my feet. Such is frequently the case with articles by creativity consultant and author Christine Kane. A recent article by Christine about clutter made so much sense and was so fitting for this series that I felt I had to include it as one of my weekly entries. Yes, I know she’s talking about throwing stuff out, while I’m talking about saving things for later, but really, we’re both talking about the same thing…how clutter and disorganization drain you of creative energy. 

So as you read Christine’s article, think less about throwing things out, and more about actually putting them to use, getting them organized so you can find them, and finding new uses for old stuff. And yes, you really should throw out anything you are only keeping out of guilt. Take a good hard look at the craft supplies you have accumulated, and make that hard decision about what to keep and what to throw out. Only keep the things you really love. That way everything you make will be something you really love, too!

9 Seemingly Logical Reasons We Cling to Clutter
by Christine Kane

"Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away." 
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A retired man once told me he loved going camping with his wife because camping showed her how simple life can be "without all that bloomin' stuff she keeps everywhere!" He's right!

Our lives are meant to be simple. Our intuition and creativity thrive when given freedom and space. Clutter is a disease. Each moment we ignore the reasons we hold on to things we don't want, those things rob us of energy, health, and clarity.
If you're a clutter-clinger, be kind to yourself. Begin with an awareness of your thoughts and excuses. For starters, read over this list to see if you can find YOUR excuse!

Clutter Excuse #1: "I'd be a bad (mean) (horrible) person if I…"
Guilt is heavy gooey energy that convinces us we're bad people if we let go of heirlooms, knick-knacks, unwanted clothing, or unwanted gifts. These items clutter up our lives and keep us in a comfortable – but draining – place. And conveniently, we never have to decide what we actually do want in our environment. We become environmental victims. Often, that spreads out into other parts of our lives too!

Clutter Excuse #2 - "I spent so much on it!"
Do you punish yourself for having made a bad choice by keeping the item around? Or convince yourself that you're going to get your money's worth – even if it drains the hell out of you? You won't. And it will. We've all done stupid things. And we've all had to let them go. Now it's your turn.

Clutter Excuse #3 - "I might need this someday."
I often wonder how many idle telephone cords exist in the world. Way in the back of old desk drawers. Stuffed on closet shelves. They can't be gotten rid of. Why? Because we might need them some day. Evidently, some day - in spite of technological progress - you're going to need that particular grey phone cord that came in the box with a phone you bought in 1989. Throw it out. Now. Same thing goes for: the broken fax machine, switch plates from your first house, and every glass flower vase that came with deliveries.

Clutter Excuse #4 - "I might do this someday."
I know. I know. Someday you'll take those broken pieces of china you've collected and create a beautiful mosaic birdbath. And you'll go through those stacks of magazines and make that collage for your sister's 30th birthday party. (She's 51 now.) Now – I don't mean to deny you your plans and dreams. However, I urge you to consider experiencing the infinite relief that appears when you let old project ideas go. Call your sister and tell her the collage ain't gonna happen. Buy a mosaic birdbath from an artist who makes her living from creating such treasures. And then, make space for what you want to do. Don't fill your space with what you should do.

Clutter Excuse #5 - "I gotta look good to my guests."
CD's. Books. DVD's. Are these items treasured? Or are they simply a prop so your guests will be impressed by your intelligence and diverse tastes? Remember this: we are motivated by two things: Fear or Love. Which of these keeps you clinging to items because of appearances?

Clutter Excuse #6 - "I Don't Know Where It Goes."
When items don't have a home, it's harder to determine whether or not they are clutter. Some things may seem like clutter - like the cute card that your daughter made that floats around from drawer to drawer - but they're not clutter. They're homeless. Once you start defining spaces for items, then it's easier to see when something doesn't fit anywhere and should just get tossed.

Clutter Excuse #7 - "My thoughts don't have any power. Do they?"
Everything has energy. The thoughts you have about the things in your home CREATE energy. If you are surrounded by stuff you keep out of guilt, then your environment holds guilt. If you hang on to stuff given to you by your ex, and you still feel bitter – then there is bitterness in your home. Get it? It's either fueling you, or draining you. Some things might be neutral, of course. But if anything triggers you, then that is your barometer. Let it go. 

Clutter Excuse #8 - "But I never wore it!"
See Clutter Excuse #2.

Clutter Excuse #9 - "There's too much stuff!"
Overwhelm can stop us in our tracks. If this article makes you aware that there are lots of items in your life you don't like, then go slow. Schedule small chunks of time each day. It takes time to be clutter-free! But the newfound clarity and lightness are worth it!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 11,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at .

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Pack Rat's Guide to Getting Organized Part 3: Picture Perfect

April is over, school will be out in just a few short weeks, and I realized suddenly that I hadn’t done much spring cleaning this year. I used to be a religious spring cleaner. Starting in January each year, I would methodically go through every single file cabinet, desk drawer, closet, pantry, and dresser until I had decluttered everything. The end result was usually a huge pile of trash, a garage sale, and a lot of shredded files.

Over the past few years, life made some sharp turns and I just wasn’t getting the cleaning done like I used to. So a few weeks back we had a little scrapbook garage sale to get rid of some of that old stuff and to make a little money on the side for our September cruise. Christen and I wound up reorganizing a closet, several storage bins, a shed, and all the Crafty Neighbor merchandise we had in stock. Whew! Of course, that meant we had to change the sales on the website (something we’ve been neglecting for a while) and that reminded me about a blog series I had started last year about this time…a series I never quite got around to finishing (can you tell I’m easily distracted?). The blog topic? Spring Cleaning…what else?

Since it’s been a year, I thought it might be nice to revisit the first two articles in the series, and pick up where I left off. So without further adieu, here is Part 3 of “A Pack Rat’s Guide to Getting Organized”, better known as, “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words, but I Can’t Hear Mine Because They’re So Unorganized!” And don’t miss Parts 1 and 2 below!

Picture Perfect

It's a terrible feeling when you finish a beautiful scrapbook page only to suddenly find more pictures or memorabilia that you should have included. I can't count the number of times I've had to rearrange a page or even add another page at the end just to accommodate something that absolutely MUST be included. That's why getting your photos and memorabilia organized is so very important.

Store photos in archival boxes. 

As I told you in a previous blog, when I first started scrapbooking, my photos were a mess! They were stored with no rhyme or reason. I'd shoot twenty rolls of film at a NASCAR race, and send the film off to be developed. When it came back, I’d slap it in a shoebox and never give it a second thought. Sometimes the negatives wound up in the same box; sometimes they didn't. Nothing was labeled either. 

The problem with this type of organization is that you never really know what you have and what you don’t. I actually did a whole scrapbook page based on photos that I thought were from one year only to find that half of them were from a different year. Wow, was that a mess to straighten out! I had to pull all the "wrong" pictures off the page and find something else to fill the space. I wasn't nearly as happy with the result as I had been the first time around. Even worse was the time my daughter cropped the only existing pictures of a high school dance thinking that I had a duplicate set somewhere as well as the negatives. Unfortunately, it was the only set and someone else had given us the photos, so there were no negatives that we could use to print more.

All photos and negatives should be stored in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight and protected from dust and other potentially damaging elements. Sunlight can damage photos faster than just about anything on earth except water. Shoeboxes are not acid-free, so choose an option that won’t leach dangerous chemicals that will damage your photos. Photo storage boxes are available for a very low price at just about any hobby store. They are made of materials that will protect your photo prints from dust, sunlight, and other environmental hazards. Go with the plastic version, and your photos will be at least semi-waterproof. Or take it even a step further and make digital archives of all your photos (see below).

Store your photos on end, not lying flat. Humidity in the air can cause the emulsion layer on film to become sticky. If your photos are stacked flat on top of each other, the weight of the stack may cause your precious photo to stick to the back of the photo on top of it. Once that happens, you will never be able to safely pull them apart.

When choosing a storage option for your photo prints, make sure it meets all these qualifications:

  • Is it photo safe? Will it protect my photos from the elements and from damage?
  • Will it allow me to sort my photos by date or by subject (or both)?
  • Is it stackable or can I expand it/add to it if I acquire more photos?
  • Is it attractive? Where will it go in my house? Will it look nice on a shelf or in my closet (and does that matter)?
  • Is it accessible? How hard will it be to get to my photos once they are stored properly?

Negatives are important too!

A lot of people ignore their negatives and just throw them in a box somewhere. I confess, I used to be one of those people – until the day that I actually needed one of those negatives and couldn’t find it. You never know when you might need to reprint a photo because the original was damaged or maybe needs a little touch-up. Or what if you just need to reprint your favorite picture in a bigger size? Either way, if you took the picture on film, you’ll need the negative. So be sure to keep your negatives stored safely and in a manner that you can easily retrieve them whenever you need.

My favorite way to keep my negatives is to store them in archival plastic sleeves in a three ring binder. The sleeves protect the negatives from dust and fingerprints, and I can tuck the binder into a closet or shelf to keep it out of the sun. I have my negatives sorted by date (simple index tabs separate them by year), and I marked each sleeve with a brief summary of the photo contents (Christmas, Birthday, Prom, swimming pool, picnic, etc.). It makes searching for specific pictures a synch; whenever I need to find one, I just flip to the approximate date and I can view the negatives through the plastic sleeve without ever touching them! An inexpensive light box (available at any craft store) and a small magnifying glass help me identify subjects in the photos. A pair of white cotton, lint-free gloves (available at any camera store) allow me to handle the negatives themselves without leaving fingerprints.

The protective envelopes your photos/negatives come in work great, too, if you combine them with a photo-safe storage box in a cool, dry place. However you decide to store your negatives, you’ll want to make sure it:

  • Keeps your negatives safe from the elements
  • Allows you to sort by date or subject
  • Is easily accessible in case you need to retrieve a negative for a reprint.

Get those digital pictures off the camera! 

Back up your digital photos to CDs or DVD data disks and give a copy to a friend or family member for safe-keeping. We've all heard stories of people who have all their phone numbers stored on their cell phones and then lose everyone's phone numbers when the phone breaks. Or people with great photos that they never download from their camera and then the camera breaks. Computers break, too. So don't ever rely on one as your only method of storing and preserving your photos. Always back up your photos to at least one other source, be it CDs, DVD data disks, or a simple thumb drive.

My son went on a very expensive but wonderful trip to England with the Boy Scouts for the 2007 World Jamboree. It was the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouting organization, and he had a great time. I got a lot of great pictures from the event, too--some from him, some from the other attendees, and some from my own camera as the boys went through security at the airport and returned two weeks later through the Customs and Immigration lines. One of my very favorite photos was of one of the boys hugging his mom on his return. Mom was crying, the boy was beaming ear to ear, and everyone was really glad to see each other. I fully intended to email that perfect photo to the boy's mom, so she could remember just how precious that moment was. And then I had a major computer malfunction. I lost everything. I was really fortunate that a lot of my photos had come from other sources, so I was able to replace most of them. And I had posted many of the photos on our troop's website, so I was able to download some low-res copies from there, but not that photo. That picture was gone forever. 

The lesson I learned was that everything must be backed up to disks or thumb drives or something. The more places you can store it, the better. And never leave pictures on your camera. I could write a whole blog about reformatting your memory card vs. just deleting pictures you don't want! The bottom line is that you should download all your photos frequently (I do it after every photo shoot), and then reformat that card. Using and reusing a card or memory stick without reformatting is like brushing multiple colors of paint one on top of the other. Eventually it's going to be a big caked-up nasty mess. Reformatting your card helps to ensure that the data is clean and that there are no artifacts left over from previous photos to corrupt your files.

Go digital!

While you're sorting and organizing, make digital archives of your favorite photos. Have you ever heard the dental saying, "Only floss the teeth that you intend to keep"? Well the same thing is true of making digital archives of your film and print photos. Twenty-five years ago, my parent's house burned to the ground, including every family photograph, memento and treasure that I hadn't taken with me when I got married. And even though friends and family members came out of the woodwork to offer copies of their precious photos, much of what was lost were unique, one-of-a-kind snapshots that can never be replaced.

When I got my first scanner, one of the first things I did was start to archive all of my print photos and negatives. It was a very long process (I have literally thousands of photos and hundreds of rolls of film). When I was through with my own photos, I started to scan my mother's as well. The result is a huge collection of photos to choose from when scrapbooking, and I can rest easily knowing that the photos exist in multiple locations, and will never be lost, damaged, or destroyed ever again. Just be sure to back up your archives to CD or DVD data disks, and give copies to friends and family for safe-keeping. I'll cover the techniques for making good digital archives in a future post.

Don't forget to sort the memorabilia

Prize ribbons, participation patches, and test scores are just a few of the non-photo items people often included in scrapbooks. I had tons of little goodies like this stashed here and there in boxes, hope chests, and old photo albums. When I started scrapbooking, I wanted everything together in one place--easy to access when I wanted to work on a particular subject or event.

Some of the same principals apply to storing memorabilia as photos and negatives. Always put your items in archival quality storage and keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. I have memorabilia stored in basically two places: a hope chest and a file cabinet.

The hope chest is for larger items that are too big or too bulky for scrapbooking. Some of the more delicate items are further packed in plastic boxes and wrapped in archival quality tissue paper. Check with organization stores like The Container Store or your local dry cleaner for this paper. If you don’t have a hope chest, there are various styles of plastic boxes and totes that will work just as well.

Anything that I think I might want to use in a scrapbook goes into my file cabinet. There I have used hanging file folders to sort school papers, certificates, larger photo prints, awards, ribbons, and anything else that might fit. My own files are sorted by person and then further divided by topic. For instance, I have a file for my mother and father. Behind that I have a file for their wedding and another for their 40th anniversary a few years back. For my children, I have a general folder for each of them, plus additional folders for school organizations, individual sports, birthdays, report cards, artwork and compositions, etc. Obviously, some things apply to more than one person. For that reason, I have also added a few other folders for things like Christmas, pets, pressed flowers from my garden, etc. Keeping all these items together in one file cabinet makes it easy to just grab a subject file and start scrapbooking—no more hunting around for that Honor Roll certificate that I put in a “safe place”.

Well, that’s all for this week. I hope I’ve helped you get a little bit closer to your ideal of organization and if not, then at least you’ll have a good place to start. Just remember to go slowly, set small goals, and work on a little bit at a time. Next week, we’ll talk about clutter and the excuses we get trapped into.