A few years ago when my then boyfriend (now The Hubs) and I were discussing the seriousness of our relationship and where we wanted things to go we had all the typical discussions. When will we move in together? Whose couch will we use? Which dining room table will we keep? Little did we know it would be sooner rather than later, and all of those questions would be moot. Two weeks before I was to arrive to spend the summer here (we were long distance) his apartment burned down and he lost 95% of his stuff. In the end, I took two weeks to pack my house and move everything – leaving behind a job, family and friends. That’s love people. I didn’t even think about what to do, I just did it and I haven’t regretted my decision for a second, but that’s not what this post is about. Losing everything gives you an interesting sense of perspective. The only things that mattered to him were sentimental things and luckily he was able to retrieve many of the photographs and mementos that meant the most to him. Two of the most important, his father’s certificates from NASA live at our home now. I say all of this to make an important point. It’s not so much the “stuff” you’ll miss. It’s the mementos and pictures that burn that you’ll miss the most.

When I did my big “office decrapification” in January, I took some time to organize and file most of my photographs into pretty photo boxes I picked up cheaply from the craft store. They’re great for organization, but not for protecting all of those precious photos in the event of a fire. Since then, (and trust me this is an ongoing and sometimes never-ending labor of love) I’ve been maniacal about storing our photographs and mementos in a safer way. In a way that I can grab them and go without having to think in the event we have a natural disaster, flood, hurricane, fire, etc and have to evacuate. I’m nowhere near finished, but I’m still working and every time I finish a new box of pictures I feel just a little more relaxed. I wanted to take the time to share this with you so that you could understand the importance of this task. Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A good quality scanner.

Or actually, any scanner. I chose an expensive one because I knew my all-in-one printer was nice, but it’s slow and didn’t have photo correcting software built in. When my mother passed away my brothers and I inherited a box of pictures for each of us from our childhood that mom herself had put together. It was incredibly special to me and I wanted to make sure the pictures looked their best when I scanned them in. I went with the Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner with Digital Ice technology built in. I’m not going to lie, it was pricey – around $300 – 400. It was worth it to me however to make sure I could also restore the color to photographs that had yellowed or discolored with age. You certainly don’t have to spend that much to get a quality scanner for this task. And if you choose to use an all-in-one then you might just take a little more time. This scanner also had slide in panels that allow me to scan photo negatives and slides of varying sizes and it turns them into digital photographs. I have a ton of these so it was definitely worth it. It also allows me to scan documents which is going to help me make this home office virtually paperless which means less clutter!

2. An external hard drive with a lot of space.

The Hubs was really generous and bought me a very large (1TB) external hard drive that fits in my purse. As I save the photos to my computer, I do a dump on to my external hard drive when I’m done for the day/session. I also try to back up our computer files occasionally (though, I’m not as diligent with this). You can grab an external hard drive for under a hundred dollars. Pricey, but worth the peace of mind.

3. A Digital Camera.

OK, this one is pretty simple. It just makes it easier to save new photos onto your computer if you can transfer them from your digital camera. My camera is a Sony CyberShot that came with a microSD card and adapter. I’m lucky in that our computer has ports to plug the card into to download all of the pictures. I try to do this each time I need a picture for the blog. Yes, I end up with duplicates on the hard drive. What I should do is delete the pictures once I’ve uploaded them, but I’m terrible about not doing that.

Optional:

Photo editing software – I really want to learn to use Photoshop but it is very expensive and not in the cards at the moment. I know there are online photo editing programs that are either cheap or free. I just haven’t used them yet. If you can recommend one, that would be awesome! Leave a comment for me.

To make a long story short (“TOO LATE!” – name that movie) it really is important to ensure the safety of your photographs. They really are your heritage and can’t be replaced. If you have any further questions about preserving your memories I’m also the family genealogist and resident scrapbooking and archiving “expert”. I’d love to help out. Shoot me an email and your question could end up on the blog!

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