Think inside the box

Unlike Pandora’s Box, this one is a box you’ll want to have around.

It’s called a Memory Keeper, and I’ve written about them before but they’re so handy and beautiful, it’s worth addressing again because they’re on sale this month at Through June 4, they’re only $20 when you enter the code HAPPY1STBIRTHDAY.

It’s a durable linen-lined box made of recycled fiber board personalized with your own photo or photos. It lives up to its “durable”description; I’ve been lugging mine to all my library talks, and it still looks great.

My box sports my own seasonal photos and words. Paper Coterie’s extremely easy-to-use interface helps you upload your digital images. Mine is the Tiny Stripes design, and I titled it “Monica’s Love Vault.” You can even label the spine, so you can store it upright and quickly locate it. Greeting cards and nice notes fill mine, so I open it up and sift through its contents anytime I need a lift.

It’s two-inches deep, so it holds a lot of mementos and three-dimensional memorabilia, like artwork, key chains, coins, ribbons and medals, clothing or fabric, garters, dried flowers, maybe even baby shoes.

I love this box because it’s so easy to fill — no double-sided tape, no labeling or tabs, no special pages required. More great ideas:

  • All those Christmas photos of other families you don’t know what to do with? Decorate your Memory Keeper with festive holiday photos and keep those holiday greetings inside. Put it out on your coffee table every year as part of your Christmas decorations.
  • Include all your first-day-of-school photos, report cards, achievement certificates and other important school papers inside a Memory Keeper decorated with one of your child’s annual school pictures.
  • I encouraged a woman looking for a way to store her husband’s Vietnam War photos to create a Memory Keeper for him. She could leave the box out as part of her living room decor, and he could open it up and look at his pictures whenever he wanted to reminisce.
  • Overwhelmed with your child’s sports photos? Tuck them inside a Memory Keeper, and guests will be able to catch up with your kid’s wins and losses when they stop by.

One caveat: You might not want to use this box for one-of-kind photos you want to keep around for 50 years. The very act of touching your photos is bad for them because we transfer skin oil and other gunk from our fingers to the photos every time we handle them. But for photos and memorabilia you want to enjoy in the here and now, a Memory Keeper is a great option.


Don’t let lack of chronological order stop you from enjoying your photos

Many great stories are not chronological.

In literature, it’s called nonlinear narrative, and Homer’s “Iliad” uses this storytelling technique, as does Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” In movies, “Memento” springs to mind as nonlinear; its story is told backward. The TV series “Lost” relied heavily on nonlinear flashbacks to reveal its character’s motivations.

Remember then, when paralysis engulfs you as you’re facing a mountain of family photos, that perfect chronological order is not only not necessary but maybe not even preferable!

Chronological order is the most difficult way to organize a large collection of photographs because it requires a high level of proper dating and labeling throughout the process of photo accumulation to which most of us just don’t adhere. Some photos just don’t have dates or revealing details, and our memories fail us.

So let it go. Embrace a nonlinear storytelling style. Here are a few examples:

  • Making an album for a graduating senior? Choose a few themes to match the child’s life experiences: “Baby photos,” “birthdays” in any order, “football,” “Halloween” and “all smiles.”
  • Creating an anniversary album for a couple’s milestone? Fill it with pages that describe the “whys” of the couple’s marital longevity rather than a chronological retelling of children and houses and trips. Titles might be “family togetherness,” “sense of humor” and “welcomed additions” for baby photos and “new experiences.”
  • Faced with a pile of school photo and sports packages of your child or children? Eliminate the duplicates and combine these photos in a pretty box, like a Memory Keeper from Paper Coterie. These durable linen boxes are attractive enough to leave out on a coffee table or bookshelf and invite loved ones to sift through the photos in any order.
  • Choose a favorite story or poem and find photos to illustrate it. Click here for a couple of examples that use a Biblical Psalm and the Max Lucado story, “Just in Case You Ever Wonder.”
  • A tribute to a retiree could include letters from loved ones and colleagues paired with photos of those letter writers.
  • Create a photo montage linked by theme rather than chronology. Grandparents’ wedding photos or individual family members walking on the beach can be grouped in similar frames for an attractive display.

Luck good! Think like Yoda.

It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your photos are?

If you’re depending on an online retailer to be the backup for your digital images, make sure you know their policies.

I got a friendly email this week from Paper Coterie that says, “A quick reminder about our 90-day photo storage policy. … Our photo storage policy allows us to store photos you haven’t placed in a project for 90 days. Photos that have been placed in projects will be saved for one full year.”

I wasn’t depending on Paper Coterie as my backup, but I do appreciate the reminder. Unless you’re paying for photo storage, there probably are limits to it.

Recently, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. I fully expect the company to emerge from bankruptcy stronger, but I would encourage a second backup for any photos you have stored in Kodak EasyShare Gallery because you just never know.

And if the only place you have precious photos is a photo card or computer hard drive, you are gambling because hardware inevitably crashes. Photo backups come in many forms:

  • Prints of digital images are backups. If you do nothing else, print your favorite digital images.
  • Storing photos in the cloud or other off-site server is a backup. Paper Coterie is among retailers who store your images for a certain amount of time before eliminating them. I checked Shutterfly and Zazzle, with whom I made Christmas gifts last year, and my projects still exist in both places. Linea ( is among other vendors who charge for unlimited long-term storage of high-resolution images. If you don’t know the storage policy of the company you use to print images, find out.
  • Backup your digital images on a thumb drive or external drive, and store the drive in a different location than the originals.
  • Negatives are a backup to printed images that were originally captured on film (remember film?). Do you still have the negatives?
  • Scan important printed images or albums. “Important” is relative, but heritage photos, baby photos, wedding albums and images of loved ones who have died would probably qualify as important for most people. Photo shops and photo organizers provide this service if you’re not interested in doing it yourself.


Savor the season in pictures

Which is better? Shovel the food into your mouth and swallow it as fast as you can? Or savor a bunch of tiny bites to make a delicious treat last?

If you’re the shovel-it-in type, I can give you the plastic bracelet I wore last week that entitled me to the all-you-can-eat buffet at a beautiful resort in Puerto Vallarta. “Unlimited” didn’t have very much appeal by Day 7.

But if you’re a savor-it soul, click here to check out Paper Coterie’s Picture the Holidays program. When you register by Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2011), PaperCoterie will send you an email every day designed to “inspire your inner photographer” and encourage you to “get creatively centered.”

Of course, you can upload a photo a day as part of the program and create a book through PaperCoterie, too, but even if the book doesn’t interest you, you might enjoy the program.

I have scrapbook photo albums of people opening gifts at Christmas year after year. Can you see their faces? Not so much? Can you see the gift? Not usually. It’s just a whirl of cheap wrapping paper and hands in motion, images of “Christmas” (Christmas means gifts, right?) gulped down in haste.

What a waste of film and scrapbook pages.

But to get inspiring ideas to take photos every day of December? Now that’s a way to savor the holiday.

Hurry! You need to register by Wednesday to participate. Let me know how it turns out for you.

A handy box for storing weird stuff

Since I love paper — the texture of paper, piles of paper, stuff written on paper — I tend to accumulate a lot of slips of paper.

I can trash a lot of it, but I can’t bear to part with pretty greeting cards and handwritten letters.

I keep old birthday cards, well-written thank-you notes and thinking of you cards. In my files, I have “Letters from Grandma,” “Letters from Mom” and “Letters from Others.” In one secret, dear file, I have “Compliments.”

This file contains the best of the best thank you notes, “you’re the greatest” cards, “I’ll miss you” missives and awards from as far back as third grade. One faded piece of ribbon-adorned construction paper was given to me by my classroom when I moved away from Fairmont, Minn., in 1977.

Sorry, just can’t throw that away.

These are difficult items to scrapbook because they have are strangely shaped or have front-and-backs or cover-and-insides. But I made a beautiful storage container for those fragments of my ego with Paper Coterie.

It’s called a Memory Keeper, and it’s described as a “durable linen box made of recycled fiber board.” It’s completely personalized with my own seasonal photos and words — and extremely easy-to-use interface as long as you have digital images. This one is the Tiny Stripes design, and I titled it “Monica’s Love Vault.” You can even label the spine, so you can store it upright and quickly locate it. I’ll open it up and sift through its content anytime I need a lift.

It’s two-inches deep, so it holds a lot of mementos and three-dimensional memorabilia, like artwork, key chains, coins, ribbons and medals, clothing or fabric, garters, dried flowers, maybe even baby shoes.

It was a deal. I had a promotion code and paid only the shipping of $12.60. Normally, it’s $38 plus shipping.

It arrived beautifully packaged and included a little freebie: A resin-pendant necklace, a little thank-you note “Welcome to Paper Coterie. We’re awfully glad you’re here” and a coupon towards my next purchase. Very classy.

As long as I’m being grateful for the nice things people have written me, I’m grateful for you, too — my readers. Have a happy Thanksgiving Day!