Eliminate Residential Chaos
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Memories:  Lessons, Tips and Resources for Managing Your Digital Photos

by Laura Leist, CPO, MOS, CRTS 

Memories...Light the corner of my mind…

OK, I'll spare you the rest of the song.  But, I do want to talk about one of the most precious treasures we have besides the people we love.  What I am talking about is your cherished memories you may have stuffed in drawers, packed up in boxes – to put in albums later and digital photos longing to escape your camera or computer and be seen and celebrated.

Over the years, and especially this year for some reason, the sheer volume of memorabilia I have encountered in people’s homes has been – well, mind-blowing.  If you happen to be in the same situation; I hope that this article may be a bit of inspiration for you to take action and perhaps a trip down memory lane.

Although I’ve known for the last month this was the topic I wanted to share with you; it’s even


timelier than I had anticipated.  You see, last week I had to say good-bye to one of my best friends; his name was Teddy.  Teddy, was a fixture in my office and spent many days with me at work on my desk.  His 14+ years quickly came to a sudden end when he was diagnosed with four internal organs that were failing and without major surgery and a feeding tube; he had little chance for survival.  Over the years, I saved many photos of Teddy to my “Teddy” folder on my computer.  As we sat in the room with Teddy saying our last “good-byes” I had Rob take a few pictures of Teddy on his iPhone.  Not typically the way I prefer to take good quality pictures; but you see – I had no choice at the moment.  The week prior I lost my digital camera (yes, even organized people lose things) and while I had bought a new one, I had not yet set it up.  I will be forever thankful that we could take pictures on the iPhone that I can now add to a Teddy photo album I will create in his memory.

You might be wondering what this has to do with organizing….plenty!  I hope you will keep reading as I take you through a few lessons I hope you will find valuable.

Lesson #1:  Download pictures off your digital camera and phone on a regular basis.      

Thankfully, I had recently downloaded all of our pictures from the summer and my husband’s surprise birthday trip, so I did not lose anything I could not recreate.  For this I was most thankful.  What I did lose were some pictures I needed of a client project that I was able to go retake.  

Lesson #2:  Backup your computers; including your photos.   

I can’t possibly stress this enough.  A great solution is Mozy.   Mozy is an inexpensive, reliable solution that encrypts all of your data.  The cost per year for this service (depending on the number of GB you need to back up) is worth every penny you will pay, and will most likely cost you less than one trip to Starbucks a month!

Lesson #3:  Store your photos on your computer in some sort of organized fashion.

Even if you don’t have time to print them, put them in an album, make a digital album, or whatever else you plan to do with them – at least you will be able to find them when you need them or want to start a project. 

There are so many different ways you can go about organizing your photos on your computer, but you should at least consider a basic structure that will help you quickly find the right location to add your photos to when you download them.

Picture Folder Vacation Naming

Note:  The number in parentheses is the month number so it keeps the months in order chronologically. 

Here’s a few ideas to help you quickly download photos and categorize for future projects.

 1.  Once you’ve downloaded them to your specified area, take a quick pass through them to see if there are any you can eliminate.  Photos that are blurry, or those with people who closed their eyes.  Are there any pictures that are duplicates, or close to being a duplicate?  Which one is better?  Can you eliminate one or several?  You don’t need to label each picture at this point; but if you have a folder on your computer that has the date of the event, birthday, vacation, etc…you will know the month and year it took place.  This ensures no guessing games in the future!

 2.  Let’s say you know you want to create a special project with some of your photos throughout the year or years.  Maybe a digital photo album, a print album you can make online with your digital photos or some creative wall art from your most recent vacation.  While you are quickly sorting through the photos in #1 above, you see one or two you’d like to add to your project.  Here’s the trick I do….

I create a special “Photo Project Folder” that I place a “COPY” of each photo I want to include in my project.  I give my folder a name, such as:Teddy Album Folder

This reminds me that I placed a copy of my pictures as I come across them and once I have them all ready for my project, I can upload them to a service such as Shutterfly where I can make a printed album of my digital pictures.  Once I’ve got my photos uploaded, I can delete the entire folder because I know they are just copies of the photos I have stored in other locations.

This saves me time in the end when I want to make a quick project; but I don’t want to sort through multiple folders to find the photos I want to use.

3. If you want to get really anal about organizing your photos; like I tend to get; you can come up with fancy naming conventions for each photo to include a date, location, names of people and even storyboard them in chronological fashion.  For example, when we were on our honeymoon, I wanted to be able to create an album of our month long trip to Europe and know that it was in chronological order once I got around to creating the honeymoon album.  In case you are wondering; no, I’ve still not made it; but it’s only been a year since we went.  Even as organized as I like to think I am, I have not “made the time” for this project – which as many of you know whom have read my book (Eliminate Chaos:  The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life) that Step 1 in any organizing project, is that you must “Make Time.”  I can at least rest assured that I do not need to remember the dates or names of the places we visited as I was able to quickly name these photos on a bit of down time on planes and trains.

Here’s an example of what a few of my photos looked like once named from our honeymoon.  Again, you don’t need to go to this great length of naming your photos; you could simply put a date on the folder you downloaded them to.

Picture Naming Venice

4.  Speaking of vacations….hopefully you will never lose your camera on vacation but here is a precaution you can take.  If you are traveling with a laptop, every few days, download your photos to your laptop and then drop them in DropBox, SkyDrive, or SugarSync to name a few.  Let it sit over night as it will likely take a while to upload numerous photos.  This way you can rest assured that even if something does happen to your camera, your pictures are on your laptop and backed up to the cloud.

While I’m not compensated to write about any of the services mentioned in this newsletter and I don’t receive any kickbacks, I just want to let you know about the services I use personally and with clients – so you know you can trust these great resources.

Here are several additional resources not previously mentioned

ScanDigital:  Great for transferring slides or printed pictures to digital photos or video in various formats to DVD.  I’ve sent in both and have been pleased with the quality, service, process and follow up.  Sending your precious memories away in a box can be terrifying; but I’ve never had a problem with getting my originals back as well as the converted versions.

Yes Video:  Great for transferring video of various formats to DVD.  I recently sent away several VHS tapes to have turned into DVD’s and the results were fabulous.

Shutterfly:  I’ve made several photo albums through their service over the years, in fact I am currently working on our Wedding album, and the quality is that good.  Yes, once this once is complete – I will work on the Honeymoon album!  They also have a wide variety of other photo projects you can make with your photos.  Groupon and Living Social often times have coupons for $15 to create a 20 page 8x11” book.  It will save you about $20 and it’s a great way to get your feet wet with a service that may be new to you.

Canvas on Demand:  A quick way to make inexpensive art for your walls with a favorite photo or group of photos.  I tried an offer I found on Groupon for $39 this year to print a 16x20 picture of our dog for my husband’s birthday.  Normal price was over $100.  I just wanted to test the quality; and was so delighted so I sent off two more photos to be put on canvas that now adorn the wall in our kitchen eating area of both dogs.

There are so many projects you can create that are truly a labor of love when your memorabilia is organized.  With the holidays just around the corner, now may just be the time for a trip down memory lane to start putting some order to the memorabilia chaos you’ve been feeling over the years.  Yes, this is some of the most time consuming organizing projects you will tackle; but the end result is so worth the time and your family will thank you for it.

Now, I think it’s time for me to go create an album to honor Teddy’s life.


~ Laura Leist

Organize Your Home - Clutter Cures for Every Room

Organize Your Home



Last month, we announced that Laura Leist was selected as one of the contributing Organizing Consultants for Better Homes & Garden's new book:  Organize Your Home - Clutter Cures for Every Room.  

The book is a beautiful compilation of photos and ideas for every room of your home.

Check out a couple of Laura's featured projects on pages:  78-79, 228, 229 and 258.  

Thanks to everyone that liked our Facebook page.  If you did not win, you can still purchase your copy HERE!

You can still "Like Us" on our Facebook page for future give aways and specials.

Holidy-Ready Your Home

The holidays are just around the corner.

5 Weeks from today is Halloween.

8 Weeks from today is Thanksgiving and

Less than 12 Weeks from today is Christmas; for those that celebrate.

What does that mean?  It means there is not a lot of time to ready your home for the holidays and the many guests that may be walking through your door.  If you need help decluttering the guest bedroom, organizing the kitchen, or even decorating your home for the holidays; now is the time to give us a call and get us on your schedule; especially if you'd like us to decorate your home as these spaces fill up quickly.  Call us at one of the numbers below and see how e can help you eliminate some of the holiday stress.

Contact Us at: 425.670.2551 | 509.392.7064 | 877.342.8592


Follow Our New Boards...

We are just getting started with Pintrest and have created several boards to feature a few of the projects we have completed.  We'll also be sharing some of our favorite products and Organizing Ideas here.

We'd love to connect with you here and will be grateful for any ideas you'd like to repin!

Organizing with Laura Blog

Keep up with our blog on Real Estate.com.

August Topics

Get Your Car Organized for Summer Road Trips 

Warm Up to Your Bottom Freezer

5 Things to Consider When Organizing for Children 

Map Your Way to Organized Kitchen Drawers

Kitchen Organization Phase 2:  Kitchen Cabinets

"Like" us on FaceBook for more fun tips and bursts of inspiration or "follow" us on Twitter.

Secrets of Professional Organizers - Experts Talk About Productivity and Work-Life Balance 


Donna Smallin Kuper, a colleague of mine, has published a number of books and has a new series on the "Secrets of Professional Organizers."  


Donna interviewed me for a chapter in one of her recent books:  Secrets of Professional Organizers:  Experts Talk About Productivity and Work-Life Balance.  My chapter focuses on using technology in the work place.



Eliminate Chaos is Hiring

Eliminate Chaos is hiring Organizing Specialist™s. We are looking for Specialists in the Greater-Seattle area, as well as the Tri-Cities and Spokane, WA. If you are interested in applying, please click here for more information. No phone calls please.

Happy Fall,
Laura Leist

You may reprint this article in its entirety with the following credit:  © 2012 Eliminate Chaos.  Reprinted with permission from Laura Leist, CPO of Eliminate Chaos.  To receive Eliminate Chaos eNewsletters, click here.

© 2000-2012 Eliminate Chaos 


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  • "I worked with Erin, one of the specialists who works with the Chronically Disorganized (hoarders). In a word, she was fantastic. In four 4-hour sessions, she helped me go through and box up (keep, donate, trash) almost everything that was stacked up in my kitchen, dining room, office, and bonus room. Erin arrived promptly. We went over what I wanted to accomplish that day, then we got to work. She was focused, calm, non-judgmental, and tireless. She faced very dirty circumstances and didn't bat an eyelash. She never once caused me a moment of anxiety; the relief that I felt when we were done was amazing. And Laura Leist, who is the owner of Eliminate Chaos, was lovely. She returned my calls promptly, was kind and understanding, and offered me some options. I would hire this company again in a heartbeat. But right now I'm too busy enjoying all the free space in my house!"  

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Call 425-670-2551 and ask us for details.

  • Business Services
    • Paper Flow and Information Management
    • Workspace Organization and Space Planning
    • Productivity Assessments
    • Microsoft Business Contact Manager
    • Microsoft Exchange Migrations
  • Visit our business services site