memories + natural disasters
This is a long and robust blog post so I’m just going to get straight to it and tell you WHAT is in the blog post and in what order … so that you can find exactly what you’re looking for. I have very literally prayed that this blog post will HELP you guys, no matter your situation. Hurricane Harvey just happened. So much of the western United States is on fire. Those in the southeast are bracing themselves for Hurricane Irma at the time I’m completing the work on this blog post. And that’s just some of what’s happening in this country, let alone the whole world.
Kristin Padalik said:
“We are in Florida and are considering our options since we may be evacuating in the next few days, depending on Hurricane Irma’s track. I know that my scrapbooks and external hard drive will be the first things packed into the van. Other material things can be replaced … scrapbooks cannot!”
That’s just it. Kristin said it. We all know that our tangible memories are irreplaceable. Kristin and so many others are at the heart of this blog post. Many experiences and insights and advice that you’re about to read come straight from those in this beautiful online community.
I N T H I S B L O G P O S T …
1) STORIES | Thoughts and encouragement from those who have lost tangible memories in a natural disaster.
2) TIPS FOR PREVENTION | Because you never know, guys. You just never know. None of us do.
3) TIPS FOR RECOVERING MEMORIES | Some things may be gone forever, but there are ways to move onward + upward.
9 STORIES FROM THOSE WHO KNOW
[ SANDY SHIELDS IN ZACHARY, LOUISIANA ]
Last August in Louisiana we had the “Great Flood of 2016.” A storm with no name dropped over 30 inches of rain in our area and flooding was extensive. My daughter went by my folks’ house on Friday evening to help Mom pick up items from the floors of the closets … just in case. They put some stuff on the beds, including photo albums. Saturday morning around 6:30 am water started coming in under the doors. By 8:30 it was almost knee deep. A couple of hours later, it was waist deep. My almost 90-year-old parents have lived in their home for 50 years and have never flooded. It’s the home that I grew up in. They had to be evacuated … in their pajamas … by boat.
Never in our wildest imagination did we think that the water would get that high … almost 3 feet in the house. And who knew that putting something on top of a dresser or table was NOT a good idea because they float and turn over? Putting things on beds … not good either because the mattress soaks up the water and everything on it gets wet. A friend, my daughter, and I waded thru that nasty, waist deep water to try to save some PHOTOS and important papers. Many of the photo albums were the kind with the plastic cling pages. Ruined … all ruined. Photos of several generations … ruined. In some cases, the ink just ran off the photo paper. If just part of the photo was OK, I tried to save it.
I cannot tell you how many tears I shed while going thru these albums and boxes of loose photos. Because I am the memory keeper in the family. And I FAILED.
Operation Photo Rescue came to town (sponsored by the library system) 8 months later. You could bring 20 photos to be scanned and digitally restored for free. This would take 6-12 months. How do you decide WHICH photos are the most important to try to restore? More tears as I tried to choose just 20. The volunteers at this event told me that their hearts were broken multiple times while they listened to the stories of why “this ONE photo” needed to be restored.
[ ANGIE RHINEHART IN WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA ]
Good evening! I was affected by a major flood in Pensacola, Florida right before my family moved to Japan. We had 2 storage units that contained 85% of my scrapbook supplies, all my children’s professional baby pictures from their first year, childhood furniture passed down to my children and trash bins full of children’s books along with all my Beth Moore Bible studies that I treasured. I wish I had some wonderful advice on how to move on and repair things. This was 3 years ago for me and I still haven’t gotten far. It was recommended to find a photo restoration place or contact the photographer, but we had no options for that overseas and used places like Picture People and Sears when the kids were younger. My heart goes out to these families. Flooding is so devastating!
[ DEANNA RONCO IN BLACK FOREST, COLORADO ]
My family and I lost our home in 2013 after the Black Forest Fire in Colorado Springs. I did grab one shelf of photo albums, but another row got left, as did a few thumb drives. So I have a huge gap in my pictures (no recoverable pictures of two of my children). I was grateful that photo albums were on my list of things to evacuate! I advise people to make it a priority because when you have absolutely nothing of your own anymore, any little memory or picture is valuable beyond comprehension.
This was what I wanted to share: One of the kindest things that a company did for me was the folks at Artkive. I had been using their app / online services to photograph and catalog my children’s artwork. I had ordered a book (similar to a Chatbook) from them but lost it in the fire. When I emailed them to order a new one, they sent the kindest email with their condolences and mailed us a free, new book. That book is so valuable because it is all I have of my children’s artwork. They even emailed me a month later just to check on me and see how our family was doing! People in our church congregation also donated so much to our family, but one sweet girl donated tons of scrapbooking supplies. I was so grateful!
When someone experiences a total loss, they first have an overwhelming feeling of having nothing. You have no home to go home to, no “safe place” for your children, no place to escape the stress. You immediately go into survival mode, buying everything you can to “replace” your life. But nothing feels like yours. So you start grasping at anything that feels familiar. I remember a few weeks after the fire, a friend brought me a fork with a bow on it — a fork I had left at her house once. I cried when she gave it to me because I knew it was mine. It may seem insignificant, but I literally had nothing else.
Our photo albums that we did think to take, along with our computer hard drive, were all the memories we had left. If it wasn’t there (like those few years of pictures that we lost), we will never get those back. Pictures feel so familiar and special, especially when you are aching so badly for anything to feel normal. Eventually, household items get replaced. But we will never be able to get those pictures back. And as you know, with the loss of those pictures, is the loss of some of those memories. I mean, isn’t that why we all scrapbook? I think we all often feel “that will never happen to me,” but I look back now and wish I had planned for the worst, even if the worst never happened.
I am a huge believer now in saving photos in some online source! It is so easy to access them again after a tragedy. When you have nothing anymore that is “yours,” all these thing that may seem small or insignificant are so important to help the family heal.
[ TRACY BEARD IN LOUISIANA ]
I was a victim of the Great Flood of Louisiana on 13 August 2016. I live in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and we received 6 and a half feet of water and muck with no warnings. At 5:30 am we were dry as a bone. By 8 am, we were running for our lives. We even lost our vehicles as well. I can’t stress enough to digitize precious photos! That includes artwork / papers / projects of your kids and grandkids too! Save what you can by protecting them in waterproof containers. My other great loss was my journals. I decided that even though I lost mine (except for 2 … the current one I was on and also the year before, which I happened to have by me when I was hurriedly packing to get out), I WASN’T going to stop journaling! So now, I double zip lock them. I found that the scrapbooks that survived were those that were on the highest shelf. That’s where they all go now … scrapbooks and journals!! I’ve also decided not to do 12″ x 12″ format anymore, so that I can properly protect them.
[ KASONDRA FARMER IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE ]
To be completely honest it has been seven years since I lost everything I owned in the Nashville 2010 flood. And at times I think you never really recover; you just move forward. In fact I know that is true. Like many of the memory keeper and family historians in Texas will feel in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. The hardest things for me to lose were my photos, journals, yearbooks and scrapbooks. Those are the things that maybe aren’t your first thought when you literally have nothing but the clothes on your back, but they are the things that will wake you up in the middle of the night in the weeks and months that follow. Even now, seven years later, I will sometimes be having a conversation and be like, “Oh, I have a picture of (that event) and go to look for it only to remember that it no longer exists. The loss of the journals, yearbooks, and scrapbooks hits the hardest though. I can’t go back and re-write journals from my childhood and teenage years. And while I might be able to purchase yearbooks, I don’t feel like they would be the same without the somewhat silly and often heart-felt messages of classmates and teachers. And the scrapbooks, I can’t re-live those events or conversations that were so carefully documented.
However, there are some things I have done that give me some peace of mind. I’ve digitized everything. Photos are backed up nightly to a few cloud sites like Dropbox, Amazon Photo, and my iCloud. I have a private blog I use as a journal. I set up email addresses for my young nieces so that as soon as there is a precious conversation, new obsession, or life event, I send them a quick note or letter to them to access when they are 18. And I also converted solely over to digital scrapbooking. I still sometimes miss the beautiful element or gorgeous cardstocks, but I rest better knowing that layouts / books are backed up to multiple places and can be reprinted if needed. I also now store anything of incredible importance to me on upper shelves and in waterproof bags, bins, and safes. I know digitizing might not be the perfect answer because technologies change the so quickly, but it is what helped me find the most peace. And mostly I wanted to say it’s ok if you can’t document your tragedy right away, if ever. It’s 7 years later and I still have a file of pictures of the aftermath of our flood and I can’t seem to touch. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to document the feelings, sights, sounds. But I’m not ready yet. And it’s ok if you aren’t either.
[ HOLLIE P. IN KILLEEN, TEXAS ]
When I was a child, a hurricane in Dominican Republic wiped out our family home and we lost all our pictures, home videos, and papers. This happened when I was about 7 years old. I grew up with just 4 battered pictures of myself as a baby. There were enough family pictures salvaged to fill a small album but the condition of the pictures was not great. This was before the digital camera age and computers being everywhere so there were no back ups. No records. All the pictures of my grandparents and great grandparents, already brittle with age, were beyond repair. We were all heartbroken. As a kid I didn’t really pay much attention (to the loss). As I grew older though, I felt the loss more. I’m very cautious with our pictures now, keeping a digital copy on a hard drive, hidden in a fireproof safe, on a top shelf.
The year I got married I set off to try and find some record or picture that was lost. I had all the addresses of relatives and friends for the wedding invites so I just sent out letters to everyone, asking them to please email me a copy of any pictures of my family they might have. Family really rallied and went above and beyond. Amongst them they found a lot of pictures of my greats and grands and some of me and my sisters as kids. I even have a picture of my great grandparents’ wedding now. But just as important as the pictures were the stories that came with them. Some people didn’t have any pictures so they sent letters with anecdotes and stories which I also included in the new family album. We all cried when I showed it to everyone at our Christmas get together that year.
We may have lost the pictures but we didn’t lose the stories. To those who have lost theirs, I’d say write the stories down. See if maybe someone else has pictures to go with those stories. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but you can also write a thousand words. Paint a picture with a written story for the next generation.
[ ERIKA FALCON IN PRAIRIEVILLE, LOUISIANA ]
I don’t have any experience trying to salvage or restore my photographs or tangible memories. Our home flooded last August. We were lucky enough to have evacuated before our house took on water and we took our photographs with us and moved other things up as high as we could inside the house (we thought we were being overly cautious at the time and felt sure our house wouldn’t flood). I reached out to a few of my friends to see if any of them had any advice on saving photos and basically … they laid out the ones that got damp from the moisture in the air and allowed them to dry but other than that, their photos have been stored away while they rebuild their houses and put their lives back together.
My general flood recovery advice is this:
My first and most important words of wisdom are … It’s going to be ok. It will take a while, but one day IT WILL BE OK again. It is really hard to accept help but you need it. You will probably never be able to repay the people that help you but that’s ok. One day you will be able to pay it forward. In the beginning we were naive and thought that we would be fine because we had insurance and we would be back in our home in a few months. That is so far from the reality. The process is slow and grueling.
One thing I struggled with is recognizing that trauma is trauma. Anybody can say, “Well, it could always be worse.” Somewhere there is somebody that just has it worse than everybody else, but they are not the only ones allowed to feel bad. Grieve the loss of the life you knew. We all recognize and agree that “it’s just stuff” (you’ll get really tired of hearing that) and that family is the most important thing. That will get you through it at first but, losing everything you own, your home, and your sense of security is devastating.
Find someone to talk to. You’ll need friends who are going through it with you AND friends that aren’t. You need to be able to vent.
I chose to start a separate Instagram account to chronicle what we were going through — @falconsreboot. You have to take tons of pictures anyway for your insurance company and it really helped me to be able to share them and talk about everything but not clog up my personal social media feeds.
Give yourself time and grace. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It took you a long time to build your life and acquire all of your things. You cannot get it all back quickly. FEMA, insurance companies, and mortgage companies … they all work SLOWLY.
[ JO KENNEDY IN VALLEYFORD, WASHINGTON ]
We just went through a pretty bad fire in our area one year ago. We had rushed off to help friends evacuate never expecting the fire to travel as far as it did and to be evacuated ourselves. The fire wrapped around their house and was miraculously saved, but we lost the neighbor’s house. Fire came within less than a mile of ours. Scary times. We had packed up several important items to be on the ready for evacuation. Computer hard drive, wedding dress, handmade quilts, cash, etc. The usual! It wasn’t until after all the crazy ended (fought fires and hot spots for days in our community/area) that I had remembered that there were other things that I would’ve wanted to pack up and had time for. I now have a list of items to gather in case this happens again. It’s printed and on one of our mudroom doors – just inside a closet. I won’t forget the random special treasure or spare phone power packs again! I also video taped all of our rooms in our house, garage, barn, outdoor, etc. to help with documenting and remembering things if we did lose our home. The kids did this as I was gathering items.
[ HETAL PATEL IN GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA ]
It was in 2009. My husband and I had been married for 4 years with our unborn boy; it had been raining non-stop for 3 days in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. It was a normal rainy Monday and my husband and I went off to work. Around 1 pm I got a phone call from a neighbor that our house / neighborhood is under water. I was thinking maybe 1-2 feet of water, but it actually turned out to be 12 feet. There was a flood watch warning in surrounding counties but nothing for ours. Who knew that a creek a mile away from our home would overfill and spill on our neighborhood. Our first home was submerged under water for 24 hours. Just like that we were homeless. Everything ruined. Thank goodness we were alright, but our home, our things, our memories, pictures, albums, and albums of pictures. All gone. I’m getting tearful just thinking about it.
Being pregnant with my first child made me think of scrapbooking my husband’s and my childhoods. So naturally I had borrowed all of our memories from our parents to use them in scrapbooks. Unfortunately, until this day I have not recovered from our baby pictures being gone. Those precious memories. It pains me to know I will not have those pictures in my hands again. We’ve replaced our clothes, shoes, furniture, even our home, but those pictures were irreplaceable.
After 8 years, I have collected 2-3 pictures of our childhood from friends and family. It’s better than none, I guess. I’ve moved on and accepted the loss, but for my children I’m making sure I scrapbook everything and have more than one copy. I have given pictures to many friends and family just in case. Thank you, Becky and team, for allowing me to scrapbook our memories so easily with the Project Life App.
11 TIPS FOR PREVENTING LOSS
1) BACK UP. BACK UP. BACK UP. | Feeling it?? Backing up our tangible memories and digital photos is important. I don’t know how else to say it. This blog post covers a lot of great stuff about backing up so check that out. A few people in our online community (I hate to just say “customers” because you guys feel like friends … part of our community, our tribe). Anyway … this is what a few friends have to say:
@kathyaustin72 on Instagram: “I have absolutely every photo, album, memento photographed or scanned & backed up to Dropbox & also on a flash drive on my keychain. We live in tornado alley (also prone to wildfires) & I did this years ago because I realized there’s no guarantee of coming home to my stuff. This way I have the memories at least.”
@jordannacarroll on Instagram: “Hearing about the flood victims is devastating. I can’t imagine having to leave those behind to get to safety. They say if it doesn’t exist in 3 places, it doesn’t exist. But it’s tough, time consuming, and expensive for most of us to have online storage, and what are the options for our old albums!?!” // I hope you find some inspiration in this blog post, Jordanna.
Jelayne Brewer on Facebook: “All of my digital era photos are on Google Photos. It is free and unlimited. I am scanning all my photos from before digital and uploading there. I have all my parents’ photos that I am also scanning & uploading. I will also scan scrapbook pages & upload them. You can make photo albums in Google Photo & you can tag faces. You can access from any computer, tablet, or phone. I call it peace of mind. I do also use a 2TB hard drive.” // I know a lot of people love Google Photos and while I haven’t personally added that as another backup (I plan to), it sounds really terrific. Our friend Steph Clay has a free online course that explains how it works and how to use it. You can check that out here.
Please keep in mind that physical hard drives CAN and probably WILL fail at some point. Ugh. I hate even saying it, but I’ve heard it from tech experts too many times, and we’ve had our share of failed hard drives.
2) SCAN EVERYTHING. | Set all of your already-digital memories to the side for a moment. Think about your physical, tangible memories. Scrapbooks, photos, journals … you know what you have. “But that would take forever!” Ummmm … Tell me about it. I have about 140 completed scrapbooks / photo books. Should I just put off getting these scanned because it’s too big of a project? Well, I HAVE been putting it off! Let’s keep things real right now, okay? These recent natural disasters have deeply affected me, but not directly. So I have been putting some time and energy into figuring out the best way to scan our own scrapbooks — for me, of course, but also to share with you an option. AN option.
The Fujitsu Image Scanner ScanSnap SV600 is the scanner that David and I bought … like a year ago. Here’s a link to this scanner on Amazon. This is not sponsored in any way. I’m just sharing what we’re using. And … yes, I’m totally serious about the fact that we’ve been sitting on a purchase (ugh). We totally procrastinated getting our albums scanned. You better believe we’re diving in NOW! I’ve been taking it for a spin this past week and it’s averaging about 30 minutes per scrapbook. Don’t think about page count. Page counts vary from album to album, especially if your albums are like mine and some albums have memorabilia that you’ll want to take OUT and scan separately.
I want you to know that I already know I need to do a whole blog post just about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Have you noticed there are no pictures in the blog post? I am not spending another minute worrying about visual support for this blog post. I feel such a sense of urgency to get this published and the pictures aren’t the important part, you know? I’ll definitely share more about my personal scrapbook-scanning project … I hope in the near future. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning this, which is something that will apply to those of you who also have a lot of scrapbooks: I can chip away at this and carve out 30 minutes a day (or whatever), scanning one album at a time, and that would take me about 6 months to get it all done at that rate. Another thought is to hire someone to do the work. If I paid someone like $10/hour (I’m making that up; I’m not necessarily suggesting that rate) … then this project would cost me $700 (because it would be about 70 hours of labor).
Again … just thinking through options.
I know the scanner is expensive. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to go out and get it. But something else to consider is that perhaps the investment could be worth it, not just for just yourself but perhaps you could … 1) go in on this with friends / others who want to share the investment with you because they’re in the same boat of wanting to get everything scanned; or 2) this could even be a side business for you, that you help others get THEIR scrapbooks scanned and you charge per page or per album or per hour … or whatever you want to do.
That brings me to something interesting that I’m not super familiar with, but I’m hearing about, which is … there are people and businesses that DO this! Of course! I’ve been in touch with our friend Casey von Stein (professional photographer and fellow Project Lifer) and she mentioned that she is actually using that very same scanner for her side business. “I got certified this spring as a Photo Organizer through APPO. It’s a pretty small industry, but it has members from all different backgrounds … family historians, archivists, professional photographers … and all over the world. I thought it was the perfect extension to my brand since I’m so passionate about getting people to USE their photos! Go to appo.org and you can look up a certified Photo Organizer in your area who could help with scanning, backing up, etc. A great option for those who don’t want to DIY or are just plain overwhelmed.”
Casey continues: “I got that scanner a few months ago. I considered getting a huge flatbed, but the cost was just too high when I didn’t know how many clients would need 12×12 scans. The Fujitsu had mixed reviews for photo quality (seemed to register better as a document scanner), but I’ve found it to be great for the scrapbook scans I’ve done. Like I said, it hasn’t been as simple as pressing a button though. Even though they’re totally flat pages, for some reason they’re not registering as square final files so I have to do some cropping/warping with the software that’s included. But I’m still really happy with it!” We are now working with Casey to write a guest post about getting certified or the general services Photo Organizers offer! For your information, Casey does have photo-organizing clients from all over the country. If you are comfortable shipping, Casey is happy to help! We know mailing valuable memories isn’t for everyone, which is why Casey recommended the local lookup function on Appo’s website. You can find Casey on Instagram too, where she shares awesome memory-keeping tips: @MissFreddy.
Aside from beautiful scrapbooks that you’ve made … think about those boxes and drawers full of photos and memorabilia that you haven’t yet scanned. The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap Document Scanner is what we have at home and the office, and it’s just awesome. Scan a whole stack of photos or documents at a time and it’s fast. Yes, great quality. You adjust your dpi and other settings however you want them to be. Here’s a quick YouTube video of me demonstrating the scanner:
There are even scanning apps — of course, right?! Far too many to mention here, but please leave a comment if you have a favorite that’s worth recommending. I’ve seen a few customers mention Keepy (which I believe is specifically for kids’ artwork, school work, memorabilia) and Photomyne.
3) OR PHOTOGRAPH YOUR SCRAPBOOKS! | If you are not in a position to get a scanner right now, perhaps it’s worth considering at least taking pictures of your pages. @linsfarar on Instagram shares: “My heart aches for these families. They have lost so much, but as a scrapbooker, this is just devastating. This is why I have begun digitizing all my traditional scrapbooks. I am taking photos of each page (just with my iPhone 7 Plus) and then printing them in books. I am then storing the digital copies in 5 places — my computer, Carbonite, Dropbox, Google photos, and Blurb.”
4) CONSIDER THE WORKFLOW | As a scrapbooker, and as you’re thinking about going forward, be sure that upon completion of each and every page you make … you scan or photograph that page. And have those files / photos backed up. Just build it into your workflow and it doesn’t ever have to become a project … or a regret that you didn’t do it. You know?
5) LARGE PLASTIC BAGS + TOTES | @elysia76 on Instagram said: “We are smack in the middle of Irma’s path right now (south Florida) and while my husband is busy getting all our batteries, flashlights, propane, etc. in order, I’m putting all our photos, albums, important papers, etc. into plastic bags and plastic bins. Because we can replace almost anything materialistic – but not our memories.”
Angie Rhinehart on Facebook adds: “One piece of advice is that plastic totes don’t protect your things like we thought. Water gets in but not out!”
@jillianflodstrom on Instagram said that she’s looking into this product — a watertight trunk from The Container Store. It doesn’t look like it’s designed for total submersion, but it could help? Maybe? Maybe not? I don’t know guys. I have no experience with watertight totes. If you have any tote recommendations, please leave a comment and help others who are looking.
6) CONSIDER THE LOCATION | Where do you store your albums at home? @joybturner on Instagram said, “In all honesty (and my kids think I am crazy when I say this) I always tell them if there is a fire or flood GRAB THE SCRAPBOOKS FIRST! I keep them in a room close to a door so we could get at them quickly. The hours that have gone into them makes them so much more valuable to me than anything else in my house.”
7) HAVE A LIST | Deanna Ronco: “It is so important to have an emergency list of things to take if you have to suddenly evacuate, in order of importance (because you just don’t know how long you will have to get out). What I did not expect was that when we were told to evacuate, I went into a state of calm shock. I couldn’t think, and I didn’t know what I needed to take. If I had had a list, at least I could have rationally gone through it to take the belongings that were most important, especially the things that could not be replaced.”
8) GET A SAFE | But is has to be Fireproof. Waterproof. Most “safety deposit” boxes aren’t necessarily going to protect your valuables in a fire or flood. Consider storing hard drives, thumb drives, your most important documents, original heritage photos, that sort of thing. Obviously there’s not enough room for all the scrapbooks (in most cases). Hetal Patel said: “I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve thought about maybe storing some pictures of our family and especially kids in one of those safes at a bank or putting it in a fire/water safe box at home! It’s definitely hard to protect every single picture we have accumulated over many years … but keeping safe the most precious ones (baby, wedding, first birthday etc.) will save a lot of heart ache.”
9) LEND A HAND | I am a big believer in self-reliance. Get your ducks in a row and then you are even better equipped to help others. When it comes to memory keeping specifically, and like I suggested earlier, consider investing in a scanner for the sole purpose of helping others, whether you did it as a side business or purely to serve others.
10) CONSIDER DIGITAL | Digital scrapbooking has its benefits. No physical supplies. No need to print the photos first. No messes. It’s portable. Same with the Project Life App! And … you guys. The completed pages are digital. Yes, of COURSE you’re supposed to print the pages (available directly through the app). But it also means that heaven forbid something happens to your printed pages … you can easily re-print those pages should you need to.
Not sure where to get started?
DIGITAL PROJECT LIFE = This happens on your computer and using Photoshop and our digital templates and artwork. Visit the Getting Started With Digital Project Life page. This includes what you would need to get started, includes links to tutorials, and includes information on printing. Checking out our tutorials would be the next step. These videos are designed to take you from no knowledge of Photoshop Elements to completing your first page. It’s totally worth mentioning the Drag & Drop Templates are just so awesome and easy, especially if you’re just getting started. Here’s a specific tutorial on how to use them here. My team is always anxious to help so you can email Digital@BeckyHiggins.com any time.
PROJECT LIFE APP = Scrapbooking with this app keeps the entire process 100% in the palm of your hand, using your mobile device. I can’t even say enough about this and just thinking about what a blessing it has been to me, personally, and countless thousands of others … you guys, it actually makes me tear up. It’s SUCH a solution! I promise it’s ridiculously easy and there’s a reason that we receive daily messages about how this has been an answer to prayers. We have playlist on YouTube with app tutorials that is totally worth checking out and again … we are here to HELP. Email ProjectLifeApp@BeckyHiggins.com any time.
And don’t forgot what I said about work flow! Each time you complete a page … in this case, digital or app … immediately back up those pages in at least a couple places. I’m a devoted Project Life App girl through-and-through and each time I complete a page, I save a copy in an iCloud folder and also in Dropbox. Yes, the app saves all your pages, but it’s still technology, guys. Any tech can fail any of us at any time and we have to remember to take precautions ahead of time so we aren’t devastated if something catastrophic happens.
One more note: If you are a scrapbooker with lots of physical product … and if you’re suddenly convinced you want to switch to digital or the app … may I suggest that you find a way to donate your un-used scrapbooking supplies? First of all, you don’t need that clutter in your life. It’s not just crowding your space, but I assure you it’s crowding your mind too. I’m sure there are schools, hospitals, and even other scrapbookers (possibly even those who have lost all their scrapbooking stuff in a natural disaster) who would be deeply grateful for your generosity. Everybody wins.
11) WATER RESISTANT PRINTS | Did you know there was such a thing?? I can’t speak for any other photo printer (and there are a LOT of printers out there so you can certainly research this further), but I do want to let you know what you should know if you are printing through the Project Life App. Our print partner is White House Custom Colour and our / their prints are resistant to water. The day Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, I grabbed a few prints we had at the office, threw them in our kitchen sink, filled it up with water, and let the prints soak. Overnight. My test prints are fine. Slightly “curved” (not totally flat from just sitting them out to dry) … but the images are beautiful, just as the day they were printed. If handled and dried properly after being wet, the prints can survive.
Now. Hold on. I’m not making any promises here. I’m certainly encouraged knowing this, but in light of the tragic floods going on, and who knows what is in that water or how long photos are soaking (every situation is different) … there’s a chance that photos could be non-salvageable. Photo books are even more delicate. Unlike the photo prints, which use a wet process for development, the book pages are uncoated paper at the core and the covers are wood. Any book that is exposed to flood water will most certainly be damaged.
The point: Wherever you print … check into the water resistance possibility of their prints. I shared my own little experiment with you and just knowing that those prints were totally fine after soaking in water overnight is a good feeling.
D O W H A T W O R K S F O R Y O U — B U T D O S O M E T H I N G.
Take a deep breath. I’m sharing so so so much. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. Pay close attention to the feelings / promptings you’re having about “that one specific thing” that has stood out to you personally, as I have listed so many precautionary things to think about. Or maybe you’ve heard something else from somewhere else that feels right for you! (And seriously … consider sharing that in the comments.) Just start somewhere. Anywhere! Preserve your memories. That’s the point!
Laura Vanderbeek on Facebook: “It shocks me how many people store their precious family photos in their basements where I live. Keep them up high although that is not a guarantee. I keep digital copies of all of mine in Shutterfly, plus a back up hard drive, and in water proof totes. My phone recently died and corrupted the memory card but because I do automatic upload to Shutterfly, I didn’t lose any photos. All old family photos also get uploaded to FamilySearch.org to get stored in their granite vault.”
Monica Bryant on Facebook: “After having lived through back-to-back devastating fires in our town a few years ago, I have schooled my children on what to grab in case of an emergency (my photo albums and hard drives). I always keep a couple of large, foldable, sturdy grocery bags that you can get at stores like Sam’s or IKEA, right on the shelves with the albums! They are tucked on top of them. For my hard drives, I keep them all in a sturdy fabric box so in case of emergency, someone can just grab the cube, and open the bags and put the albums in. When we were on alert with the fires, I had the albums in the bags, and the hard drive cube by the front door, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Of course, I also back all my photos up to flickr and Amazon Prime photos. The photos taken on my phone are set up to automatically back up to both sites, same with when I plug a memory card into my computer … automatic back up.”
8 TIPS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED THIS KIND OF LOSS
Ugh. I’m just so sorry, first of all. I want to reach through your screen and hug you right now. Secondly … if you have personally had experienced saving photos after a flood or fire, I am asking that you please SHARE with us in the comments. I’m personally not the expert on this and will not pretend to be. I’ve heard tips & tricks using stuff like Dawn or baking soda, but I can’t stand behind something unless I know for sure, you know? @melibelle77 on Instagram shared: “My mom lost her house to a fire about 17 years ago now. One thing my grandma did to help was put the save-able photos in boxes with baking soda. Layered them in the box. That is a smell that doesn’t ever go away completely, but the baking soda makes the smell at least tolerable. I’m sure it’s an old wives’ tale, but it seemed to work! We left them in the boxes for a good while, probably months.”
Something else I heard but can’t vouch for myself: @psillyia on Instagram said, “Putting flooded photos in the freezer inhibits mold. I did this with our pictures after our flood (taking them out of the album as fast as I could first). That was the best I could do while we cleaned up everything else. I also wrote to the professional photographers asking for a photo release so I could make a copy of a damaged photo. I took photos to a printer and had no trouble since I had the release.”
And another thing that has come up: @rosamia_nissenbaum on Instagram said, “We just went through water damaged photos after having our belongings in storage for 3 years. A few of our old photo albums were in that container. Our salvage crew (sent out from the insurance company) told me for the old developed photos (the ones that had to be developed from actual film) can be rinsed in water and cleaned and laid out to dry. The corners will curl so the corners should be held down with some sort of paper weight. I had no idea!”
Now … those are a few ideas from people who have worked for them, but I can’t share them as “official tips” because I simply do not know for myself. But these are some practical tips I can absolutely share:
1) ACT QUICKLY | First and foremost, do your best to salvage what you can … as soon as you can. If others are able to help you dry out the photos, etc. … start taking those books apart. Iska G. Wire just said this on Facebook: “It has been killing me to peel apart my best friend’s photos to dry. Our memories are so precious. Thanks for reminding people to do this BEFORE something like this happens.” I saw this video from a photo journalist, fresh after Hurricane Harvey moved out, and there are some really good tips and insights. I recommend watching it.
2) CHECK THE CLOUD | You may have a better back up system than you remember! Check with your spouse, do a little investigating, and pray really hard that you have a lot of photos magically backed up somewhere. And if you don’t … resolve to start NOW (with what you do have and in going forward).
3) ASK AROUND | Ask family & friends if they might have any photos (digital or physical prints) that you might want. Send emails, post on social media, anything to spread the word. @scrapqwn on Instagram shared with us that her family lost everything in a 1989 house fire, just 3 weeks after their 4th child was born. She said, “My family & friends did a ‘photo drive’ where the word went out to everyone to look and see if they had any photos of us, our girls, etc. The photos were all collected and I tried to piece together albums as best I could so that each child still had scrapbooks. There are a few gaps, but that’s ok because it’s part of our story. Of course the newspaper article about our house fire made it into albums too for posterity.”
4) RESTORATION SERVICES | Companies and services that restore photos do exist. It’s a thing! I can’t recommend one specific one, but definitely do someone research or ask around to find one that you feel is a good fit for your needs. Know of one already? Share in the comments!
5) GET RE-PRINTS | Do you have photo books of any kind, from any company? If that company is still around, then certainly you can re-print those books you’ve already ordered, right? (If you’re not familiar with making photo books through the Project Life App … check out this post.)
6) PRINT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA | Think about it. You’re already posting pictures and sharing with family and friends. The pictures are there! Get those photos in your HANDS! My best recommendation (and one I can totally stand by) is Chatbooks. I love and use Chatbooks. It’s a totally different type of memory keeping help than what we do … and such a complementary addition to my own scrapbooking “thing”. Check them out. It’s not an affiliate link and I’m not officially partnered with them in any sort of way. They didn’t ask me to say anything. I just really, really love what they do and am a paying customer myself. It’s literally printing off your social media into little books! Easy. Automatic. Done. And definitely a great solution to those who have lost their tangible memories.
7) ONWARD + UPWARD | Moving on and accepting the loss of tangible memories may be your only option. But please don’t be discouraged to take pictures, preserve your memories, and be a documenter as you go forward in your life. Start with making even just one scrapbook or photo book or writing in a journal. I was in the thick of working on a very information-packed and helpful blog post that’s all about HOW TO GET STARTED … when Hurricane Harvey hit land and rocked so many people. I immediately turned my focus to this blog post. And just as I was in the thick of THIS blog post, our office was burglarized and that whole situation has become a bit of a heartbreaking whirlwind and we’re currently putting the pieces back together and moving onward + upward in our work. All that said … I hope to have that blog post published in the very near future. This one was just so much more time-sensitive, you know?
8) PERSPECTIVE | No, I’m not going to tell you what you already know and hear all the time. “It could be worse. At least you have your loved ones.” Yep. We all know it can always be worse. These are physical objects, not people we love. We know, we know. But losing your tangible memories is something that warrants legitimate mourning. So this is what I want you to remember, and perhaps it’s not something you’ve thought about in this way before: While the physical books / albums are certainly the desired end result that comes from being a documenter (and undoubtedly the main reason we even make scrapbooks and write in journals in the first place) … what people don’t talk enough about, are the psychological / emotional / memory-based benefits and blessings that come from the ACT of documenting.
I have a spotty memory. I can’t even tell you many stories from my early childhood and thank goodness for the pictures my parents took because my memories are mostly based on those visual reminders. This is a huge part of why I preserve memories through scrapbooking and keeping journals for my kids. The very ACT of preserving memories helps to lock those memories in our brains in a way that I can’t scientifically explain myself … but it’s REAL. If I have scrapbooked it … anything in the past 23 years of being a scrapbooker … I absolutely remember it. Even if I never saw that scrapbook page again. It’s magical. And I am grateful for that.
I could tell you so many stories about people who have COPED through tragedy because they documented it. You can’t ever take away those healing powers (I’m not sure what else to call it). Ask any scrapbooker and they’ll tell you that it’s a form of therapy. So hold on to the EXPERIENCE that it was to preserve the memories. I know this doesn’t bring back the albums. I’m not pretending that you will ever fully recover from that loss. But please give credit to the fact that those hours you spent putting pictures and stories together … they were worth something far greater than pretty pages. You felt the feels when putting those books together. You cherished the memories. You recalled the happy times, reflected on the challenging times, and became a better version of yourself because of it.
You guys. Tears in my eyes as I write this. THIS IS WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY
Cultivate a good life and record it.
BE PREPARED! Do whatever you can, when you can, however you can. It’s definitely easier to prevent this kind of heart-breaking loss than to recover from it.
Right now I pretty much just want to step away from my desk for an extended leave of absence and go visit those of you who have lost tangible memories in a natural disaster. Please know we love you. We want to help. Preserving memories is just a beautiful thing. And it’s all going to be okay.