10 Things I Love About My Photo Organizing Clients

Last week I published a post on why I love my job as a photo organizer, and I promised you a second part to that post.

My wonderful clients are one of the biggest reasons I adore my job — so this week I wanted to dedicate an entire post to articulating all the reasons my clients are special to me..

Ready for some big-time gushing? Here we go!

1. My Clients Love to Travel.

One of the many reasons someone might hire a photo organizer is to help them manage and display the photos they take when they’re traveling. Because so many of my clients have been bitten by the travel bug, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the world through my clients’ photos.

Whether it’s a 3-week trip through Southeast Asia or a hike along the Appalachian Trail, I feel inspired by my clients’ love for learning about different cultures and meeting the locals. Their love of travel is a tribute to their willingness to see things from a worldly perspective, and I get to be a part of that through their wonderful photos.

2. They Are Adventurous.

Many of clients not only like to travel — they like to have BIG adventures while they’re doing it! I’ve organized pictures of bamboo raft rides in China, helicopter skiing in California, multiple cross-country moves, and exotic foods samplings.

Since I’m not an adventurous person by nature, this part of my job captivates my attention and fascinates me. I love seeing the amazing escapades of my adventurous clients as they show up in images — and the photos that are taken on adventures like this are often incredible!

3. My Clients Stay Connected.

I’ve seen photos of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of family gatherings – from everyday moments to holiday dinners. What sticks with me about the images of these gathering is that we seem to have a nearly universal desire to spend time together celebrating our relationships.

Some of my very favorite client projects are family Christmas albums. Many of these projects showcase photos that are over a period of many years, from early marriage to present day. One of my clients once told me that her children said the family Christmas album was the best gift they had ever received – and that kind of praise is music to my professional photo organizer ears!

That particular client had saved photos, Christmas cards, letters to Santa, and all kinds of keepsakes over many years of holiday celebrations with her family. She shared many favorite memories of various years, and her children just poured over those albums reminiscing over their shared stories about those holidays. She wanted to be sure that each child received their own copy of this family heirloom, so we worked together to create multiple copies of the album after it was complete.

I have tons of client stories like this, and they make my job really special. I love that my clients stay connected to their families, want to celebrate their gatherings (both large and small), and want to make keepsakes that their friends and family members will cherish forever.

4. They Care About Their Family Legacies.

My clients also want to honor and celebrate their extended families, and their stories. For my clients, getting the details of their family stories right is really important, and that includes who belongs to what branch of the family, the resemblances between family members, and other details that could potentially get lost if no one is keeping track of them.

In each family, there’s typically one member who is the self-appointed “historian.” They are eager for everyone – siblings, aunts and uncles, parents, and children – to know the stories and relationships of the family, including what family members have in common, and how they differ.

They are willing to pour through photos, slides, and even memorabilia to carefully select what to keep, what to share with extended family, and how to honor the stories and legacies that these items represent. Sometimes they even photograph various items for extended family, so they can select which items they’d like to have.

5. My Clients Are Willing to See Themselves Authentically, and Recognize Their Limitations.

Every family has their own set of challenges, so I try to help them see the importance of using photos that highlight their lives – as they really are! In my free report, 8 Ways to Tell Stories with You Family Photos, I talk about how we can tell better, more memorable and more cohesive stories with our photos when don’t expect every shot we take and display to be “picture-perfect.” My clients embrace imperfection, and they are willing to see themselves and their families authentically – and I love their bravery and willingness to be authentic.  

The people I work with also understand how important it is that we are able to find our photos easily. When there’s a pause in the busyness of life and a precious moment is captured on a camera, it’s important to be able to find that photo later, so the moment isn’t forgotten.

Even in this do-it-yourself-crazy world, asking for help with your photo organizing (or anything else) doesn’t need to be a statement of failure! I’ve seen how liberated my clients feel about releasing the photo organizationing piece to me and allowing me to help them get things under control. They deserve recognition for remembering to take a photo and capture the moment – as a photo organizer, I’m just helping them create order so they can easily remember and honor that precious moment.

6. They Celebrate the Milestones in Their Lives.

My clients are incredibly proud of their children’s accomplishments and life celebrations, and they enjoy using photos as a means to show off their appreciation and happiness. I love creating projects that help parents celebrate the special moments in their kids’ lives.

One client’s wedding celebration was especially memorable for me. As a tribute to their son’s life, a client wanted an album that would convey their pride in his accomplishments and their joy about his approaching wedding. While they suspected this would be a hit with their son, an unexpected bonus was the thrill their son’s stepsons got over his old football photos! His stepsons hadn’t known about that piece of his past, and it was clearly an opportunity for this newly blended family to bond over some very special family photos.

7. They Honor as They Grieve.

Most of my clients are in the midst of enjoying the fruits of our labor as our children grow up, leave the nest and have families of their own – just like me! But sadly, we’re also in that place of saying goodbye to aged parents. As my clients grieve over the loss of a family member, it’s a honor when I’m asked to help a client pay tribute to her loved one’s life.

While I may know many personal details about my clients’ families, I can still help my clients shift to a more objective perspective at a time when making decisions is difficult. Sometimes the photos we find depict a particularly sensitive time, such as the last days of a loved one’s life. Recently I unknowingly found one such photo that a client thought had been lost. Understandably, it was a bittersweet discovery.

8. They Like to Reminisce.

My clients like to remember their stories and life experiences, and I appreciate that. According to writer Kristine Dwyer, a staff writer at Caregiver.com, reminiscence is “a free-flowing process of thinking or talking about one’s experiences in order to reflect on and recapture significant events of a lifetime.”

“We all live in the present,” Dwyer says, “yet we still carry our ‘past’ selves with us throughout our lives. We are part of a rich history that needs to be shared and preserved. The stories we tell about our lives are also important sources of self-identity, and they enable us to explore and relate our past to the present.”

Images help us with that process of sharing and preserving our histories, so I feel a real sense of fulfillment when I help my clients organize and display their photos.

It’s really about reliving our past – whether it was a vacation we had, or a milestone reached by one of our family members. My clients want to think about (and talk about) all the sweet memories so those moments aren’t forgotten, and I feel honored that I am included in that process when we work together.

9. My Clients Appreciate Their Children’s Accomplishments, Interests, and Individuality.

When I work with my clients, I love that they want to recognize each family member’s personal accomplishments and aspirations.

This is especially important when managing photos for our children. As we document important dates, there is enormous value in tracking where each child went to school, the music programs they participating in, and the sports teams they were part of.

Creating albums that highlight each child’s interests and life stories is an important exercise in honoring each child’s individuality and interests.

As a mom, I know it is sometimes easier to take photos of my kids as a group, just to capture the moment, but I’ve learned that my client’s children appreciate having individualized albums that document their individual interests, friendships, and milestones.

My clients sometimes create individualized albums like this because they want to help their children adjust to a significant transition, like a big move. Even for teenagers, an opportunity to look back at one’s life can help make the transition to a new environment less difficult. Sometimes adjusting to where we’ve arrived requires looking back at where we came from.

Being part of a family of four girls and one of the middle children, I appreciate the need to feel recognized and valued – separate from my siblings. I enjoy being part of my client’s efforts to recognize and praise their children’s individual interests and accomplishments.

10. My Clients Become My Friends!

I know I’m doing something right when a client tells me, “I’m glad you’re in my life!” As we review my clients’ family photos, they often share personal information as well as milestones, accomplishments and disappointments, so I end up know a lot about the people I work with. It’s an honor and a privilege to hold onto (and honor) that information for my clients.

Since I work with many of my clients long-term, I am also delighted to say that many have them have become friends. My life is so much better with my wonderful clients in it!

How to Create a Family Recipe Book

How to Create a Family Recipe Book

My husband Tom and I got married 33 years ago, and to this day, I treasure one of the gifts we received at our wedding.

This gift was a recipe book – compiled by my sister, in her beautiful handwriting – that includes recipes of favorite dishes from both sides of our family. This book contains everything from appetizers to holiday meals, and it’s become one of my go-to reference books during our 3+ decades of marriage.

My sister called it “The Keepsake Recipe Collection,” and it is one of my most special (and most treasured) possessions.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

Back in 1983, the year we got married, recipes were primarily shared using recipe cards, which were kept in a little box with index tabs marking each category: Appetizers, Breads, Salads, Soups, etc.. Knowing my need for uniformity and order (no big surprise there), she found a small binder especially designed for this purpose, and used it to house this special recipe card collection.

Over the years, I have added new recipes that have become favorites, too – so our “favorite recipes” book has grown and expanded over time.

Recipes are a special and completely unique part of our family heritage, and for many of us, the thought of losing them is heartbreaking. If you’ve ever watched the show “Friends,” you’ll know how tedious (and in Monica’s case, funny) it can be to try to recreate an old family recipe from memory.

But I’ve got a simple solution for you, to make sure you never lose your favorite recipes: You can gather, restore, and protect those family favorites by creating a simple, sharable recipe book.

Here are a few simple steps for creating your very own keepsake recipe collection.

How to Create Your Own Family Recipe Book

Step One: Decide on whether or you want to do original or re-created recipes.

First up, you need to decide if you want to use the original recipe cards, or recreate the recipes in your own text (whether handwritten or typed).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about seeing a relative’s handwriting and their older recipe cards, if you decide to use the originals – but sometimes it can be a little hard to make out certain ingredients or instructions, if the cards were written quickly or in a shorthand script you no longer recognize. It’s completely up to you, and you may need to do a little mix of both.

If you do choose to type out some (or all) of the recipes, you might want to choose an old-fashioned or vintage font, to lend your recipe book a little extra character. Picture This Organized can help you design and create an album to include all of the elements that are important to you such as additional photos, captions, and customized page layouts.

Step Two: Request the cards from your family members.

Get in touch with your family and friends, and ask them to send their recipes to you for your special project. You will make digital copies of the cards or cookbooks for your book later, so make sure to tell people they don’t have to give up their written recipes for good – you just need to borrow them for a little while, and then they’ll be returned.

If your relatives and friends are tech savvy, you can ask them to digitize their cards or cookbook pages by scanning them and send them to you via email or Dropbox.

Since the holidays are coming up, you can ask the friends and relatives you’ll be seeing in person to bring their cards to family dinners or other gatherings, and Picture This Organized can help you scan and digitize each of these cards or cookbook pages.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book
A recent Kessler family Thanksgiving!

Step Three: Re-create or gather the recipes.

Once you’ve made your requests, make a copy (or get an original) of every recipe you want to include in your book.

You’ll likely need to use a variety of methods to acquire your recipes (scanning, recreating, etc.) – just make sure you keep a checklist of everything you want to include and make sure you acquire each recipe on the list.

If the keeper of the recipes isn’t interested in sharing his or her originals, for instance, you can easily recreate the recipe by simply typing the ingredients and instructions yourself. We can also help you scan the recipe if you don’t want to take the time to type out each recipe.

Once you’ve got all the recipes on your list, gather them all in one place.

Step Four: Create your book.

Once you’ve got all your recipes, compile them all into a recipe book.

To personalize your book and include special memories, you could include:

  • The original source of the recipe, if you have one. It’s fun to see how certain recipes are passed along! I have some from my mom’s bridge club friends, and just seeing their names reminds me of when I’d come home from school and see the whole group sitting at card tables, scattered all over our house, each table holding a candy dish. Fond memories.
  • Photos of the cooks next to their recipes. This is a great way to honor the chef, and it’s particularly poignant if the original cook has passed away.
  • Visual examples of the process by including step-by-step photos – especially if the recipe is being prepared by a super-capable cook!
  • Funny failed attempts (try before and after photos, just to keep it real!
  • Favorite family sayings, or stories of gatherings where these recipes were a staple. We can help by interviewing the cook to include their stories in your album.

Step Six: Make copies of your final book.

However you decide to compile your book, consider making copies of the end result.

Your recipe book is a family keepsake that a lot of your family members will want, and you can digitize your copy to share it with members of many different generations. This can make a terrific gift idea!

You can share physical photocopies of your book, stapled or bound together in a nice way, or share your book via an online sharing site like SmugMug. Online sharing isn’t quite as personal, but it’s a useful and fast way to distribute your book, especially if you are trying to get this completed in time for the holidays. Recipes are often a theme in our clients’ collections, and we can organize the collection in a way that helps everyone access those recipes easily.

Hint: You can also use online sites and tools like these as a way of collaborating if you’re making your book a group project!

It’s your turn!

However you decide to gather and compile your recipes, creating a family recipe book is a great way to protect and save your family’s culinary memories.

Have fun with this process – and make sure to actually cook some of your wonderful recipes, too! If you want some help creating your recipe album, contact us to schedule a consultation.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Most of us have our own unique family traditions, like gathering at the holiday table, taking annual vacations together, or watching special sporting events.

Family traditions help us form our identities (as individuals, and as a larger group) and they’re a critical part of creating a positive family culture.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what traditions are, why creating and honoring them is important, and the best ways to document our family rituals so we can pass them on to future generations.

What Are Family Traditions?

The official definition of “tradition” is handing down of information, beliefs or customs from one generation to another. Traditions are behaviors you engage in time and time again, often at the same time or in a similar fashion.

Family traditions can be large (like a holiday dinner attended by 25 people) or small (like a good luck ritual performed before a big game). To be a tradition – as opposed to a daily routine – a ritual has to been done intentionally, with a specific thought or purpose in mind.

In “The Book of New Family Traditions,” author Meg Cox defines a family ritual as:

“Any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.”

When they wrote about family rituals, bloggers Brett and Kate McKay said, “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit and texture to our everyday lives.”

What Are the Benefits of Family Traditions?

We often celebrate events, holidays, and occasions with traditions – and sometimes our family traditions are the only time we get to reconnect with certain relatives. Our lives are busy and packed full every day, so family traditions allow us to slow down and take notice of the things that are most important to us.

Traditions and rituals provide us with a number of important benefits, including:

1. Traditions give us long-lasting memories.

My father was an avid Green Bay Packer fan. He would watch every game while comfortably ensconced in his Lazy Boy chair, and he always dressed in head-to-toe Packer fan clothing.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Anyone interested in watching the game with Dad knew the rules: You could only talk about the Packers when the game was happening, and if you wanted to talk about anything else, you had to wait until a commercial break. As soon as the game coverage resumed, you had to circle back to talking about the game.

Even though I have moved out of Wisconsin and I don’t usually watch football, I’ll always be a Packer fan because of my dad’s devotion to his team. And thinking of him in his Packer gear is a fond memory. When you think back on your childhood, you probably have happy memories involving your own family traditions.

Family traditions – both large and small – can provide your child with happy and positive memories that can have major long-term benefits. Recent research has shown that positive childhood memories can actually make your children happier and more generous (even as they grow into adults).

2. Traditions strengthen family connections.

In their article, The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions, bloggers Brett and Kate McKay wrote, “Researchers have consistently found that families that engage in frequent traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together.”

If staying close to your family is important to you – or you feel like you want to do something to draw your family closer together – family rituals could be important tools in your toolbox.

One year, my mom organized a friendly team competition during Memorial Day weekend that included multiple generations of my family. We had lots of fun playing games throughout the weekend.

The competition allowed me to feel closer to all of our extended family members, and the invitation and team hats are now silly reminders of that special event.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

3. They remind us who we are.

At a high level, our traditions teach us where we came from and let us learn about our cultural and religious backgrounds. They remind us of our family genealogy, and the cultural traditions of our ancestors.

In my family, we always said a specific Swedish table prayer before sitting down for our Christmas meal with my father’s family. We even made a plaque for our grandmother to commemorate that tradition that featured the words of the prayer.

Years later, when I met a first generation Swede, I learned our grandmother had accidentally omitted a few lines of the prayer! Nonetheless, we continued saying our own version of the blessing, and kept the plaque without changing a word on it. After all, that slightly modified Swedish prayer has become OUR family tradition!

On a smaller scale, our family traditions also act as reminders of the events that have shaped us into who we are today. Some families send their kids to the same summer camp they went to as children, and that ritual bonds the family together and remind them of many happy summer spent canoeing, horseback riding and singing songs around the campfire.

Every year when I was a child, we would spend the entire month of July at a cottage in Wisconsin. Having a second home was a luxury that my parents worked hard to afford and maintain. We no longer own that cottage today, but those memories are a reminder of the hard work my parents put in to provide a fun, summer vacation for our family.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

4. Rituals offer comfort and safety.

At some point, we all feel a little harried and stressed out from our increasingly busy and fast-paced lives. Our family traditions offer a few important constants in our lives – big and small rituals that give us a little space of sanctuary in the midst of all the craziness.

When I was in college, my family stayed connected via the telephone. Because a call home was long distance (and I didn’t have a long distance phone plan at school), my family figured out a ritual that allowed us to chat on a regular basis without racking up a big bill.

On Sundays, I would call and let the phone ring three times (because I was the third daughter), and then I would hang up. My parents knew that was the signal to call me back, and I didn’t get charged on my phone bill because my initial signal call didn’t connect.

Now technology has changed and we can stay connected with our out-of state children via a video conference call. Every couple of weeks, we set up a call using an app called Zoom, and we can all see each other on our computer or tablet screens. For me, it’s the next best thing to having everyone here in person, and we all get to share news with the entire family at one time. 

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Traditions can also help us during times of change, grief, or emotional turmoil.

A few years back, my husband Tom and I had to move our family multiple times in a short period of time. To give our children continuity, we tried to continue our holiday traditions – even if it became logistically difficult. One year we moved shortly before Christmas, so we invited Tom’s family to visit us, instead of traveling to visit them. Our relatives happily gathered together among the moving boxes and slept on air mattresses so we could share the holiday together!

5. They reinforce family values.

One of the most important purposes of family traditions (whether they are religious or secular rituals) is that they allow us to impart and reinforce our values.

Brett and Kate McKay wrote:

“Through daily family prayer, the importance of faith is re-enforced: through nightly bedtime stories, the value of education, reading, and lifelong learning is impressed; and through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.”

In our family, our Christian faith is part of our values, so attending church on our religious holidays is one of our major traditions. For Christmas, we typically attend our home church, but if we’re out of town, we will find a local church. This tradition gives our family a sense of spiritual grounding.

We’ve also got secular traditions at Christmas. Before we are turn in on Christmas Eve, Tom reads the poem “The Night Before Christmas” to our whole family.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Maintaining your traditions (and passing them down to future generations) is important, too – that’s why documenting your family rituals is a critical part of this process. When you document your traditions, their evolution become richer and more distinctive.

Documenting Your Traditions

What are the best ways to document your own family traditions?

  • Write them down and take pictures. Writing down the details of your traditions (who does what, and when) is a great start – and then you can supplement your written descriptions by adding photos of your regular rituals.

Taking pictures as a tradition unfolds – such as preparing a holiday meal or decorating your house – can be a great way to document a beloved ritual.

You can take the documentation process one step further by gathering a book of traditions, too. I started keeping a scrapbook of Christmas traditions and memories the year Tom and I became engaged, and I add to it every year. My book includes photos, Christmas correspondence, and even our kids’ letters to Santa – but your scrapbook can include anything you want to document and remember!

  • Use Pinterest. You can use Pinterest boards to document your traditions by pinning ideas and suggestions, and uploading your own photos of your family rituals. For example, I like this idea for creating a Thankful Pumpkin.
  • Create a keepsake. You can also create a keepsake out of a collection of things. While helping a client sort through memorabilia, I found this neat idea for a birthday card book. 

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

  • Create a video. Videos are also great way to capture the details and memories of your traditions. Video gives you the opportunity to replay the exact sights and sounds of a tradition – which really helps you bring the memories back to life and document the nuances of your traditions.

Creating Your Own Memories of Important Family Traditions

We’ve talked a bit about the benefits of creating, maintaining and documenting your family traditions and rituals, and how they can help you build and maintain family bonds and connections. I’ve also shared some of my favorite family tradition memories with you.

Now I’d love to hear about your family traditions! What rituals give you your fondest childhood memories, and what traditions have you started to implement with your own families? Tell me about it in the comments below.