Get it Together

I had this idea in my mind (oh, don’t we always …) that I would take the last couple of weeks before baby number two is born to just – pull things together around the house, play with Rad, get my head in the game.

When I was pregnant with Rad, I was sitting for 10 hours at a time sometimes (yes, really) working on as many writing assignments as I could for the magazine, hoping I could pull them together in time before his birth. (Thank you for arriving late, bud.) And, I told him in my belly  – and I told myself at the time – that I would never do that again. What’s the point of that added stress before a huge event like bringing a baby into the world?

For this baby I was adamant with myself that I take it easy – I took on assignments but nothing close to what I did with Rad and I told myself I had to have it all wrapped up by August 1st. (There is a lingering newsletter that needs photos added to it, but, I’m on it.) This way, it would be all about playing with Rad and doing yoga.

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Rad and Me by Ali Wolfe Photography
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Rad and Me by Ali Wolfe Photography
And, the plan seemed great until I suddenly realized that there were mammoth projects at home to accomplish – things that had built up into memory monsters by being left unfinished or uncleaned through for years. Like, boxes of school notes taking up precious garage space. (I kept all of my university notes and I’ve been asking people lately, “What did you do with yours?” Throw them out K!!! Oh, my goodness.) A box of scrapbooking memories for Rad that haven’t come close to being scrapbooked. (He’s almost two and counting….) 1,780 notes on my iPhone – What?! What did I even write down?! (Turns out, song lyrics and lists of things to do.) Rad’s baby book!! Agh!! (Isn’t this something I should have been doing monthly?) And the monster that has taken over my life almost entirely? Photos. Anyone else having an epic nightmare corralling their endless digital files? Remember when we had a roll of film and we dropped it off at the local pharmacy, hoping maybe 5 of the 24 turned out?

Apple products and I have a tough relationship – I like the idea of them but they never pull through. Not really. Case in point, my Photos app, which has been bogging down my poor – now sluggish – computer since upgrading it’s software last fall. Plus, there is a shocking 25,000+ images in the program. So, fair enough – program doesn’t work well but I also have too many files in there. What’s worse is they don’t necessarily match up to what’s on the iCloud – so, do I have more than 25,000+ images?

I’ve been saying for so long that I would find another program to use – that Photos drives me crazy. And, I did start on a hunt for another program – Dropbox? Flickr? Amazon Drive? My external hard drive? What about the features that I do love on Photos? The Photostream that I can share with my iCloud-using parents and friends? The date and location information which is often deleted when you move photos to an external hard drive or to another program like Amazon Drive. (I learned that the way you don’t want to learn it. The frustrating way.)

It’s been a hectic few weeks. I just got it in my mind that I needed to organize my digital and paper life and I plunged in deep.

Here is a round up of the newest programs helping to keep my wild ideas and beautiful memories organized.



Evernote

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I have used the free version of Evernote sparingly over the last couple of years. I have always liked it but didn’t really realize it’s full potential. Those university notes? Scraps of ideas written on paper? Design loves torn from magazines? Here’s how Evernote helps. If there is something I want to keep a copy of (and, you’re right, just get the university notes gone) but am feeling the heavy deluge of paper in my life, I scan it (with Evernote’s Scannable app) and upload it to Evernote. I then categorize items by notebooks and notes.

Beyond scanning and saving bits of paper, Evernote is an online workhorse too. I see an idea online that I love? I use the Evernote Web Clipper to save it to a notebook. (Similar to what you might do with Pinterest.) You can clip a photo, you can clip an entire article, you can simply clip a recipe’s URL. Then, once again, organize items by notebook and note and use tags to make searching for something a breeze.

Store receipts. Store vision boards. Store invention ideas.

I am also going to use it as a diary at times. All of those notes on my iPhone? I transferred a lot of them into Text documents (more on that process below) and can now upload them to a “Rad Diary” or “Song Lyrics” notebook. Whatever I would like. I will remain a pen and paper kind of gal for Rad’s diary and my daily journal for the most part but I also like the idea of having Evernote to write in as well – I can just as easily be a thumbs and white screen gal. For me, the medium isn’t the focus – the thoughts are. And, having a place at the quick to write down my thoughts and keeping those thoughts organized so I can read through them again is the end goal.

As for accessibility, the program can be downloaded onto all of your devices – phone, tablet, computer. You will need to pay for a membership to get a larger uploading allowance (1 GB – 10 GB) and to be able to access your Evernote content on multiple devices but I am feeling it’s worth it. (And, hey, if you want to stick with a free membership because you will only use one to two devices or you don’t find that you will be uploading much per month – max 60 MB – stick with that. It worked great for a while for me.) I received an e-mail the other day with an offer for 50% off – Evernote has just changed its plans, so the offer was a part of promoting that. Maybe you can score a deal too, but either way, this is good stuff.

I’m hooked.

iExplorer

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This program may allow me to save too much information but I want it to. I have a thing for keeping my texts and iMessages – I think a lot of people do. I want those memories of when my husband and I first started dating or when we sent out messages about Radley being born. I love the catalog – the daily journal of chit chat – between my mother and me. iExplorer allows you to see all of the information from your iPhone back-ups – messages, notes, etc. and you can then choose to export these onto your computer. I have done it for a while now with my iMessages – it creates a text or PDF version of your messages – but I have just recently realized that of course I can have the program export the nightmarish amount of notes that I have (had) stored on my phone.

And, so I had it do that!

As I imported these (1,780) notes onto my computer, I looked through and trashed so many but also now the remaining Text documents can sit in a folder and I can get around to sifting through them (recipes, notes I wrote to Radley, song lyrics, magazine articles pitches) over time. It saves the date they were composed, which I like because before I got around to writing in Rad’s journal, I would type a little note on my phone. I have some nice memory notes from when I was pregnant too. And they are all date stamped.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing? They aren’t bogging up my phone. And now – get this – I can ORGANIZE them in Evernote! (New organization apps working in tandem.)

Simplenote

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I don’t know what prompted my switch from the Notes app on my iPhone to the Simplenote app, but once I came across it, I loved it’s simplicity. It looks nice, you can publish your notes online (if for some reason you needed to publish them) and you can go back to restore notes from anytime during that day (each note has its own history.) I really like the in-program tagging organization – you can tag each note so that you can pull up all “recipe” notes at once, if you would like. But, a quick mention – iExplorer (see above) won’t export them to your computer the way it does with your Notes app, date stamping them. If that’s an important feature (i.e. my diary-ing) then use your Notes app. Use both.

Amazon Wishlist

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This isn’t new to me. I have been using Amazon wish lists for ages. I used it for Rad’s baby registry and for our wedding registry. I remember everyone being confused, saying, “Why aren’t you using Toys ‘r Us?” But, Amazon can cull from any website. So, for Rad’s baby registry I could see something on a small boutique’s website and save it to his registry with the Amazon Wish List button. I could see something on a larger website – i.e. Buy Buy Baby – and save it. (Amazon usually offers a lower price and if it’s on Amazon’s site it will allow you to save it from there instead of another big box retailer.) I was able to post items from Canadian stores and stores in the U.S. We were having baby showers in both countries – I wanted it to be easy for someone to find something in their price range and currency. Amazon allowed me to do that with one list. Plus, think of all the books you can post onto your baby wish list. If someone buys something from anywhere, they check it right off on the list, no matter where they purchased it. Plus, you do get a 10% discount on some items after your event is done, just like a registry at any other store.

So, that’s for actual registries. But, the wish lists themselves are something I use on a daily basis for ideas I want to remember. I might be on a neat website where I find a great pillow or a new cleaning product or some gorgeous bag I love – I have a list for the kitchen, the bathroom, beauty products, things I love (and many others) – and I click the Amazon Wish List button and it saves the idea for later. No need to write everything down.

External Hard Drive

This is not a terrible idea at all. I’d say a necessary one. The online subscription services (i.e. iCloud, Evernote) are great because I feel like unless someone hacks into the databases just to mess with everyone and delete everyone’s information (which, likely will happen to me someday) my information is backed up and safe. But, as for my computer’s hard drive or information stored on my phone? I don’t trust it. I have lost hard drive content to water spills and hard drops (that’s the kind of person I am – clumsy) and so backing important files onto an external hard drive is a good idea. I have a 3 TB one – ha! My dad bought it for me a couple years ago after I ruined two hard drives – and recently with all this re-organizing of digital files, I have found it indispensable. I realized that I had these HUGE movie clip files on my computer – storing those, plus backing up an extra version of my photos is what I will mainly use the hard drive for. But, anything else that I don’t want to lose? I will move copies of those files over too. Then, between Evernote, my computer and the hard drive, well, if I lose files, I was meant to.

(Also, another tool I have been using for saving my information is to move my water glass away from my computer.)

Photos

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Agh. Just typing about this sends a shudder up my spine. I wish once digital photos became a thing and taking pictures with your phone became all the rage I had thought about the amount of content I was storing and had begun culling through and organizing my images back in the day. Especially before Rad was born. But, I didn’t. So here I am with multiple libraries containing 25,000 of roughly the same images.

One glitch that likely has occurred to many people is that you’ll notice Photos stores two to three to four copies of a photo. This can happen if you have messaged a photo to someone and then stored it, Instagramed a photo and then the original is duplicated and stored along with the new Instagram version, or if an HD version as well as a standard version of your photo is saved.

So, too many photos can happen quickly without you even realizing it. And, I want to make sure I can enjoy looking through them. And, I want to be able to easily share pics with family and friends.

All of this decluttering before baby number two arrives? I’m trying. Here’s what’s been happening.

Apple Photos App and iCloud Photos

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I completely freaked out on my Photos app – which takes a billion years to load up and work with every time I open my computer – and suddenly started moving large swaths of photos over to my external hard drive and then deleting them from Photos. If you want the date stamp and location information (which, may not be a big deal for many) don’t do this. It creates a new version of the file and you lose this information. Unless you re-import it into Photos – then the date – but not location – information returns. (Is this confusing? I mean, I’m typing it and I’m confused.) So, what I have decided to do now is:

Step 1: Re-import any moved/deleted photos to the Photos app.

Step 2: Clean through my Photos library. The other day I deleted 1,000 photos that were simply duplicates of Radley from ages five to seven months. So, while I predict this taking me a couple of months, I will get this whittled down.

Step 3: Delete my old iPhoto library which I just realized was still stored on my computer.

Step 4: Let Photos app sync to iCloud Photos and start sharing family photos through family Photostreams.

(Note that iCloud storage does cost a minimum of $.99 per month (unless you only have 5GB of data but that is obviously not me) up to $9.99 per month (which is 1 TB of data storage, so you likely won’t be there either.)

Step 5: Watch YouTube video showing me how to store my Photos app library on my hard drive instead of my computer and set that up. Apparently Photos will open and run the same way it would as if it was stored on my computer’s hard drive but instead it’s accessing the photo information from my external hard drive. Sounds like a plan to me.

Step 6: Stay on top of photos and look through them nightly or at least every other day, especially in the throws of capturing many shots of the same moment with new baby doing tummy time.

Amazon Drive

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I tested out a few different programs during my initial distress with Photos. I am an Amazon Prime member and through that I receive access to an Amazon Drive account with unlimited photo uploading. I thought – “Free, unlimited storage? Can’t beat that.” But, once I started loading photos up, I realized not all of the bells and whistles are there. My parents can sign into the same account to view photos but it isn’t exactly a Family Share Photostream like with iCloud. Also, the date and location information was disappearing on some files when I transferred them and they weren’t staying as organized as on Photos. (And, Amazon Drive does not offer the function to edit the date information on the photos and videos as of yet.) But, really, it seems a great base photos storage option, especially if you are already an Amazon Prime member. And, it shows you cute things like, “Two years ago this week.” (See photo above.)

Dropbox and Flickr

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Dropbox and Flickr were among top recommended options. Look into these as well. Dropbox allows you to upload large files and share them. I have done this with videos for my mom, for example camcorder clips that I cannot upload to Apple’s iCloud Photos and subsequently Photostreams.

Google Photos

Once I get everything deleted and rearranged on my Photos App, then synced with my iCloud account, I am going to start working with Google Photos. Zach just tuned me into it and while I have only taken a peek so far, it offers unlimited free storage and looks like the bells and whistles – and clarity – that I am looking for. You can even search for photos by people, places and things. How wonderful. (“Search PEACHES.”) I can’t wait to upload my images to it and start using it. (Are you thinking this is overkill? Why even bother with Photos first? I have to get my Photos app organized and decluttered first. I just do. Then I can move onto exploring other options. It’s the way it needs to go for me.)

Photo Storage Programs in General

My final summary on storing photos though is that a photo storage program is a personal preference situation to its core. Test out a couple of different programs. Write down what matters to you and what doesn’t. Choose an option. Then get to deleting, sorting and storing.

Final Thoughts on All of It

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Rad Bath at 5 Months
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Rad Bath at 23 Months
As I have been typing this post I have recognized moments of sounding like a crazy person. I mean, date and location stamping – it all gets a bit much and at what point can I just let it go? And say to myself, I have some memories of important moments and those are plenty. I don’t need 12 copies of the picture where Radley is giving me the same expression from his play mat. (But, I have to wait a couple years before I can delete those. That’s just too hard right now.) But, I mean – in terms of all other photos – do I need to store everything? Do I need the step-by-step documentation? For me, the answer is no. What about the beauty of one or two photos that capture a moment perfectly?

Because, these days, maybe we can save too much information. Just going back through so many old photos was almost tiring for my mind and it took a second to get back to the present day. A limit is necessary. I will keep enough to remember some of the neat things, the fun things – snapshots of life – but anything that makes me feel overwhelmed or bogged down, click of a button, in good shape.

You can cull down your mammoth amount of files. Just go with your instinct. If you can easily click that delete button, do it. When you have a smaller amount of files, you’ll actually scroll through from time to time, enjoying the memories.

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First Family Photo
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First Football Game
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First Hallowe’en
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First Flight
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First Christmas
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First Time at the Beach
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First Time Swimming at the Pool
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First Mother’s Day
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First Dirt Bike Ride
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First Ice Cream Cone
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First Baseball Game
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First Birthday
 

 

 

 

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