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7 Quick, Inexpensive Steps – An Archival Method For Storing Photos, Letters and Certificates

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Piles of photos and letters that need protection?

Piles of photos and letters that need protection?

Women’s World Magazine recently interviewed me for information on what can a busy woman do at home, on her own, really quickly, if she spills her morning ‘Joe’ or a glass of liquid on some photos. I mentioned about the process of writing the article a couple of times on my Facebook Page at “Save Your Stuff.”

Then I got an earnest request from a well-known preservation official in the Dallas City government telling me she had just received a box of family history items after the passing of a parent and what should she do to organize and preserve them? She’s a VERY busy executive with no “down time.” See my blog post at

That got me to thinking about writing this blog post article target for busy people who need a fast, easy, even fun way to get things out of the cardboard box, off the garage floor, out of harm’s way with the minimal amount of effort… and expense.

Not only am I going to make your life easier, help you have a warm sense of satisfaction for accomplishing a task important to you but I’m going to be simple in my explanation AND make you a video to see how its done… just for those of you who are more visual.

First of all, congratulations for recognizing the need to do something:

· Photos stick together when humid weather rolls in… or they get wet!

· Cardboard boxes, if gotten wet will stain everything in them (left outside, storms-hurricanes etc, a broken water heater or a fireman’s hose).

· Everything that comes into contact with cardboard and acidic paper usually suffers accelerated deterioration.

· Separated photos, the way I’m going to teach you now, are stored safer than photos in a pile. See testimonial YouTube video of a lady who had a house fire at

Leave stains along for now

Leave water stains alone for now

In order to do this quickly and efficiently, it’s important to not loose yourself in details and get distracted. Don’t worry about:

· Tears or rips

· Smudges or dirt

· Water stains

· Fading

· Or any other condition issues

Sometime in the future you can go back and address these concerns if they keep you up at night. But for now, they are NOT on our “To Do” list. Agreed? None of these issues will get worse if properly stored and protected… which is what we are going to do!

Here are the steps to follow to separate your letters, photos, certificates, etc. into an archivally stable storage folder/book. This works for piles of unorganized letters, slides and photos of who knows what, piles of vacation photos also the things you hope you never loose like priceless ancestor’s photos, certificates, diplomas etc. In other words, this technique is good for getting EVERYTHING into a stable storage situation whether it is valuable or not. Here are the 7 easy steps:

Bought from a Walmart for 410

Bought from a Walmart for $10

1. Purchase polyethylene or polypropylene plastic page protectors with 3 holes punched for a notebook. These come in lots of formats and have ready made slots for photos, documents… don’t let the scientific name of the plastic put you off. Here’s a tip- if the plastic doesn’t smell weird or toxic, its OK to use. All the page protectors that you can buy at the office supply stores are made of the right stuff and are OK to use. Don’t pay more for “acid free.” It’s a sales gimmick. ALL plastic, good or bad, is acid free by nature. Its an irrelevant term when buying page protectors. Don’t pay more. There’s really only one quality of page protector so if there are different prices, even if the sales hype is good, buy the lowest price pack.

2. Buy or recycle and old 3 ring binder notebook.

3. An quicker, easier option to steps 1 and 2… but more limited.. is to buy a ready made photo album from the warehouse stores. All the ones I’ve seen over the last few years have been of archival materials. You can get an album for about $10.00. See details on video.

4. Unceremoniously, slide the photos, letters, certificates into the page protectors.

5. If you have piles of stuff already separated by events or years or kid’s names, keep all the items together in the same notebook. Mix the different formats of page protectors as needed. Label as desired. Watch out and be careful for accidentally marking treasured photos and documents with permanent marking pens!

6. You may want to wear either cloth glove or surgical gloves… or at least keep your hands clean when handling stuff that came out of storage. Don’t pass around the dirty.

7. Is anything moldy?! Wear a cheap mask with a carbon filter (buy one from a home supply and construction supply house.

You don’t even have to spread your stuff all over the room to see what you have in order to organize them. You can take them from their bad storage and put them, almost without looking at them, into their new archival storage. Very cool and quick.

Your done! But what is next? Copy valuable documents? More attractive storage for “show and tell”? Labeling and organizing? Some preservation methods? Whatever you choose to do, all of these next items on your “To Do” list will be much easier now that you have completed this necessary 1st step. And your items are much safer now too! You are better organized and you can leaf through the notebook(s) and easily see what you have.

Here’s a quick 4 minute video to go through it all with you visually:

There are many, many testimonials of how Scott Haskins’ book, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster has helped them..

“As a self-help book it is the ultimate manual… This is a must have for anyone who prizes the family’s photo, papers etc. … even without a home disaster.” Juanita Thinnes, Past Pres. Friends of the Historic Mission Inn, Riverside, California and genealogist.

Get a copy today… or download just a chapter…

How To Save Your Stuff

From A Disaster

(free downloads too!)

We have many other specialized blogs too. Look in the sidebars.

Facebook Pages:

“Save Your Stuff”

“Preserving Family History”

“Fine Art Conservation”

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6 Responses to "7 Quick, Inexpensive Steps – An Archival Method For Storing Photos, Letters and Certificates"
  1. Interesting read, cheers! I finally take in the large ikon.

  2. Pamela says:

    Learning the right methods of keeping important family history documents and photos safe is part of being prepared. Thanks for these easy tips.

  3. Dora Amelia says:

    I love your post on the photos. Very easy to understand and do. Thanks from Spain.

  4. chirag says:

    Hey,thank for awesome tips.Buying polyethylene now :)…

  5. Ankit Sharma says:

    I love your post on the photos. Very easy to understand and do. Thanks from India.

  6. Ashish says:

    interesting content, easy to understand and inspiring work.

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