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Digital Photo Organization – Using Apple Photos and Shutterfly

digital photo organization

Happy New Year!  I’m hoping to be hanging around the blog a lot more this year.  I just finished reading my first book of the year – The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan – and I highlighted a part that ended up being a little kick in the butt for me.  “A dead website was a sad thing, she thought.  Full of hope when it had been set up, and now floating away down the Google drain, gently decaying.”  So I’m hoping to not float away this year and instead do the opposite…grow some good blog roots.

I usually get pretty motivated in January to create photo books.  My goal is to create family yearbooks every year.  Unfortunately, I’m way behind.  The only book I have actually printed is the first half of 2014.  I have the 1st half of 2015 mostly finished.  Nothing is done for the 2nd half of those years or any of 2016.

I make my photo books in Shutterfly and I use Apple’s Photos app for storing all my photos on my Mac.  Part of what holds me up in creating a photo book is culling through all of the photos to figure out which are the best.  In the past I have uploaded photos by month to Shutterfly.  But then I set my iPhone so that photos automatically backed up to Shutterfly.  I was glad for an automatic backup for my photos, but this ended up being a very poorly edited set of photos and I realized that I would have to delete the excess on both my Photos app and Shutterfly.

So for 2016, I decided to go back to my original method of organizing/editing/deleting in Photos and then uploading by month to Shutterfly.  But I took it up a notch in organization.  For the family yearbook, I only wanted family pictures with maybe a few of my quilts and home projects.  I set up a process that I went through for each month.  My plan was to work on a month at a time, maybe one month each day, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

The process in Photos for each month went like this:

  1.  Create a Smart Album by date that includes all photos in that month.How to Create Smart Album for a Month
  2. Look through the album for that month and delete – pare down to the best photos and get rid of any other digital shots/downloads that weren’t really meant to be kept.
  3. Use keywords to tag certain photos.  I have keywords for my dog, quilts, sewing, house projects, organization, etc.
  4. Once the album has been “pruned” go back and edit the Smart Album.  Add more filters to get only the photos that will go in the family album.  I removed photos with certain keywords so that quilt pictures and organization/home projects were no longer in the album.  I also removed any movies.Edit Smart Album
  5. Upload that month’s pictures and add them to a new album in Shutterfly.

The next step will be to actually make the photo book!  Sometimes I can get bogged down in creating the perfect Shutterfly layout for my pictures but I’m hoping that by focusing on a month at a time that only has the best pictures will move this process along.

Once I had decided on this method and felt like I had a plan, I went through the Smart Album process for all of 2016 in two days.  It turned to be fun to look back at the pictures and my kids even helped at times. My daughter was very helpful in encouraging me to delete bad pictures of her!

I should also note that I will be doing a little more digital organization to organize the photos not in the family album and also upload them to Shutterfly, but in separate albums.  I am also thinking about using Google Photos as another form of backup.  I “heard” through the internet grapevine that as you edit/delete in Photos, those changes happen automatically in Google Photos.  Something I will check out!

organization, school, Tampa home

Simple Desks for Elementary Students

It’s been about two years since the kids and I went on a fun trip to get desks.  We had a lot of room in our craft room/office and I wanted them to each have their own place to do homework.  But, I didn’t want to spend too much on furniture that might not fit into the next house.  Since we already had a lot of storage for school supplies, I wanted a simple tabletop for each of them.

Since I’ve moved to Tampa and been near an Ikea, it’s become my go to store for furniture and storage items.  You can’t beat the prices and I’m not as worried about it becoming damaged in a future move.  There are still areas where I want nice furniture but there are a lot of places where Ikea is just right, such as these desks.

For under $100, we were able to buy two tabletops, two sets of legs and two swivel chairs.  The most difficult part of our adventure was choosing the chairs.  I had a vision for chairs that was a little different from the kids.  They both wanted different colors and different styles and I eventually steered them towards a single color, single style even though it wasn’t exactly the color I wanted.

Originally I set up the desks in the middle of the room and they faced each other.  This worked okay but they would easily distract each other and the desktops seemed to be constantly messy.  This prompted furniture move #2 in the craft room and their desks went up against a wall.

It turned out that the scrap book supply cubes I bought years ago were the exact same height as the desks and helped to contain some of the clutter that had spread over their desks.  And, I finally put labels on the drawers and it really helped with keeping things organized!


Elementary Study Area with Ikea Desks

I tend to get a project to 95% finished and call it good enough.  Labels are usually part of that last 5% that I don’t get to.  In the last year, I’ve been much better about adding labels and I am seeing why it is so useful.  Not to mention cute!  I still give myself a pat on the back every time I realize how helpful they are.

School Supply Storage

Each of the kids has a drawer to stash anything they’d like to help keep the clutter off of their desks.  Then I have places for glue, string, stamps and crayons.  There is a drawer for paper, a drawer for random craft supplies and a drawer for cards.  I recently went through and went through the cards.  There were a lot of good intentions in there…that never got mailed.  I decided if I hadn’t sent out the Thanksgiving cards in 5 years, I probably wasn’t going to get to that!

I bought each of the kids a desk calendar in an attempt to help them stay better organized.  I was mostly thinking of my son, who I thought could benefit from a monthly overview instead of the weekly planner he brings home from school.  My daughter was self motivated and has hers all filled out with special dates and homework due dates and his is still pretty much blank!

Casey's Desk

They each have a caddy on or near their desks which corral some of the junk that flows in.  We clean them out every once in a while when they start to overflow.  We’ve had them for years and they have always been useful in one way or another.

student desk with desk calendar

And finally, we have a lot of pencils!  I bought this divided copper container at Homegoods once and have been searching for a good place for it.  It’s a little short to store my kitchen utensils but it turns out to be a great place to store markers, pencils, scissors and rulers.

Copper Storage for School Supplies

The wall that the desks are on is a 16 foot wall and it was overwhelming to figure out what to put on the wall.  Originally it was going to have our college degrees on there but I thought it was a little boring.  When I moved the kids’ desks to this wall, it would have been cute to add bulletin boards and some of their projects but we just left it as is.

Desk Area

Now that my daughter’s room has been updated, she wanted her desk upstairs, so this area just has my son’s desk.  A few other things have been moved around and as soon as the new shelves are decorated, I’ll post the whole craft room/office!


Organizing Summer – Summer Chores

Last summer I had to come up with a general plan of how our days were going to work to keep me sane.  We moved into our Tampa house at the beginning of summer and did a little traveling but then I was alone for the rest of the summer as Pat had training in Virginia.  My goal was to allow the kids to have some electronics time (which usually equals Mommy can get some things done time) but I wanted them to work for their time, to help me out around the house before they got sucked into their screens.

The plan is pretty simple – they get an hour of electronics time in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.  Before they can have this time, they have to complete certain tasks.  There are some things they need to do every day and others they do on certain days of the week.  I hesitate to call them chores, but that’s what most people know them as.  Ideally, they’re family contributions – they’re helping me clean and pick up after themselves so we all have more time to enjoy our house and other activities.

Every morning they need to make their beds, brush their teeth and help clean up after breakfast.  Every afternoon they need to read for 20-30 minutes.  And then we have a schedule for the others chores on each day of the week.  Since I’m having so much fun with my graphics…here is this summer’s chore list.  Chores are much more fun when written in pretty lettering on top of a chalkboard.  Right???  Or maybe that’s me.  It’s all written in my planner too, but putting it up on the fridge will keep us all on track better!

Summer Work 2015

Last summer the kids learned how to vacuum and dust.  It was painful to watch them vacuum and I’m not sure how much dust was ever removed but it was good work for them and I assume they’ll catch on the more they do it.  This summer, we’re adding bathroom cleaning to the list.  I know there’s a list hanging around the internet of all the chores that children should be able to accomplish at certain ages and I think maybe we’ve been a little bit behind on this list.  The summer is a great time to catch up and let them learn how to contribute to the household.  And maybe I could have them do even more, but there’s a fine balance between the amount of tasks they have and the amount of whining that might ensue.  I like to find the sweet spot – the most clean for the least whine.

I already feel like my house is cleaner this first week of summer break than it’s been during most of the school year.  Plus it’s been kind of fun having someone working alongside me as we clean.  And do I need to mention how nice Saturday usually is…sometimes they need a little reminder that it’s No Fighting day but usually they catch themselves.



family, organization

Organizing Summer – The Summer Bucket List

A couple of years ago (I think we were on a long drive in the middle of a move) we came up with a summer bucket list – a list of everything we wanted to do that summer.  And as much as I am not a huge fan of the term “bucket list”, it has really been a great tool for us every summer.  We figure out all the things we want to do for summer fun and we pull out the calendar.  Not everything gets scheduled for a certain day but it’s important to get a good look at the big picture summer plan.  The calendar already has our summer camps and scheduled trips on it, so when I look at the other things we want to do, I can get a general idea of what days are free and might be a good time for that event.  I love some carefree summer days with nothing planned but I also need to mix that up with some planned events – a reason to take a shower you might say 🙂

As an example, both kids wanted to go to Kennedy Space Center this summer which is a whole day event with a couple hours of driving on each end of the trip.  For the next two weeks, we have summer camps and then we’ll be getting ready for our summer drive to up the east coast (an almost three week trip).  Then another trip at the beginning of August!  I decided I had better get this trip checked off our list on this first week of summer vacation.  We had our few days of enjoying the freedom of summer, sleeping in, lounging around the house, watching movies, playing with water balloons and getting into the swing of the summer “chore” schedule.  But I knew that after a few days, we would be ready to head out on an adventure so I scheduled the trip for Thursday.  And now I can cross it off the bucket list and figure out the next item we want to do.

The list can be as simple as a ripped sheet of notebook paper, like our first one or a list in a planner.  I am just learning how to make some fun graphics in iPiccy – free photo editing software.  In about 15 minutes, I made a fun printable of our summer bucket list so we would have an easy visual of everything we want to do and be able to check it off as we go.  I used a scenic picture I took one year on summer vacation and added the list in fun fonts.  Then I printed it out, expecting a pretty little sign to pop out of the printer but I am running out of some of my color ink…so it’s orange 🙁  But it still looks pretty here on the blog.

2015 Summer Bucket List


I definitely enjoy the carefree days of summer and how empty some of my calendar days are, but to cram all the fun we want to have into our summer…sometimes we have to do a little planning and my summer bucket list has been a great tool!



organization, Tampa home

Playroom Closet Update

We have an awesome space in this house for our playroom.  It is a great size, with room for toys, shelves, tv and couches and it has a nice big closet.  A lot of times, I prefer to watch TV in the playroom because it is a little cozier space than our living room.  However, when there are toys everywhere it is no longer cozy and relaxing and I just pretend it doesn’t exist.

Obviously, the solution to toys all over the place is for the kids to actually put their toys away.  However, the “place for everything and everything in its place” isn’t working out so well for us in a couple of areas.  One of them is the Lego storage.  It’s a little out of control right now and I don’t quite have the solution on that one yet.  Hopefully I’ll figure it out soon.

The other problem was this nice big closet with two long wire shelves for storage.  They just weren’t working!  Here are a few before pictures.  Also, my  dog is in a couple of them because she barks at me and runs around in a frenzy when I get the camera out and start snapping pictures.  I just happened to catch her in a couple of the shots.

Disaster Corner

Disaster Corner & Crazy Dog

Crazy Dog

Barking in action

From Pinterest, I got the idea to put the games in a hanging sweater shelf and they did fit pretty well, but I couldn’t figure out how to use the rest of the vertical space effectively.  When I moved in, there was another metal rack (shown below) wedged in the center of the closet in between the wire shelves.  Originally it looked like a great idea, but the angled supports for the shelving made it hard to put things on the shelves and it was difficult to use the space on the sides.  When I pulled it out I realized it wasn’t very useful to me out of the closet either, but it still sits there.



After looking around Pinterest at closet storage solutions for a while, I decided that the closet was the perfect candidate for shelves on the sides of the closet to use that awkward space.  I knew I would be able to make the shelves fairly easily, but the solution didn’t quite fit in with my plan to use storage that can be moved with us.  Yesterday, I decided it was just time to do something with the space so I made a plan headed to Lowes to get the wood I needed.

So here was the plan…IMG_4789

I had my measurements all written down and had the wood cut at Lowes.  I had to make a couple of adjustments while I was in there.  Originally I thought my shelves would be two 1x12s for the depth I wanted of 22 inches.  But I found a spruce panel that was 21 inches deep and decided to use that instead.  It was just as economical and looked like a nicer piece of wood.  Overall, the cost was only $35 for the whole project.

Once I got home, sanded the edges of the wood and got started, this only took about an hour to build.  I found the studs and nailed the ledger boards into the studs, starting with the back piece and then the two sides.  When I was done with that, I just placed the shelves on top.  I was looking for instant gratification on this project so I didn’t do any staining or poly and I didn’t even nail the shelves down.  I may get to that at another time, but for now they work just fine and it made such a difference!  I also didn’t take all the wire shelf clips off the wall yet.



And the finished, organized product.



I did not put shelves in the right side of the closet (yet).  I thought I’d see how the left side went and then decide if I needed it.  There’s still a lot of vertical space that could be used in that pocket, but for now I don’t really need the space for anything.  The two bins in the far right corner are not used often.  The bottom one was used for all the Legos when we moved and now it just has the empty bags for the next move.  The top one has some Hess trucks and other random cars.  The three drawer bin is the new home for our dress-up collection along with the drawer of totally random toys on top. IMG_2451


I keep going into the playroom (avoiding looking at the Lego corner) and peeking into the closet.  While putting everything back into the closet, I did a little cleaning up and reorganizing.  I found one of Jack’s good shirts hidden amongst the dress up clothes and I found all his Ninjago Lego people that had been missing for a while.  It’s a win for everybody – functional storage for me and a bunch of Ninjas for Jack.