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GETTING PERSONAL

What will you save?In Big Yellow Taxi, folksinger Joni Mitchell reminded us “that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” – and truer words could never be spoken about personal documents. From our ancestors’ first cave paintings to our children’s first crayon drawings – we’re all profoundly attached to them. They’re the stuff that dreams, and memories, are made of. They simply must be protected and saved for posterity.

It can be challenging to select your most precious documents from all of the personal items you’ve collected and stored. (After all, they’re all important in one way or another!) Consider the scores (and in some families, hundreds or even thousands) of digital photos: Picking a relatively small number of them for permanent archiving is not just time-consuming – it’s emotional. It’s heartfelt.

That’s exactly why we’re starting your digital legacy with the letters, drawings, photographs, journals, recipes, family trees, diplomas, awards, and other keepsakes that you hold most dear: because it’s the most difficult category to tackle. After you’re done with your personal documents, everything else will be surprisingly easy. And fortunately, having been through this myself, and having helped others as well, I’ve learned a few tricks that make the process much more manageable.

Another way that personal documents differ from other records: in a family, everyone has an opinion. It would be very unusual, for example, if Mom, Dad, and the kids all selected the same photographs for the A-List – and the discussions that follow can be spirited! Everyone wants to be included.

Here’s a simple solution:

  1. Decide ahead of time the total number of documents from each subcategory (such as photos) that are be selected for inclusion in the A-List
  2. Divide the total (from step one) by the number of who will be selecting documents
  3. Everyone then picks up to that number (from step two) of favorites
  4. If the total number of favorites is less than the number you picked in step one (this can happen if more than one person selects the same document), you’re done – and you’ve even saved a bit of cash, since you’ll be transferring less than your maximum number of items (from step one) to your A-List

Þ  If push comes to shove, be flexible – just try to stay close to your original plan

For example, if you’ve decided that up to 40 photos will be placed in your Personal A-List, and Mom, Dad, and two kids will be picking their favorites, each of you can select up to ten photos[1] – but a few extra won’t hurt, if needs be,

While it might take some persuasion to get everyone involved in this collaborative process, it will be well worth it. Moreover, I’ve learned that this exercise can serve as a great way to get family members to communicate about something that’s meaningful to everyone. My one bit of advice is to be patient. Just as you’re learning about the importance of having a digital legacy by reading this book, your family will be learning from you.

There’s even icing on the cake: The lessons they’ll be learning – the skills of collaboration and the value of posterity – will serve them for the rest of their lives.

The final step is to list the documents that everyone has selected on the tear-out Checklist[2].

  1. List individual documents (or sets of documents) within each category in the Document column
  2. Indicate whether each document is in Paper or Digital form with a checkmark
  3. Use the Notes column to enter information for each document, such as whether a photo should be scanned in high resolution, or a drawing in black-and-white or color Copy the page first if you think that you’ll need more room (probably for photos)

A sample checklist is included as an example

Congratulations!  You’ve achieved a level of organization that most people only think about – and you’re on your way to building your digital legacy.

Next up: Your Financial A-List!

 

 

SAMPLE PERSONAL A-LIST DOCUMENT CHECKLIST

CATEGORY

DOCUMENT

PAPER

DIGITAL

NOTES

Photographs Cutting the  wedding cakeHoneymoon in Maui!Our first home

Baby Jane comes home

Jane walking!

Off to school

Class photo (6th Grade)

 

Ö

Ö

 

Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö

High-res 

 

 

 

B&W

Drawings Sketches for the garden 

Ö

Paintings Jane’s first finger-painting 

 

Ö

Letters Our college correspondence 

 

Ö

Ö

Journals Mom’s high school diaryDad’s list of home projects 

 

Ö

Ö

Ancestry Our family trees (2) 

 

Ö

Ö

Provenance  

 

Recipes Grandma’s apple pie 

 

Ö

Autographs  

 

Miscellaneous Retirement ideas 

 

Ö

 

 

PERSONAL A-LIST DOCUMENT CHECKLIST

CATEGORY

DOCUMENT

PAPER

DIGITAL

NOTES

Photographs  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawings  

 

Paintings  

 

Letters  

 

Journals  

 

Ancestry  

 

Provenance  

 

Recipes  

 

Autographs  

 

Miscellaneous  

 



[1] I use photographs as an example for a very good reason. As mentioned in Chapter 1, we’re taking more digital snapshots every day – with no end in sight. In a recent article, journalist Anick Jesdanun interviewed new parents equipped with digital cameras, and discovered some amazing numbers:

 

One parent-to-be decided to create a daily photo diary. The result? More than 6,500 photos in nine months. That’s an average of over 720 each and every month!

 

Another techno-dad simply buys new memory cards for his camera. He has four already, each holding 2,000 shots of his newborn daughter. This totals a whopping 8,000 snaps!

 

As Jesdanun points out, “The challenge will come in managing all the data and making sure they get migrated and cared for along the way.”

 

[2] The same guidelines apply to the Checklists in the Medical, Legal, and Home Business chapters.

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