Emergency Preparedness: How to store photos and sentimental items to safeguard them from a flood

You may have seen over on Instagram, but during a family vacation this summer our entire basement flooded. We came home to soaked floors, damp walls, and an expensive realization that everything (furniture, dry wall, carpeting, etc.) would need to be replaced. Looking back, I still wonder if there are things that could have been done to stop the water damage from happening. You may have been in this position too—wondering about the “what ifs” although at the end of the day I would have never predicted that the rain (regardless of how substantial it was this summer) could have wreaked so much havoc on our home.

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The thing is: it could have been so much worse, and that is what we are trying to focus on instead of the “what ifs”. Sure, instead of dealing with just loads of laundry after a family vacation we had a few more priorities to handle, but everything that truly mattered to us in the basement was spared from the damage. I’m talking sentimental, unreplaceable baby clothes, my girls’ art projects from over the years, keepsakes from my own childhood, and every photograph I’ve ever had printed (over the last several decades). Literally one week prior to the water damage every item I just listed was in piles on our basement floor, waiting to get re-binned (out of cardboard boxes) and organized. It was a project I kept putting off over the summer, but I knew I wanted to get it done before our vacation so I carved out a few hours in my schedule to focus on it. I’m grateful that I forced myself to complete the task, otherwise all of our family’s physical memories would have been damaged.

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So, if you are in a similar boat and have had been meaning to get your sentimental and keepsake items organized once and for all, I’m here to provide a couple of tips to keep in mind during the process. Trust me, the time that it takes to get it done (and the money to buy products) will be we worth the effort. Can you even imagine what you would lose if something like this happened to you? So, what are you waiting for?

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  1. Review. Take time to sift through the contents of each box and bin that you’ve been holding onto. As you pull out an item, decide if it is a keeper or if it can be discarded. A good rule of thumb is that if it brings up a positive memory or feeling than it is worthy of keeping, but if you can’t remember the history or purpose behind it chances are you may never will and it’s not worth taking up valuable space in your home. The same goes for the duplicate or out of focus photos--discard to make room for something else.

    Pro tip: get help! Have a friend or family come by to help you sort through the boxes and keep you on task.

  2. Make a storage plan. The space that you have to store your photos and sentimental items will dictate the type of storage containers you can use. Whenever possible, storing items off the ground is ideal so aim to either store on shelves or at the top of a closet.

    Pro tip: measure the available length, width, and height of your storage space so that you can get the appropriate sized shelving and storage containers.

  3. Contain your categories. Use sealed, waterproof/resistant bins with a locking lid to contain sentimental items and photographs to protect them from moisture and debris.

    Pro tip: add a label to the side of the bin so that you can easily identify what’s inside. Remember, your label doesn’t have to be fancy...masking tape and a permanent marker will do!