Essential backup of photos and documents for relocating expats

Memory loss.. 6 Easy Steps to Backing Up Your Financial, Personal, Professional and Family Life

Essential backup of photos and documents for relocating expats
You lost it??!!

I have recently had to produce my birth certificate, which proved rather a problem. You see, I had the shorter version, but US immigration required the more detailed one. Which no-one had seen for approximately 39 years and 12 moves.


The good news was that the UK registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages had a very handy online site which allowed me to order certified copies that keep even the most nitpicky of authorities happy. On this I was lucky, but it made me realize just how much of my other paperwork would be far more difficult (or even impossible) to replace. While faking your family tree works up to a point, I would hate to lose the real pictures of my children, my childhood, and the Godawful family vacations. So here is the DefiningMoves essential guide to covering your (paper) assets.. 

With the advent of free or low cost online storage, portable hard drives, laptops and portable scanners, it’s not as hard as you might think.

You will need:

  1. Laptop computer. Yes, a desktop will work too, but it’s far easier to spread out on a large surface like a dining table, bed or the floor.
  2. Internet connection. You’ll be uploading to ‘cloud’ storage (formerly known as ‘online’ or ‘web’, but now rebranded to sound more sexy and mysterious) so the better your internet connection, the quicker the process will be.
  3. Fujitsu SCANSNAP S1100 . I am in love with this scanner, because it is:
    • small – so you can scan from wherever, whenever
    • powered from a USB port, so you don’t have a power cable issue
    • already set up with Evernote capability, which makes transferring online storage a snap (pun intended);
    • incredibly simple to use – plug it in, open the front, feed documents, follow onscreen prompts.
  4. External Hard Drive. Because you should already have your computer backed up, so while you are doing all this filing, you may as well kill two birds with one stone.
  5. Essential Documents 
  6. Priceless Photographs
  7. Digital Camera (optional)


Open an Evernote or Dropbox account.

These are both online storage services which allow you to make back-up copies by either dragging and dropping files, or clicking on an online icon. They also allow you access to these documents from any computer (and many other devices) by logging into a secure account, and you can search your files by keyword once they are uploaded. Oh, and Evernote has handwriting recognition too. Scary, huh?


Assemble all your essential documents

(see checklist), and divide into categories that make sense to you – either by person, alphabetical order or subject. Now do the same for your photographs..


Load the Scansnap software

if necessary (those of us with Macs are smugly just skipping to the next step..) and plug in the scanner. Feed through each category of document, photograph etc., and click the ‘finish scanning‘ button onscreen.

Essential backup of photos and documents for relocating expats

Save as ‘file‘, (blue file icon, top left) with a clear label that will make sense to you when you are looking for it later. (Hint – if you save it to desktop, it’s easier to find for the ‘drag and drop’ bit.


Essential backup of photos and documents for relocating expats


Plug in the portable hard drive.

This one you can figure out by yourself.. Once it’s plugged in, locate the icon for it on your desktop.


Create multiple backups.

First, copy each file and save the copy to your external (portable) hard drive by dragging and dropping each individual or group of files. (This gives you a back-up to keep somewhere safe should your computer die or you are unable to get internet access.) If you are using Evernote, open your account now and drag and drop the original file into the Evernote screen. For Dropbox, simply drag the file into the Dropbox icon.


Repeat with digital photo and documentation files.

Most of us now have a digital camera, and so our most recent pictures, along with plenty of important ‘paperwork’ are saved on our computers as digital files. So while you have your hard drive and online storage account easily accessible, back up these files too.

Should you now be bitten by the backup bug, now is also the time to get out the digital camera and make a photographic inventory of each room of your house for insurance and shipping purposes before the packers arrive. Unless they happen to be Brad Pitt / George Clooney / Ryan Gosling lookalikes, in which case, call me and I will be happy to do the honors for you..

P.s. Sadly, I don’t get paid for my merciless promotion of these products. However, for those of you who are now a little clearer on the importance and procedure for backing up your life’s work, next time we meet, coffee’s on you…


5 thoughts on “Memory loss.. 6 Easy Steps to Backing Up Your Financial, Personal, Professional and Family Life”

  1. We are huge on the “online backup system” but also feel pretty safe with our GOOT bag as well! We are about to recreate it for our next relocation and feel safe only with “on paper” documents AND online documentation!!

    Rachel – am loving this website that you’re putting together! Would love to email with you re: some reciprocal relationship stuff as I create a Delhi, India site!

  2. This is the year I am taking EVERYTHING digital. For years we had a black filing cabinet where I dutifully filed bills and receipts. But it got fuller and fuller and eventually someone (me) had to go through it, pull out the old stuff and shred it. I’ve decided this year NOTHING (or almost nothing) is going into the cabinet, I scan everything that I want to keep (even the tax receipts) and file it in a virtual filing cabinet in my computer. That filing cabinet folder syncs automatically with Dropbox, so I don’t even have to remember to back it up. I reckon that after 7 years I can just torch the black filing cabinet without ever opening it again. 🙂

  3. I was feeling smug sitting here thinking ‘I don’t plan on moving.I don’t need to do this’ then I realised the FIRST bit of your blog very much applies… I have children leaving home and LOSING important documents… Thanks Rachel, I will scan and copy BEFORE I release their passport / paper drivers license / Birth certificate to prevent the inevitable cries of ‘I DEFINITELY left it at home’. 🙂 Hurray Hurray another catastrophe averted. Loving the blog 🙂

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