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One For The Books

Organizer of Stars' Lives Creates Pages of History

October 08, 2000|DEBRA J. HOTALING

Say this story is about you. And after you read this, you toss it into a cardboard box containing all those other stories about you. And when the cardboard box is full, you slog it out to the garage to live with your other many-storied boxes.

What do we have here?

A mess and, possibly, a fire hazard. But for Stephanie Culp, professional organizer extraordinaire, it's another day at the office. From her work space in Temecula, Culp and her staff members organize what she calls "history albums"--upscale scrapbooks for the rich and famous.

First, comforting news: Bigwigs archive their remembrances in a manner you may recognize. "Boxes and shopping bags," says Culp of how goodies--Time magazine covers, letters from the president--arrive at her doorstep. Most of her clients are men, but nine times out of 10, it's the wife who makes first contact.

Culp's passion is teasing order out of chaos. "It's a more complicated process than people may realize," she says. "For instance, with actor Brendan Fraser, I decided to have one whole album focus on 'George of the Jungle,' with another album focusing on everything else" that was happening at that time. So far, it's nine albums and counting.

Each book has to have its own style, beginning, middle and end--without the advantages of kitty stickers, ribbons or glitter. "Not that I'm against that kind of thing," Culp quickly adds, not wanting to offend those who've worked the hobby into a new verb: scrapbooking.

What Culp does sounds pricey (albums start at $3,000), but it's cathartic for clients to see their lives and careers so beautifully organized. Plus the cost pales in comparison to therapy.

But there are times when even Culp goes a little crazy. Exhibit A: 1 million snapshots of men troweling concrete block. "One of my corporate clients, Orco Block, holds an annual trowel contest," Culp says. "They gave me, and I'm only slightly exaggerating, a million pictures of guys troweling. I had a gal helping me organize the pictures, and there was a moment when I really had to calm her down. When the album was finished, it told a good story. But when people tell me, 'I could do that,' they have no idea."


To Save And To Hold

For those of us struggling to get in touch with our inner organizer, Culp has some suggestions:

Don't stash photos and clippings in the garage; they'll mildew. Instead, invest in acid-free boxes available at office supply and craft stores. Keep them dry and out of direct sun.

Cut out articles that are keepers. "Saving whole newspapers becomes overwhelming," Culp notes.

Date everything--photos, mementos, articles--immediately. "Don't tell yourself you'll remember, because you won't," she says.

And here's one we really like: If you're planning to save an article that runs back to back, buy two copies. "That way, you'll have both sides as an original."

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