often need to convert an object into a standard dictionary for easy serialization. lately this has been using JSON strings for storing.

Short of manual save and load routines that handle the conversion to dict, there are also some approaches that may help automate/simplify the conversion:

Googling:
convert python object to dictionary

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/61517/python-dictionary-from-an-objects-fields

In summary, try looking at:
a = Object()
a.__dict__

to see if it has what you need.

Then, the inverse, converting from a dictionary to an object (during loading):
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1305532/convert-python-dict-to-object?rq=1

class Struct:
def __init__(self, **entries):
self.__dict__.update(entries)