Are you overwhelmed by boxes, bins and albums full of disorganized photos? Do you feel anxious just thinking about it? If you’ve been avoiding the issue because you don’t know where to start, help is here. Follow the steps below to create an organized collection you can enjoy for years to come.
- Collect your supplies
You wouldn’t start cooking without gathering your ingredients, right? It’s the same with organizing your photos. Preparation makes the process easier and more efficient. Collect sorting boxes (shoe box size is great), Post-It® notes, photo-safe pencils, trash bags and dental floss (for gently removing photos from old albums). White cotton gloves are also helpful, since they prevent the transfer of any oils to your photos when handling them.
- Gather all your print photos in one location
Find a place in your home with a large surface where you can leave your photos while you work on them. Seldom-used dining room tables and spare bedrooms are good choices. Search everywhere for photos – every box, bin, drawer, cabinet, shelf, envelope, photo album, picture frame, etc. Examine every space in your home – living areas, bedrooms, kitchen, hall, closets, office, attic, basement, garage – even the bathrooms! Move all the photos to the gathering place.
- Decide on an organizing strategy
Photos can be sorted in a variety of ways. It’s really a matter of personal preference. The most popular approaches are by theme (birthdays, holidays, school, vacation, sports, etc.) and chronologically (by decade or year). There is no one “right” way to sort, so choose the approach that works best for you.
- Perform an initial sort of your photos
Start with one box or album and perform a quick sort of your photos. Place them in separate piles or in the sorting boxes. Label the piles or boxes with Post-It® notes for easy reference. At this point, do not stop to determine which photos to keep or discard. Simply do a high-level sort to establish broad categories and move through your collection.
- Sort again using the ABCs
With the first sort complete, take one pile of photos and sort it again, using this easy-to-remember method. “A” photos are the cream of the crop and worthy of photo Albums or photo books. “B” photos are great photos that you would like to keep and store in archival Boxes. “C” photos are blurry or otherwise undesirable and belong in the Can (trash). Just let those “C’s” go – ciao!
- Capture details to help tell your story
The best part of organizing your photos is being able to use them to tell your story. Capture details – who, what, where, when – by attaching Post-It® notes to the backs of photos or labeling entire groups. You may also write very lightly on the photo backs with a photo-safe pencil.
- Digitize and store
Digitize (scan) your “A” and “B” photos to protect them. Use your “A” photos to make archival traditional albums or digital photo books. You can also frame and display them. Store any remaining “A” photos and your “B” photos in archival containers that are acid- and lignin-free.
Now that your collection is organized, relax and enjoy it! You and your family can relive milestones and everyday moments as often as you like through your photos.
Here are a few additional tips to make the organizing process go smoothly:
Be patient. Organizing your photos is a labor-intensive process. Remember that it took a long time to accumulate your photos, so they will not be organized overnight. Set reasonable expectations.
Pace yourself. You will be energized as you start to see progress, and that provides momentum for continuing. Schedule manageable blocks of time to work on your collection. Trying to work nonstop for days on end will lead to overwhelm and burnout.
Focus on your goal. If your motivation starts to fade, remember why you started organizing your photos. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your collection is secure, and you’ll be able to tell your story and share it with others. You can do it!
Finally, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. A personal photo organizer can work with you or for you to organize your collection. To find a photo organizer near you, visit www.appo.org.