Do you have an overwhelming and unorganized amount of paper photos, and are clueless on where to start? I’ll help you knock out this project step by step. This can be applied to keepsakes or memorabilia too.
1. Set the Scene.
• Set up your environment so it’s conducive and helps you work swiftly. This is the kind of job that will get you side tracked easily, so stay focused and make sure you are comfortable. Ideas include lighting a candle, playing lively music, having snacks and picking a large surface to work on. Think about if you want to be alone, if you want help from family, friends (make it a party!) or even a Professional.
• Set up your photos, meaning bring ALL your loose photos together in one location that you can continually come back to. Create a system layout that you can easily work around and put the photos in their correct categories. I like to use small post its temporarily for sorting in plastic shoeboxes or any small boxes you already have. The reason I use temporary boxes is because you need to know the exact amount of photos in each category before you can identify the correct container size to use. Make sure you have somewhere you can quickly stash this setup if you need the space for daily use.
• Set up the categories. Think of the categories like you would when setting up a filing system. Only you can create them, because it will be your mind that will search for them. Categories can include: chronological, family member, location (vacations, holidays, events, etc), theme and more. For every photo you come across, ask yourself “what category would I naturally look for this photo in?” You can come up with several right off the bat, so create those and add more categories as you need to.
• Set the amount of time you will work today and in the future. The key to getting a big photo project done (among everything else) is consistency. Make a plan and stick to it. Get accountability from someone else. Put it on your calendar. If this is important to you, make time for it.
"Photo Organizing can be a massive project, first figure out your main goal, then break the massive photo project into smaller projects.”
2. Sort. Now that you have everything set up, it’s time to sort, and sort fiercely.
• Start where it’s easiest. Perhaps you already have a category formed somehow or vacation photos already together. Perfect. Once you start, you’ll get in the flow and once you make headway, motivation will take effect.
• There’s no need for YOU to keep doubles, blurries, off-focus or unflattering photos, 20 technically different photos of basically the same thing or any photos that have a negative association to. You are building an organized colony of happy memories, so let that be your motto!
• What to do with all those extra photos you made a decision not to keep? My first suggestion is let it go to the recycle bin…if no one knows about it now, they probably won’t need it. Ask your family or friends if they want the photo and send to them if so (make a pile for these as your sorting and take care of it later). Take a photo with your phone or camera to keep digitally OR send that photo digitally (think #tbt on Facebook). REALLY don’t want a certain photo or group of photos? Consider having a ritual like burning them in a trash can to signify the powerful release of those emotions.
3. Store. Congratulate yourself on accomplishing the hardest part of it all, #2. Here’s a reward for that: go shopping!
• Now you know how many photos are in each category and how many photos overall you need to store. Note the different sizes in each category: are there 4x6’s, 8x10’s and 5x7’s all in the Hawaii Vacation category? Your containers will need to be able to hold all sizes.
• The best storage containers are archival-quality boxes, binders, accordion files or heavy duty envelopes. Ideally you want products that are acid free, lignin-free and PVC-free. If you’re contemplating violent acts after just reading that, forget what I just said! Your sanity is more important, and you can always have someone take on this aspect for you later, if truly desired. If you just need something quick and inexpensive, store them in plastic bins or pretty cardboard boxes. The Container Store is my favorite place for such items. Don’t forget to label.
• Finally, the eco option is to transfer these photos to digital version. There are services out there that you can send all your photos to and they will be scanned properly and made into albums as you have organized. Here are some of my favorites:
-DVD Your Memories
"It is important to store your paper photos in archival safe boxes, and to be sure they are in a cool and dry location. Take them out of your attics and basements, and find a closet space inside your home."
Cari Dawson - Certified Personal Photo Organizer
BONUS! Here is a fancy video my colleagues put together about photo organizing and I couldn’t help but share. CHECK OUT THE VIDEO for additional resources and pro tips!
Now, I want to know what YOU think! Has this helped you comprehend the process better? Are there any questions you still have? Comment below and don't be shy :)