Normally, I would advise someone to tackle a project like this in stages, but I know myself and I also know that with a tedious job like this, my best bet is to do it in one large chunk because otherwise I can let a project like this drag out for weeks, or months, or years...
In my house, photos and other personal mementos are probably my largest source of clutter. I'm pretty sentimental and we have lost pretty much all of our older relatives so these items are the only things I have to remember them by. That makes them especially precious to me, so I am willing to take the time to organize them properly.
It is a LOT of stuff and it takes up a fair amount of space in my house. However, since it is so important to me, I am willing to forgo other types of clutter to make room for it.
I keep it all in a large cedar chest and three large Rubbermaid tubs that fit neatly into the closets in several rooms. So, even though it is technically clutter, it is fairly neat and organized clutter. It is also well-protected from dust, water damage, and bugs.
So, it's a big, ugly job, but I'm definitely off to a good start. First I got all of our older pictures out of those old-style magnetic albums that were ruining them. That was a heck of a job right there, I'll tell you! PS: Dental floss is very helpful for gently peeling pictures off those old magnetic pages.
My best tip is to send them all off for professional scanning. There are lots of companies that do this and it's more affordable than you think. I've used ScanDigital.com and ScanMyPhotos.com and was happy with both of them. You never know when a fire or a flood might damage all those irreplaceable paper photos. I'm also a digital scrapbooker, so I love having access to all these older pictures in digital form.
Step one - Get rid of of all the negatives and throw away all the paper envelopes that were taking up a lot of room. Yes, I hear you gasp, but I know perfectly well that I'd never go back and go to all the trouble of figuring out negatives to get reprints of anything made from them. Even though the quality isn't perfect - scanned copies are much more useful these days than negatives. And besides, the last thing I want is MORE paper pictures, so I felt comfortable in decluttering them.
Step two - get rid of the darn duplicates! Lord in heaven, who ever came up with that particular marketing scheme? I had 4 or 5 copies of some pictures - ugh. And don't get me started on all those dozens of little wallet sized school pictures we'd amassed over 25 years of school pictures. While you're at it, get rid of the blurry shots, multiple shots of basically the same scene, and just plain bad photos.
Step three - sorting the pictures is the biggest job. The first thing you have to do is decide - Do you sort by event, by date, or by who is in the picture? Some people are real sticklers for sorting things in date order, but that isn't all that relevant for me, so I went with who is in the picture instead. I settled on a few basic categories:
- Immediate family
- Extended family and friends
- Pictures of "stuff" or places like the zoo
- Everything else
My husband loves to take pictures of "stuff" - animals at the zoo, fancy cars at car shows, sunsets, flowers, you name it. My policy is that if it doesn't have a picture of my kids in it, I'm not all that interested. But they are his and he loves them, so they can live in their own little section.
Step four - this is more of a long-term project. Get them into albums, scrapbooks, frames, etc. What is the point of keeping all these pictures if you aren't going to do something useful with them?
So the basic strategy is this:
- Determine your priorities and set aside some time
- Choose a storage method that works. Safe from damage, easy to get to, out of the way of daily life.
- Pick an photo organizing scheme that makes sense to you and implement it
- Find the treasures and get them out in the open. Scrapbook, albumize, or create a great photo collage of the memorable, meaningful pictures you love.
What are your best tips for organizing your photos?
Adrian of AdriansCrazyLife.com is the mother of three mostly grown sons. She is also a decluttering expert who has worked in the financial industry for more than 20 years. She shares her wisdom on organzing, parenting of teens/tweens, personal finance, and many other topics on her blog AdriansCrazyLife.com. Stop by to pick up some new ideas.