6 Simple Steps to Photo Organization

20 Years of Memories, Unorganized and Scattered Around My House!

Memories are on my mind (and on my to-do list!). In my previous post, “20 Years of memories, Organized and on My Desk“, I attempted to show you that it really can be a simple process to organize and enjoy memories, and specifically photographs.

On the other hand, I have worked with more than a handful of clients, who have 20+ years of photo’s and memories strewn throughout their homes. To them, and maybe to you, the process seems more than overwhelming, with no natural or logical starting point.

So, what if you are 20 years, or even a few years, behind in your organization of photographs? What if, in the midst of your crazy, busy life, your creation of those great memories have taken precedence over the organization of them, and they are now in piles, hit or miss, throughout your home?

It’s NEVER too late to Organize and Enjoy Your Memories!

Start with very simple goals. A realistic goal for overwhelming amounts of photographs is to organize them chronologically into clearly labeled, photo-safe boxes. Follow these 6 simple steps, and you will be well on your way to enjoying a lifetime of memories.

1. Gather ALL Your Photographs

Simple Photo Storage Boxes from The Container Store

Gather them from every corner, nook and cranny of your home, garage, attic and basement. Include any photo albums and books. This may be time-consuming, but it will save you from duplicating your efforts later in the process.

2. Put Your Photos and Photo Albums in Chronological Order

If you are MANY (say 30 or 40) years behind, begin by separating photographs by decade. Label photo-safe boxes by decade. Then simply separate all those piles of photos into these broad categories. Next sort each decade box into individual years. Label the outside of the box with the years and separate the inside of the box with dividers for each year.

Alternately, if you are only several years behind, just label each box by individual year.

Finally, within each year, you may want to consider separating into winter, spring, summer and fall. Photo boxes come with several dividers.Additional 5 x7 dividers can be purchased from Office Depot and other office supply stores.

At this point, you can confidently store the bulk of your photographs, while you organize one box at a time. The process will feel much more do-able and much less overwhelming.

A Simple Way to Organize Photos Chronologically

3. Purge

Now that you know what you have (and not before!), you can purge. As I always say, keep the best! If you hold on to EVERY picture, the volume becomes overwhelming and you won’t be able to enjoy any of them. The idea is to pick the best, organize those beautifully, and toss the rest. That way, you can actually access and enjoy your memories.

You need to be able to see what you actually have before you can decide what to keep.  If you are working on a photo box labeled 1970-1974, be sure to look through your photo albums (which you have already put in chronological order) for any albums with these corresponding years. Then compare your loose photos with those in the photo albums. You may find that the loose photo’s were “extra” from 30 years ago and can now be discarded.

If you are unsure of tossing any photos, consider putting them in a photo safe box labeled with the year and “extra photos’ for a year or so, until you feel more comfortable about tossing them. Then if you come across them in the future, you will have the assurance that you have these photographs in another location.

You may also consider passing extra photos to friends and family.

4. Label Each Photograph

Unless the date is already indicated on the photographs, label each photo or batch with an acid free, photo-safe pencil or pen with the date/person and/or event.

5. Determine to Keep up with Current Photographs

Follow these same simple steps as you receive new photos.

Sort into Chronological Order

Purge–Remember the goal is to pick the very best, organize those beautifully, and toss the rest

Label Each Photograph

Store in a Clearly Labeled Photo-Safe Box

6. Enjoy Your Photographs and Memories!

Now is the time to slip your photographs into photo safe photo albums or begin your scrapbook.

Remember, don’t start a system or project that is too overwhelming. Chances are, you won’t finish it and once again, your photo’s and precious memories will be shoved into a closet.

Enjoy those memories!

Happy (and Organized!) Days!

Cheryl





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4 Responses to “6 Simple Steps to Photo Organization”


  1. 1 teresa cornett June 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

    not only am i in the “decades behind” category, my elderly stepmother just sent me all of the photos i’ve ever sent her, thinking i might want them! i might start on the box step today. thanks!

    • 2 inorderforlife July 9, 2010 at 11:23 am

      Thanks Mom??!
      If that is the only step that you ever take with your newly acquired pictures, you will be ahead of the pack!
      They will be in chronological order and ready for many possibilities in the future. Happy Memories!

  2. 3 Theresa Finnigin, Ready Aim Organize July 9, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Yes, I love boxes for organizing photos. When you have a lot to organize a box is more flexible than an album. I just moved all of my personal photos from albums to boxes last year. A great project and allowed me to toss old photos that were blurry or too dark. I only kept the ones I loved! 🙂 Great blog…as always!

  3. 4 inorderforlife July 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Perfect! Truly the most important step in photo organization — Keep what you LOVE. They won’t be overwhelming and you can truly enjoy them. Happy Memories!


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