Do your photographs overwhelm you?
If there were a fire in your home, what would you grab first?
Some say the kids, others the pet; but after our loved ones … photos are given top priority. That’s because they document our lives. They are a testament to how we have lived and the memories we cherish. However, I’m always amazed how people treat these treasures. Most are stored in horrid plastic containers, relegated to the basement or attic and rarely seen. No thought has been given to honoring them in picture frames, or even storing on a cloud server for future projects.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
You’ve got years and years’ worth of photos that have never even made it out of the film developers’ envelopes.
Worse yet, You’ve got rolls and rolls of film that haven’t even been developed.
You’re up to your eyeballs in boxes and stashes of photos that are a jumbled mess.
You’re wondering how you’ll ever manage to organize the old photos you’ve inherited when you’re already frazzled by your own collection.
You rummage through your piles in search of a special photograph, only to come up empty handed.
You’ve slowed down or even stopped taking pictures because you just don't know where you'd put any more photos.
You’re simply fed up with feeling overwhelmed.
While raising our families is a full time job, letting those precious memories escape us is a terrible thing to waste. I learned very quickly that helping my clients organize their photos brought a great deal of joy and satisfaction to their families. Our photos are our legacy, and treating them well preserves our stories for future generations. The following are a few tips to help you get started. Remember, like any other organizing process, this takes time, dedication and commitment. Scheduling just a few minutes a day, or a block of time on the weekend, when everyone can help, will bring many joys to your family.
Let’s get started!
How to Organize Photos of Any Kind
Time and Place - Set aside time when you can sit uninterrupted. Your mounds of photos will take time to organize so don’t rush, but plan time each week to walk down your memory lane. Ideally, the place where you begin this process should have adequate lighting and enough privacy so that you can work uninterrupted. Make sure you have enough room to spread out and divide your photos.
Gather - Collect all of your photos from everywhere in the house. That means every closet, nook, and table where they have been accumulating. Don't forget the portrait extras and smaller photos from holidays or school pictures.
Sort - The possibilities are endless. Do you like the idea of seeing life unfold through each year? (Chronological) Or want to showcase the growth of Michael’s baseball league? (Child) Sort through all the special holidays? (Events) If you do not have the date placed on the photo make your best estimation. It is better to give a rough estimate now then try to guess 10 years from now when the pictures were taken.
There is no right or wrong way to sort.
Categories - This is an alternate way to organize photos. Simply divide them into categories appropriate for your family. Some examples may be friends, family, vacations, school, kids, grandchildren, graduations, holidays, birthdays, or religious events.
Label - As you go through each envelope and picture, label the back. Be sure to include the names of the people in the picture (including last names - years later, it will be easier for others to identify them), the date and the location. Use a special archival pen made for this purpose. Do not use a regular pen, as it will make an indention on the front of the photo.
Delete - Remember you don't have to keep every photo that you take. Don't feel guilty. Throw away duplicates that no longer have a use, as well as blurry or simply bad shots. This often cuts down considerably on the pile you have and make your task easier.
My favorite tip is to start somewhere - When I contemplated conquering my own photos, I had so many envelopes, boxes and albums I didn’t know where to start. So I chose a birthday. Or you can choose the current year, and work backwards when you have extra time. The key to success is to take baby steps. For every half hour you put into it, you’ll begin to feel a great sense of relief.
Because of the ease of digital cameras, we all take more photos. Another great starting point is beginning with the physical pictures stuffed in boxes as they take up a lot of space. They will also lose their vibrancy if not properly stored and cared for.
Here are some typical organizing steps that may actually do more harm that good:
Storing photos in manila envelopes or unsafe photo boxes.
Using plastic Baggies, or standard index cards to separate photographs.
Keeping track of memories by using self-stick notes on the face of the photograph.
Using a ballpoint pen (rather than an archival pen) to write dates and information on the back of your photograph.
Storing your photographs in their original photo-developing envelopes.
I recently got a call from Margaret. Her sentiments are typical. “I’ve got at least five years of memories are stuffed into a giant box that sits on the floor of my home office. It is filled with overwhelming piles of photos that I'm truly terrified to tackle. I need a professional to get me started and to outline the tasks step-by-step.”
Getting these precious memories into a safe yet accessible place is not impossible, however, it didn’t get into this pile over night and it won’t go away with a wave of a magic wand. It will take many 30-minute segments and a few weekends to conquer and recapture the meaning behind “why we keep what we keep”. The good news is that with a professional photo organizer beside you, the work will get done. The best part? You don’t have to wait till you’re a grandparent to do it!