Are you the type of person who files photographs into scrapbooks or photo albums the minute you get them? If so, this message is not for you. But if you are like me, born well before the digital age with 4 x 6 prints stashed in drawers and shoe boxes all over your house, read on. Here’s how to organize all your photos into one compact box, gain the ability to locate any photo in seconds, and reclaim that drawer space—all in just a few hours.
What you need:
One large photo organizer/storage box. Google it. The best ones hold over a thousand photos and have dividers or index tabs inside for organizational purposes. Avoid the ones with snap-close divider boxes inside—a simple card-like filing system is easier to work with.
One large garbage bag
About 3 hours
How to do it:
1. Start by deciding how you’d like to organize your photos. Chronologically is the most popular option. Some people do it by major event (birthdays, vacations, etc.), by family member, etc.. It depends on how you’ll use the photos. I sorted my photos chronologically by year, and then pulled favorites from it to make an album for each child (a much easier task once they were organized by age).
2. Label the index tabs by year, event, or whatever method you’ve chosen.
3. Start going through your photos, saving the good ones and throwing away duplicates, out-of-focus shots, random scenic shots, friends’ kids you can’t identify, etc. Unless you are a professional photographer, you will be surprised at how few good ones you really have.
4. As you go, identify what year each photo was taken. If you’re lucky, it may be marked on the back. If not, you’ll have to guess. Making a quick timeline of what happened each year (birth years, what grades the kids were in each year, big events, vacations, etc.) will help you pin down the dates of your photos. Then file the photos in the proper year in your new box. Don’t worry about putting them in chronological order within each year. You can do that later if you want to.
5. Remove the negatives as you go, mark them also by year or event, and put them in a separate pile. Negatives should be stored separately, preferably at a friend or relative’s house for safekeeping, in case your photo box is ever damaged.
That’s it. Once you’ve gone through all your photos you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. And it makes other projects so much easier! Before going through this process, I had tried to start photo albums countless times but always gave up. Not long after sorting the photos, I created 3 albums in one day. And I have been surprised by how often I use them. Whenever one of my kids needs a photo for a school project or event, we go straight to their personal photo album. For my son’s graduation, I scanned his entire album and printed copies for a photo board, created a slideshow, enlarged a few for party decorations and used photos for his graduation invitation and announcement. I can’t imagine trying to do any of that if my photos were still in shoe boxes.
Good luck to you and let me know how it goes!