I like to organize. I have to work at keeping up with it, but I typically love the initial organization. However, organizing photos is a huge task. I had at least 3 boxes of photos that were unorganized, some labeled, some dated, etc. It was a daunting task, and as a result, I chose to do some scrapbooking, and then get back to organizing. This was a huge mistake. I am a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to chronological order. So when I finally did start organizing the printed photos and I would find one that I missed but really wanted in my scrapbook… I ended up redoing a lot of pages.
So I decided to bite the bullet and get the organizing done. It took a while, but it paid off in the end. When I was about 16, I organized my family’s mess of photos. I took over an entire room – photos were on every surface. I have a pretty terrible memory, so it helped me to be able to scan the room and find what I was looking for quickly.
- ***Even if you don’t have time to start organizing old photos, make sure you at least do something with your current photos. Whether that means just making sure your date is correct on your digital camera, or writing the date and event on the outside of a printed photo packet.***
- Find something to store your photos in, and some way to divide them. For me that meant photo boxes with tabbed dividers. (you can often get these 50% off at a craft store.) If I did this again, I would buy matching or coordinating boxes that would fit all my photos and then some. My current storage color theme is black and white. It’s usually pretty easy to find new boxes in those colors.
- Have some way to separate years. If you run out of the dividers that come with photo boxes, you can make copies on cardstock and then cut them out or just use scratch paper. Label those dividers by year or month/year.
- Find old calendars, portrait photos that are labeled with age or date, etc. I put all of those into a word document with helpful information. I used whatever calendars I could find – my dad’s day planner, my mom’s Palm Pilot, school calendars, any family calendars I could find, and my own calendars. It took a lot of searching but this was a HUGE help for me. What’s handy about this is that when you are trying to organize photos and you think “oh, this picture was taken in Virginia. I remember I saw on my calendar a trip to virginia” – you can go to the calendar (printed or on the computer), and search. For a word document, you can do control-F and then type in “Virginia.” Here is an example of one year from my calendar. Feel free to copy and paste the table.
- Go through the unorganized photos and check for any labeled dates. I labeled all of my photos with at least the date. (so for example, I found a trip to Disney World stack, but only a few were labeled. I made sure to put the month and year on the back of all the photos) Organize what you can by year. [You can file them, or you can lay them out on the floor by year] You can put them in order by month as you organize them, or you can wait until you have them all by year, and then go back through each year and put them in order by date. Also, as you are doing this, notice outfits, teeth, anything that can help you with that stack of photos that have no date or anything. Add what you can to the calendar.
- For those pictures that you have no idea, look for any helpful characteristics – location, outfit, missing teeth for kiddos, friends in the background, etc. Anything you can use to figure out when the picture was taken. Try to figure out the approximate date – use your calendar and similar pictures that you have labeled. Organize!
- If you are less of a perfectionist than I am, you can file the photos when you think they were just by year. But if you’re like me, that’s not your favorite option. I used another photo box with dividers and tried to divide it by topic. Washington trips, elementary years, I have no idea, etc. I still have this box. I did take out my favorites that I knew I would want to scrapbook and ended up finding places to put them in my scrapbooks.