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Organizing Tips

Photos - clutter or honored memories?

Posted on May 16, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Most of the clients I work with have hundreds of envelopes of photos or crumbling albums, in numerous bins, stacked in a closet or on shelves in the basement. Some have not tackled this project with excuses of:

1) I have no time. Now is a great time to start!!

2) It never had a deadline. Create one – honor dad and aim for Father’s Day.

3) It is just too big, too much. Let’s break it down into manageable phases.

Make a Plan

Before you open a single bin, think about these:

Are these my own memories or someone else's – Grandma, Dad, offspring? Did I take these photos, or did I inherit them? Am I going through these for me, my family, my kids, or someone else?

What am I aiming for? When this ‘project’ is finished, what does that look like? Is it sorted into one box for each kid, a physical photo album or something electronic? Is it a specific album focused on each one of my kids or one album for the whole family?

What time and money do I have available for this project? Am I aiming for quantity or quality?

Set Up for Success

I recommend that you designate an area for this project. If you leave it out and available, you are more likely to spend bits of time working there. You need a good size table, a comfortable chair, several smaller empty boxes and an open trash bin next to the chair.

If you plan for one family album, then label the empty boxes by decade. If you plan separate albums by kid, then label the empty boxes with the kids’ names. Manila envelopes can also be used for sorting.

First Phase

Pick a bin, pick an envelope and get started. Be discriminating and keep the very best of a memory – 36 pictures of the Grand Canyon, keep 2-3. If the photos do not have the date printed on them, check the envelopes for when they were developed. With a pencil, mark the back of the photo with the date, if you have it. Discard bad and blurry pictures, the crumbling albums, envelopes and negatives.

If you come across framed photos, consider whether you will display it again in the frame. If so, find a spot for it. If not, remove it from the frame. Keep a few of the best frames and donate the rest.

Sort the best of the photos into the boxes marked by decade or kid. Keep going until you have been through all the envelopes and bins of the physical photos you have. Now that you have gone from six large bins to two. Pat yourself on the back. That was great progress!

Second Phase

If your goal was for each kid to get their own photos, then use sturdy plastic bins with tight lids, and get your kids their photos!

If your goal was to create an album, go back to each of the sorted boxes and work on putting them in chronological order (at least pretty close). As you do, it is likely you will be able to edit them even further. Continue to make time for this work until you complete this phase.

If you are purchasing an album to put the photos in yourself, make sure it is photo safe / acid free. You could choose to have your pictures digitized so you can upload them into an online site like Shutterfly to create an album there. I highly recommend Charter Oak Scanning in Stonington. Give Robert my name and he will give you my discount for APPO / NAPO.


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