Do you have boxes of printed pictures piled on closet floors or shelves? Or are they in bags in the attic or basement?
Do you look at them and tell yourself you need to organize them but just the idea of it overwhelms you and turns your stomach?
I had a similar issue; in a large bin, on the floor of a closet, sat my mother’s childhood photos. Some were loose in boxes and some were in old black photo albums with the slots that held each corner of the photo. Of course those corners had come unglued and the pictures had fallen out.
I had wanted to do something about this for years but, like most of you, felt it was a huge job. Yet I knew that left as is those precious memories were going to waste. I wanted to preserve those memories for my family to enjoy today and to pass down to future generations.
When the COVID 19 stay-at-home order hit and I was faced with weeks with no work and time on my hands I decided it was the perfect time to tackle this project.
I’m happy to report that after dedicating a few hours a day for about 4 days I finished the project – Boy did that feel good!
An unexpected benefit of organizing these pictures was that I learned things about my mom that I hadn’t known about her. Bottom line is that the job wasn’t as tedious as I thought it would be.
Follow these easy steps and you too can get those pictures organized so you can enjoy them.
You should know I wanted to put the photos in a slotted album. I didn’t want to digitize them.
1. Find a place to work with plenty of room to spread out without needing to clean up until the project is done. I used my dining room table.
2. Sort the pictures by decade if they are dated or by infancy, grammar school, high school years etc. if there are no dates. Don’t get hung up here! Remember the big picture goal is to get these photos in albums so they can be enjoyed. Just give it your best shot; if a few are out of order it won’t make much difference. If you don’t care about chronological order you can sort by event like all Halloween, all birthdays, all dance recitals, football games etc.
3. Label every pile.
4. As you sort throw away bad pictures. You know the ones I’m talking about, where someone’s head is cut off or their eyes are closed or it’s so blurry you can’t tell who it is. It’s okay to toss pictures. Think of it this way – if you took that picture today you’d delete it and take another.
5. Separate the duplicates and place them in a separate pile. You may want to pass these on to other relatives when you’re finished with this project.
6. Separate and make a pile of the pictures of people you don’t know. In my case no one from my mom’s generation is alive and my oldest brother didn’t know who was in the pictures so I tossed them. If my generation doesn’t know who’s in the pictures what are my kids going to do with them? That’s a lesson to all of us to label and date our pictures. That said, some historical societies, in the town the picture was taken in, may be interested in those pictures if you want to take the time to contact them.
7. Lay the piles out in chronological order.
8. Start with the oldest pile and put the pictures in the order in which you want them to appear in the photo album before placing them in the album. Do this to all the piles before putting anything in the album. This is one way to be sure you didn’t make a mistake while sorting.
9. At this point you should have all the pictures you want to place in the album in order. Now you can begin to fill the album.
One of the things I love most about scrapbooking, whether it’s making digital books or paper books, is the journaling. This step allows anyone looking at the album to know what’s going on without someone standing over him/her explaining it. So I believe strongly in not skipping this step.
10. To save time I suggest you label pages or sections of the album. Although I know who’s in the pictures I wanted my children to know who these people were so I created hand written labels. In the end I placed approximately 190 photos in my album. If I had labeled each photo it would have taken me months to finish the job. I didn’t think that was necessary so I labeled groups of pictures.
I dedicated about 2-3 hours a day for 4 days on this project. Now I have all those pictures preserved and available for my family to enjoy. The added bonus is that the floor of that closet, where the pictures used to sit, is now empty. You can do this too; I know you can. If you’d like help let me know.
Copyrighted Naturally Organized L.L.C. 2020