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June 15, 2018

7 Steps to Organize Your Printed Photos

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought about organizing all those photos in your closet? You aren’t alone. Your desire to create a tidy path down memory lane is noble and well worth the time invested. But getting started can be difficult. Today we’re talking about how to FINALLY organize those photos…and even what to do when you start to burn out.

Step 1  – Collect your Photos. Some will be in albums, some in stacks of papers, others tucked away in the pages of books or memorabilia boxes. Locate as much as you can and bring it to one area. I’d recommend using a guest bedroom floor or the rarely used dining room table to stash your collection.

Step 2 – Begin Sorting. For larger collections of photos, it’s typically easier to sort by date. However, if you have a small collection of a distant relative, you might want to sort by person or event. If you’re struggling to pick one way over the other, ask yourself why you wanted to embark on this project in the first place.


  • Because someone has to it? Why you? Because you are really good at organizing? Ok, then sort by date.
  • Because you want to make a keepsake box for a specific person? Sort by person, then date.
  • Because you want to keep track of major events like birthday parties? Sort by event, then date.


Step 3 – Use Labels. Post-its are great for creating quick categories on a large surface. Simply place the labeled Post-It above each pile and start sorting. If you’re sorting by date, go ahead and put the Post-It’s in year order. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to find “1998” when it’s surrounded by “1972” and “2003.” You can also subdivide by month.

Step 4 – Have Envelopes On-Hand. There’s one common theme that runs through every photo organizing project and that is BURNOUT. So, every step of the way, you’ve got to have safeguards in place so that you can walk away and come back when you’re refreshed. Labels are your first line of defense. Letter-sized envelopes are your second. Having the ability to drop all your photos from a certain year or event into a designated envelope means that you’re able to clear off that dining room table or use the guest room within about 10 minutes. Simply transfer the Post-It from your flat surface to the outside of the envelope and stash your envelopes in a banker’s box or clear tote.

Step 5 – Edit Like a Madman. Be ruthless. You don’t need to keep EVERY picture that comes through your fingers. Instead, keep only the photos that your intended audience will want to see. For example, if you’re photo project is to create a family album over the last 25 years, ditch the photos of scenery and people that your kids most likely won’t know. Keep the best picture of your daughter learning to walk, but toss the other 25 similar shots.  Remember that a picture is worth 1000 words, and those 1000 are a concise and un-redundant way of speaking the 10,000 words of ten similar photos.

Step 6 – Record Important Information. A photo you snapped just 2 years ago conjures up a time, place, and name of the individuals photographed. However, as the years roll by, you may forget that precious information. We see this ALL the time with pictures of children who “looked the same at that age” and now the parents can’t tell who is who. Save yourself the embarrassment and write the subject’s name, location, and date on the back of the photo. Growing up, my dad was the photo king. We had triplicates of EVERY photo. And to make matters worse, he required us to write the ADDRESS of the location. “Dad’s house” wasn’t good enough. A few decades and home address changes highlight the purpose of this eccentricity. Now my grandkids will be able to know EXACTLY where I was when that photo was taken of me climbing the tree out front. –If you have the time (and patience), including an address is like placing a cherry on top of your milkshake!

Step 7 – Containerize. The purpose of your project will drive your storage selection. If the purpose was to create a family album, decide if that will be through a traditional album or if you’ll be scanning those photos (in order) to create a digital product. If your intention was to sort photos into a keepsake box for your child, then simply drop them in the appropriate age/grade-level folder and call it a day. If you simply wanted to get all those photos organized, you can store them in photo boxes that can be labeled and stacked.

Good luck on your photo organizing and don’t forget to reach out if you have any questions!

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