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How to organize those boxes of photos

by respaced on January 8, 2014

Long ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, many of us had cameras with removable film, which we took to a store to be developed. Afterward, we ended up with a package of printed photos.

If we were super-diligent, we immediately plopped those photos into an album. But if we were like, say, 75 percent of Americans, we ended up with more photos than we could possibly put in an album, even if one were to work all day and all night. Those photos wound up being shoved into boxes in the back of closets.

If you are finally ready to deal with them, how are a few tips for sorting and storing them:

1. See if you can get a family member (or two!) to help you sort them. The family member will make the sorting go faster, make the project more fun and perhaps fill in the gaps of your memory when you can’t remember when the photo was taken or who is in it.

2. GIVE UP ON THE ALBUM IDEA. Many people have grand visions of making perfectly chronological, perfectly organized albums, but the vast majority of us never have enough time to devote the hours that that project needs. And all of those half-completed albums sitting around needlessly make us feel like failures. It is perfectly acceptable to get your photos organized into labeled, archival-safe boxes and never do anything with them beyond that.

3. Purchase several archival-quality photo boxes and label each box with a year range (eg. 1980-85) or subject (eg. Christmas, vacation, grade school) on the outside. See the image above.

4. Decide upon criteria for which photos get saved and which get tossed. Be ruthless about which photos you keep. Toss anything that is blurry, out of focus, unflattering, too dark or too light. Whittle those multiple shots of the ball game or birthday party down to a few of the best. You don’t need 20 pictures of Christmas morning from 1987.

5. Optional: Write the names of the people, the year (if you know it) and the location on the back of each photo with a regular 2B pencil or an All Stabilo pencil (available through archival photo supply companies). Don’t use pens. Only write on the back edge of the photo, not in the center.

6. Crank up the music, pour yourself a glass of wine and sort your photos into each box by range of years. If you provide snacks, then it’s a party!

7. Some people are interested in scanning all of their photos for storage onto a disc or computer. This is a very tedious project if you have more than 50 photos. Either scan only a few of the absolute essential ones (e.g. wedding pictures, baby pictures) or hire a company like ScanDigital to do it for you. Otherwise, hand-scanning 300+ photos is a project that will probably never get done.

8. Don’t try to get this project done in one sitting. Instead, set aside a chunk of time regularly to sort through your photos, perhaps 60 minutes every Tuesday evening while you watch your favorite TV show.

Sorting photos sounds like a daunting task, but it can actually be rather fun as you revisit old memories and reminisce with your family member. This is a task that pays off in a huge way, so even though it might take a long time, it’s definitely worth it in the end.

Image courtesy of Pinterest.

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