Holy cow I got an overwhelming response to make this post! I’m so happy that I did though because the combination of organizing and photos makes me so happieeeee. I am a firm believer that all photos should be printed (and obviously arranged in chronological order), because really, photographs are the only PHYSICAL things we have of our memories. I know like actual heirlooms are physical, but looking at a photo and remembering all the tiny little details of that moment; the couch in your grandma’s living room, the ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree, the pool toys brought out every summer, those small details are something that I absolutely love to look at to bring back those vivid memories of that time.
A little backstory on why I might be so passionate about this, and I might get sentimental so just bare with me…
I’ve always loved photography – even had my own little side gig in Hawaii for a few years. I was trained in the darkroom, so we literally had to print out negatives to see what they looked like – remember those days? I would always have a disposable camera on me throughout high school, and as soon as I heard that continuous click I would go right to CVS and get that film developed. I am sooooo glad I was that annoying friend who took pictures of everything, because now I have all of the elementary/midde/high school memories that I otherwise wouldn’t really have remembered otherwise. Obviously there are some memories that I’d rather not remember but that is clearllyyyyy a very different blog post, or not, MOVING ON…
When all the new DSLR cameras started coming out I still stayed true to printing out all of my photos. I know a lot of people love having all of their images in one place, categorized in folders on their desktop, based on event, or month, or year. It really is super efficient to have everything on your computer, don’t get me wrong on that one! But being a photographer and being in charge of someone else’s memories with a computer that might crash, or you drop it, or it gets wet, or some other natural catastrophe occurs, I get nervous with trusting technology sometimes.
When my mom died in 2013, I lived in Omaha about 7 hours away from home. After everything was said and done with her funeral, it was time to start sorting out a lot of her things (she liked to shop…like a lot…for things like napkin holders, placemats, candles, wreaths, matching paper plates and napkins, I could seriously go on about her hoarding issues). One thing that I made sure of when I was home one weekend was to go through all of the photos my parents had of ME, and some others that I thought were important to take. My dad was actually the one who took most of the photos, and he literally just threw them in a bin with no organizational method whatsoever (I still cringe at that box), which also included photos of his childhood! My mom told me years ago that she didn’t have very many photos of when she was young because of a house fire, but I do have some! So when my dad passed away in 2017, I knew I needed to literally cling to the photos I had of my parents. Like lock them in a fire proof safe with 9 different lock combos because they are literally all I have left of them. It’s the gut wrenching truth and I don’t think a lot of people realize that until it’s too late.
We’ve moved twice since 2013, and I hadn’t really made it a priority to organize those photos until last year. I did some majorrrr purging of a lot of things we’ve been moving around with and not using, and I was so tired of packing and unpacking unused junk. So when I got rid of everything, it was time to start organizing the things we were keeping – I talk about this in part of my organizing blog posts I’m currently working on! Click Here to read the first post of the series.
Ok so now that I got that out of the way, let’s start talking about HOW I ACTUALLY ORGANIZED LIKE 10,000 PHYSICAL PHOTOS. In chronological order, separated, labeled, contained. You need to be prepared to take the time to do it. Because it will take time, like a lot of it. But once you start, you need to finish. And once you finish, you’ll never have to do this again.
To START. Take allll of your photos from everywhere you’ve stored them. Yes, this means taking them out of photo albums; those lovelyyyy cheap plastic sleeve albums that have adhered to the actual photo and it will take the jaws of life to rip it out of there. If you have scrap books (like me, that are half way done) that you don’t want to mess with, then just don’t. I kept 1 scrap book from high school and put it with all of my yearbooks. If you have photo albums that you prefer not to disassemble, you do you! I would highly recommend getting a large tote to put all of the albums, yearbooks, etc in and designating that space for things like that. Just like in my other organizing post, what works for me may not work for you, so keep that in mind as we go further into the detail of this!
Something I do want to touch on realllll quick before we move on. If you’re like me, and used to print out multiples of photos to give out to friends or family, or took pictures of trees, or the beach, or some inanimate object, or if the picture was blurry. GET.RID.OF.THEM. I guarantee you won’t care, nor take out your photos to look for that “picture of the beach” without anybody in it (unless for some reason that beach is sentimental and you really do want to keep it. I’m not encouraging you to throw out good memories). My personal rule was “if there isn’t a person in it, it’s gone.” I probably threw away about 1000 photos with just that rule. So it will save you a ton of space when it comes down to putting all the pictures inside their containers. There were other photos where I was just confused as to why I kept them in the first place, so obviously I got rid of those. So if you’re questioning the value of that photo and if you really should keep it, then it’s time to let it gooooo.
If you have photos that you need to print out, I use mpix.com for all my printed photos. They are the closest to professional photo paper quality you’re going to get, and you can import all of the photos you have on your phone right to the website. Since I started this organizing process, I’ve probably printed out about 2000 photos from my and Matt’s phones, and the quality of the photos (depending on when the actual photo was taken – cough terrible iphone 2014 camera) is by far the best compared to any other printing site I’ve used. They offer 25% off your first order, give you another 25% off coupon inside your order package, and they always have a sale going on, so make sure you sign up to receive promotional emails. I personally don’t print out larger orders unless the sale is 40% off or more, but that’s personal preference. If you want to print out multiples of a photo for whatever reason – make sure you click on that specific photo and add it to the cart. I printed multiples for things like vacation photos because I want those memories to be in each girls’ containers but I also wanted those photos in the actual vacation photo container (does that make sense?)
If you have multiple storage locations for digital photos, I would start by making a folder on your desktop and labelling it “Go To Print” and just start going through each location, deciding which photos you want to upload and print. If you want to keep a copy of those photos in the original location on your computer, you’ll have to make sure you’re making a duplicate of that image, and then putting the duplicate image in the “Go To Print” folder. Once you’ve done that, getting them uploaded to the mpix website is super easy, and you can add them in with your phone photos.
Now that you’ve gotten everything printed out and in one pile, this is when you have to start putting them into chronological order. If you have like 30 years worth of photos that are just scattered about, this is going to take you some time. STICK WITH IT THOUGH. I took advantage of that time to “look through memories” and show my girls a photo of me when I was their age, or when I was a baby. This can and should be a fun project for you and your family, so don’t think of this as a chore, or it will be and you won’t end up finishing it. If it makes it easier, and you can remember what year a photo is from, start making piles of EACH YEAR, and then once you’ve separated all of the photos into piles, then you can focus on one year at a time. The concept of this is that you’re taking a huuuuge pile of photos, and funneling them into categories. So once you have this part completed, let’s move onto the next!
Ok, so all the photos are now in chronological order (however you decided to do it), YOU DID THE HARD PART. I’m proud of you for making it this far, because really, that’s the part that takes the most time. At this point, you need to decide the CATEGORIES that you’re going to have. These shouldn’t be set in stone right off the bat. Pictures will pop up and you’re going to have a hard time figuring out where they belong. That is okkkk. Make a “Miscellaneous” pile that you can then make into categories if you have enough similar photos to put together. If you want to set aside “Events” that you know you’re going to have a separate container for (like vacations, graduation, wedding) go ahead and put those aside right now. It will reduce the sorting process by a lottt if this is how you plan to do it. I did this for our Disneyland trips, and it just makes it easier to go back and relive all of those memories together instead of going through each person’s photos, trying to find that one picture from the trip. If you printed out multiples of your photos to put in separate categories (like I said before, I printed out doubles of vacation photos of the girls and of the family to put in their containers. So when they take these photos when I’m gone, they still have those memories for themselves), you can start those piles for those categories with the event photos that you’re currently putting away. This can get confusing, but just stick with me ok pleeeeasseee.
Ok so we’re going through our huge pile of photos right now, dispersing them into their designated categories. How are you doing? Overwhelmed? Sick of the process? Feeling good? It’s almost overrr so don’t give up now! Once this part is over, all you have to do is put them in their containers, label them, and DONE.
My Pro Tip: While keeping all the piles in chronological order, turn them upside down. But Lisa, how will I know which pile is which if they’re upside down? EASY. take the first photo of that category and put it above or below the pile. That way you wont have to constantly pick up the pile and put the next photo on the bottom. This will save you a ton of time (believe me, I didn’t start using this method until about halfway through).
Once you’ve put allll the pictures in their categories, you can go have a drink, or eat your first meal in days, and relax, because you’re basically done. Now I’ll show you all the links to all the things that I used because I know that’s the reason 95% of you are here.
For Photo Storage:
Depending on how many photos you have (or plan to have in the coming years) I highly recommend getting the larger tote of 4×6 containers:
If you know you want to keep the container itself small because of space issues, then go with this one!
They also have a 12 case storage with multicolored containers if you feel so inclined to color code your categories (I would have 100% done this but I was already balls deep in my collection of clear containers)
There is also a 5×7 case, I bought one for all of the old framed photos
You can also grab the actual photo containers individually
You can label them however you want! Label Maker, cricut or silhouette, permanent marker, piece of paper with tape over it, literally just label it before you forget what the categories are. I also arranged them in chronological order INSIDE the containers, so it’s super easy to go and reference my sophomore year of high school when I know it’s right behind my freshman year photos. Same goes with babies, just so much easier to go back to that specific memory when everything is in order. If you end up having to use multiple containers for each category, make sure to label those in chronological order as well. For example: I have 2 containers of photos for Grace & Isla. So I currently have them labelled “Grace & Isla 1” and “Grace & Isla 2” with the 2nd container holding the most recent photos.
So I thinkkkk (fingers crossed) I covered everything!! Jiminey Christmases that took a lot more work than I thought lol If you have anyyyy questions, I am more than willing to answer them for you! Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you! I also have 2 highlights filled with a ton of info as I worked on all of this last year! If you aren’t following me on instagram, my handle is @lisa.lantzzz
we’ll talk soon,
This is where your healthier lifestyle begins.
You're taking the first step in the right direction and this kit will replace so many products that you currently use with safer, cleaner options.