I don’t know about you but in our home there a hundreds if not thousands of photos dating back to my husbands and my late teens and every year since. Some are in albums, some are in photo boxes, some are still in the envelope they came in when they were picked up from the store. Needless to say they are mostly in one area of the house but when it comes to organisation there is very little of that going on.
Of course we are talking about printed photos here, lets face it sorting digital photos is child’s play. Actually, sorting printed photos would have been child’s play too had we been diligent all along and not just chucked them in on top of each other with far less respect than they deserved. Now we have a huge task ahead of us to sort through them and add some semblance of order to our lives in picture.
I am going to give you some guide lines as to how to sort through this mess in the most logical fashion. Even though there are many ways to sort your photos it is usually best to sort them chronologically. If you were to go in search for a photo of say your cousins wedding the most obvious place to start is by the date that this occasion took place. The same goes for a birthday party, vacation snaps even a baby’s first tooth photos if you had such a thing because it is easy enough to pin point around about when the event happened.
If chronological order is the most logical way to find a photo then it is also the most logical way to sort photos in the first place. Even when you start sorting through the disorganised piles of photos you have you will likely recognise the event in the batch of photos and remember roughly when that event occurred. So even if your collection is as big a jumbled mess as mine you will soon start to set it to order once you muster up the courage to begin. I am actually giving myself confidence that I can handle the task as I write this post.
I have made a list below of some items that will be of assistance in making this task as painless as possible:
- 5 x 7 or 4 x 6 index cards
- Photo storage boxes
- Photo safe pen
- Archival Sleeves (Acid Free Page protectors) for larger photos
- Negative holders
- And of course, gather up all the photos from wherever they are throughout the house.
Before you begin: You amy want to read through the list of steps before you get started so you know exactly what the process is before you begin. Seeing the big picture may help with the sorting process as you go along. You may also want to weed out “bad” photos as you go or get the sorting squared away before you start this process. With loose photos like this (not in albums) I would sort first and weed later, that way they are never out of their protective environment for too long. Once sorted you can weed at your leisure, one batch at a time.
Step 1 ~ Guess how many years of photos you have to sort through and mark one index card for every year (1979, 1980, 1981…) you have to sort.
Step 2 ~ If you ar like me and have photos that have been given to you by other people and loose photos that have somehow become separating from other photos of an event just set them aside until you have the bulk of the photos sorted. It will become easier to sort these once their fellow group of photos are in place.
Step 3 ~ Start sorting the bulk of the photos into their appropriate years. There is no need to be too precise about what month they belong in, for now a rough guess will do. If you also have the negatives that relate to each group it is best to keep them together throughout the process then once the photos are identified you can also mark the negatives and file them away appropriately.
Step 4 ~ Once they are sorted by year go back through each year and identify as best you can what month/date each event occurred on. At this point we are trying to be precise about chronological order. Make an index card for each month that you have photos for and then separate those with an index card marking the name of the event.
Step 5 ~ For history sake you may want to mark the back of one or two photos from each group identifying the people in the photo and the event they relate to. Ideally every photo should be marked this way but I think I would go insane at the very thought of going to that much trouble. My advice is do whatever feels right to you.
Step 6 ~ Now it is time to identify the negaties and file them together with the photos or in a separate negative file. Remember it is not so easy to view the negatives so it is best that you identify them clearly before you files them away. My husband recently sent our negatives to a professional to be scanned so we now have digital copies just in case the originals deteriorate over time. In fact it was already too late for some.
Step 7 ~ If you have large photos of special events like weddings and school photos it is best to store these in archival sleeves in a hard cover folder. Or course you will also identify the event and date for each of these photos as you place them in the folder.
Step 8 ~ Grab that pile of miscellaneous photos I mentioned in step two and start sorting them into order with the other photos. Hopefully they will be easier to identify and sort because you have come across matching photos in the first part of this process. There may be some photos that will remain single, it is best to identify the back of these photos and make a miscellaneous index card and file these singles together at the back of the appropriate month/year to which they most likely belong.
Step 9 ~ If you are like me and also have some random heritage photos, make a special file/album for these and of course identify the people, event (if any) and approximate date. It is likely that future generations will have no idea who these people are if they are not clearly identified by someone who knows the history behind the photo.
I hope I have covered everything and that you will find this guide useful when or if you find it necessary to sort your photo collection. I would love to find the time to sort through my parents photo collection as they won’t be around forever to identify the people in the photos but for now I will deal with mine and then maybe one day not too far away I will tackle that task.
Good luck and happy sorting.
Today’s Declutter Item
This item belonged to my daughter. I often send her text messages or ambush her when she comes to visit to find out if I can delutter her clutter.
My Gratitude List
- Something that made me laugh ~ Listening to my children in fits of laughter while talking to each other on the internet. Liam was showing his sister some funny photos I had found of him when he was little.
- Something Awesome ~ Driving in the rain when you have just replaced your windscreen wipers.
- Something to be grateful for ~ Liam’s university semester is almost over and he can take a break and regroup for a while. It has been a hard slog trying to finish last years work (due to his accident) and this semester’s work all at once.
- Something that made me happy ~ Escaping the house this afternoon to have coffee with a friend after doing housework non-stop for the rest of the day.
- Something I am grateful I learned in my past ~ How to track down what appliance in the house is causing the master fuse to trip. This comes in handy when the power goes out to your refrigerator in the middle of the night.