If you are over the age of thirty, odds are that you have a stack of physical pictures somewhere in your home. These pictures may be on display – or you may have them stored in six giant storage bins that are taking up half the space in your garage. If you’re downsizing or decluttering your home, old photos can present a challenge. After all, photos can have enormous sentimental value – you might think that you couldn’t possible throw them away! These steps will help you make strategic decisions about how to preserve your physical pictures. Although it may take some time, sorting through your old photographs will be worth it in the end.
Clarify your goal.
You have decided you want to organize or sort through your photos. Great! Why have you made this decision? Do you want to reduce the amount of space the photos are taking up? Organize your memories for your children or grandchildren? Be able to quickly locate and grab that hilarious picture of the family from the Grand Canyon trip in 2003? Defining your reason for organizing will help guide you through the process and make decisions that are right for you.
Prepare to take your time.
If you have a ton of pictures, this process will not be a one-day project. If possible, establish a work station that can remain relatively undisturbed while you sort through the pictures. This will give you the freedom to sort deliberately through many years of memories.
Gather your photos.
Sounds simple. But photos have a way of stashing themselves around the house. They might be tucked into drawers, wallets, jewelry boxes, safes, or elsewhere. Start by tracking down your photos and bringing them to your work location. If you’re looking to save on space, consider removing photos from their albums, which can often be bulky. Experts recommend using dental floss if your album photos are glued down.
Organize by date.
Organizing your photos on a timeline can help you take stock of what pictures you have from different times in your life. This step is particularly useful if you are trying to organize your memories or if you want to easily access different times or events. If you are simply looking to digitize and reduce the space photos take up, consider skipping this step.
Dispose of the bad shots.
You likely have some photos that are insignificant or of poor quality tucked in with your precious memories and taking up valuable space. Do you really need to keep that photo of an unremarkable hotel room? And if you ever used disposable cameras, you’ve probably kept a few accidental shots of the ground. Start by scrapping the unimportant photos. Some of us also remember the “old days” when you could get two sets of prints for the price of one every time you developed photos. You definitely don’t need two copies of each!
Decide if you want to digitize.
Keeping photos digitally can be a great, low-space option. Digitizing pictures also ensures that the memories will last; digital copies are not at risk of mold, fading, or other physical damage. We recommend digitizing at least some of your photos, as future generations are much more likely to look at photos digitally than in a photo album.
Some companies (like Legacy Box or Scan Café) will digitize your photos for you, which can help you save time and produce high-quality scans. If you are in the Atlanta area, we recommend using Pixorium for an Atlanta-based local option – then you don’t have to worry about your precious pictures getting lost in the mail and can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your photos are safely stored.
If you have more questions about scanning or are considering doing it yourself, Pixorium has released this guide to help you out or you can consult one of their photo coaches. If you’re looking to go even further in depth, check out Pixorium’s thirty-minute webinar, “Unearth Your Family Photo Gems” to better understand the purpose, plan, and tools for sorting through your family’s tangible photos. As a special offer to Peace of Mind readers, the founder of Pixorium is offering a complimentary thirty-minute consultation (just email Jiffy Page at Jiffy.firstname.lastname@example.org with the offer code PoMT06 to redeem this offer).
In addition to the room you will save by digitizing old photos, you can actually still display them! If you are downsizing and find yourself with less wall space, you can use a digital picture frame (like these) to showcase your memories. Show the same amount of photos in just one frame!
Decide if you want to keep hard copies.
It can be hard to part with precious hard copies, even with your photos saved digitally. If you must save your hard copies, try to use them by displaying the photos or creating a scrapbook. If you must store hard copies, be sure to keep them in an acid-free container to preserve quality. We also recommend sorting by category (either by year, by child, by specific events, or other types of categories) that are neatly labeled.
Reorganizing and downsizing your photos can be a time-consuming endeavor, but it is worth it to preserve your precious memories without overwhelming your storage areas!