The following is an article submitted by reader Seana Turner as part of a series on organization. If you would like to submit an article for The Daily Darien, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Do you have boxes of disorganized photos all over your house? Are most of your photos from the last five years stuck in the recesses of your computer? You are not alone! We have busy lives, and that often means we can't find the time to organize our photos. The onset of the digital age has complicated the situation. Here are some ideas to help you enjoy those photos.
For the photos piled up in boxes
First, let go of the notion that you have to get all of your photos into chronological order. Second, try to find a space where you can set up a dedicated table to work (one you can leave your work on and not need to clear up every evening). Then, get containers to hold your sorted photos you can pick them up affordably at Walmart or a craft store. Finally, scrounge around and get all of your photos lumped near your table.
If you have lost the ability to sort by year, try using a different system. You could try going with eras, such as "Baby Pictures," "The Elementary Years" or "Early Married Life." Or, you could group your photos into themes, such as "Friends," "Vacations," "Homes" or "Grandparents." Give yourself time to do the sorting, setting a goal for each day. This stage may take a couple of weeks, and that is fine. While sorting, throw away any photos that are blurry or aren't flattering.
For photos on your computer
You need to do a similar sort of your digital images as you did for your prints. You can buy software to help your organize such as Memory Manager, or you can just create folders on your desktop. "Trash" the bad photos ... less is more.
You probably have a mix of printed photos and digital images. So, you need to make a decision:
Do you want to upload all of your printed photos into digital form? This can be expensive and time consuming, but it gives you the ability to put all of your photos into one place. It also gives you a "backup" of all of your treasured photos in case of a fire. However, the best photo is a printed photo, so it isn't necessary to upload photos from the past. You could just get photo albums (always acid free!), or just leave the photos from the past in the sorting boxes. Once you've finished sorting, you will be able to easily access them. (Make sure you find a designated place in your home for albums or photo boxes!)
If you decide to scan some of your photos into digital format, you have a couple of options. Many computer printers are also scanners, but they can be cumbersome and slow. If you have a lot of photos to scan, consider investing in a scanner that plugs directly into your computer. You can get one online for about $100. You can also take them to a photo store, or sometimes even a Costco, and pay to have your photos scanned.
Once you have your images scanned in, you can upload them to any one of a number of sites such as Shutterfly, Ophoto, or Kodak. All of these give you the option to either order prints (maybe you have discovered a favorite photo that you'd like to enlarge and frame!) or to make photo books. With photo books, you select the photos from your computer that you want to use, and then follow the step-by-step instructions. You can select from a variety of templates and also add captions. The quality of a photo in a book may not be as good as a print on photo paper, so you need to know your priorities.
Now that your old photos are sorted, you need to have a plan for new photos. I suggest uploading your photos after every major event (e.g. "Trip to Atlanta"), and then every couple of months for routine photos (e.g. "Winter 2011"). Then, you can display digital images on photo frames (many will hold multiple photos), or you can order books or prints. One nice idea is to make an album for each year (e.g. "Highlights of 2012"). All of these make great gifts.
Photos should be a source of joy and remembrance, not a source of grief. Remember that experiencing life is more important than documenting it.
Next week: The clash of the calendars.
Seana Turner, Professional Organizer
Freedom Through Organization
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