Your photos are an IMPORTANT piece of this legacy. Photos allow future generations to literally SEE what life was like in the past, the clothes, the cars, the households their elders lived in. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin’,” and nowadays at an unbelievably fast rate. Having an organized photo collection helps document your story to show future generations what life was like in the “olden days.”
But where to start? Many of my clients feel completely overwhelmed when they reach out to me for help. Photos are strewn throughout their households, in closets, drawers and boxes. Many of them have inherited photos from loved ones and they’re at a loss as to how to begin the task. There are a few simple steps you can take to organize and ultimately DOWNSIZE your photo collection.
- Go through your home and pull out your photos from all their many hiding spots. Check under beds, in drawers, closets, your basement, wherever you think your photos may be hiding. Collect all the photos you can find and put them in one location of your home. With my clients, it’s often the dining room. This will give you a great idea of the size of your collection and the task at hand.
- Most importantly, don’t let the size of your collection overwhelm you. Tackle the organization project one box or bin at a time for an hour at a time. You might find that looking through your photos and reminiscing can be emotionally draining.
- Find a large table in which to work. When sorting through your boxes, put photos into piles according to categories. For example, childhood, school days, birthdays, weddings, children, pets, cousins, etc.
- At the end of each working day, keep the piles intact by placing them into gallon-size Ziploc bags.
- Once you have categorized all the photos in your collection, take each category one at a time, look through them carefully and throw away any duplicates, any photos of people you can’t remember, blurry photos that have no meaning, excessive scenery, etc.
- Once this pruning step is complete for ALL categories, you can then arrange your neatly categorized piles into an archival-quality photo storage box. These often have separate sections inside that you can label according to category. For example, the section might be titled “Weddings” and each individual tab can then be labeled with the names of those people getting married.
And voila! Your project is complete! Depending on the size of your collection, you may whittle your collection down to just ONE storage box. One of my clients ended her project with three boxes that each held 2,400 photos. However, she is now able to open the boxes and clearly see photos from her travels, from family reunions, school reunions, etc. And when her nieces and nephews come to visit, she is able to sit with them and share her life’s adventures with them in a meaningful way.
*My grandmother passed away suddenly in May 2014 and like the cobbler with no shoes for her family, I never found the time to document her stories. I had strong intentions to have her select 20 of her favorite photos, document her stories about each of those photos and create a book of her memories. Alas, I lost my chance. I have to rely on the memories of the stories she told me, and to be honest, I don’t have a very robust memory. Born in 1923, she lived a fascinating life and I want my two children to know the substantive woman who was their great-grandmother. So if this article does nothing else, I hope it inspires you to start documenting your legacy both for your current family and future generations. Your STORY matters.