Welcome to summer, my friends! During the summer months, we’re shifting gears in the Organize & Refine Your Home Challenge. We’ll be moving away from decluttering and organizing spaces, and instead, turning our attention to specific projects, starting this month with print photo organization. We’ll begin this week by completing our print photo organization prep work and planning.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
I’ll be honest…the reason print photo organization made it into this year’s Challenge is because my own print photo collection is a hot mess! My digital photo collection has always been well-organized, but those print photos…not so much. I’m using this challenge to force myself to make this a priority in my own life. I’m betting that some (most!) of you are in the same boat. But since I’m actually a certified photo organizer whose spent the past few years helping clients organize their photo collections, I really have no excuse (other than a genuine lack of time).
So we will be walking this journey together my friends! Over the next 4 weeks, I’ll lead us through a process for reigning in the print photo chaos. So where do we begin?
ESTABLISH YOUR PROJECT GOALS
Everyone’s print photo collection will look different and present it’s own challenges. As far as my personal collection goes, here’s the state-of-the-state:
I’ve got several boxes full of photos organized in my guest room closet:
The good news is they’re organized by theme and labeled, but I haven’t been following photo storage best practices when it comes to how I’m storing these photos. It’s a “no no” to keep photos in the original paper envelopes and in containers that aren’t made of photo-safe materials, so this has to change.
A few years back, I started to tackle this project when I invested in a few of these photo containers and designated each one for storing photos of a specific kiddo.
For each child’s box, I planned to store photos from their birthdays, school days, sporting events,and special occasions (e.g., first communion and graduation).
I had the best of intentions, but alas, I never finished the project.
And this is the part where I’m burying my head in shame…here’s how I’ve been storing random photos that I’ve gathered throughout the house that are in the queue to be organized (audible gasp):
Moving on down the list of other areas of my print photo life that need to be addressed in this project…there’s the matter of those photos that are stored in old magnetic albums and other albums that aren’t considered photo-safe. During a quick search, I unearthed 6 of these, but I’m certain that there are more lurking in the basement storage room (not the ideal place to store photos).
I also have a collection of 12 traditional scrapbooks that are in need of being digitized.
Like many of the clients I’ve worked with in the past, I’ve also been storing a collection of older framed photos. I need to address what to do with the framed photo collection as part of the scope of my printed photo organization process.
So there you have it! The overarching goals for my print photo organization project are:
- To create a system that allows me to easily retrieve any photo I search for
- To store my collection using archival-quality storage containers in order to protect photos
- Create a back up of my most valuable photos
The specific action steps that I’m going to achieve these goals include:
- Remove photos from all existing photo albums and photo envelopes
- Remove photos from frames
- Consolidate all print photos into archival, photo-safe storage boxes, sorted by theme (using storage containers I already own)
- Scan/digitize photos I earmark as favorites or “A Photos”
- Create an updated wall gallery in my upstairs hallway
- Digitize traditional scrapbooks
Luckily, I already have several photo-safe storage containers on hand for the project. In addition to the plastic containers I’ve earmarked for each of my kids, I also invested in a Legacy Box. These awesome photo storage boxes are sold exclusively by APPO Photo Organizers, and they are the gold standard for storage containers that are both photo safe and super attractive. This empty Legacy Box has been stored in my guest room for several years, just waiting for me to take action. Time to dust it off!
Of course, with any project such as this, it’s important to set a deadline for completion. If you’re like me (a person in their 40’s whose photos were all in print prior to 2003), then it’s unrealistic to think you’ll accomplish this project in the span of 4 weeks. Instead, I’m setting my goal for completion to be the end of the summer.
Your completion date goal will depend of course, on the size of your collection, and the amount of time you can set aside each week to devote to the project.
DESIGNATE A WORK SPACE
The first thing you’ll need to do as part of your print photo organization prep work is to designate a space in your home where you can work on your photos on an ongoing basis where they won’t be disturbed. Don’t choose an area that you’ll have to clear after each work session (such as a kitchen table). Instead, opt for seldom-used areas, such as a dining room table or guest room bed.
I’ll be using my guest room, since it’s the least-used room in our home, AND the majority of my collection is already stored in this room.
Look, I’ve already gathered some sorting containers together in preparation for next week’s assignment!
SEARCH, GATHER, & TAKE INVENTORY
If you’re like most people, your print photos are scattered in many places throughout your home. You may even have some of your photos stored away off site in a relative’s home or a storage unit. Now that you’ve selected a work space, your next order of business is to hunt for photos throughout your home (loose, in old frames, scrapbooks and photo albums) and gather them into your work space in order to assess the scope of your collection.
If you find it difficult to move part of your collection to your work space (e.g., you have a large number of heavy scrapbooks stored in your closet), take a photo of these items and include it in your work space so that you don’t forget about them.
Next, you’ll want to create a simple inventory of all that’s included in your photo collection, so that you have a good handle on the scope of your project. Don’t attempt to count every printed photo. There are a few rules of thumb that you can use to achieve a good estimate:
- One inch of printed photos stacked is about 100 photos
- If you have bins or boxes, you can weigh them. 1000 photos are approximately 7-10 lbs.
Don’t forget to include framed photos, and photos contained within photo albums.
CREATE A PHOTO ORGANIZING TOOL KIT
Before you start working with your photos, it’s helpful to have some basic tools on hand. In order to show you some common tools I used as a photo organizer, I pulled out the key contents of my photo organizing tool kit, which includes:
- Cotton gloves (to protect photos from skin oils)
- Post-It notes/Sharpie (for labeling your sorting categories)
- Index cards (for dividing categories in temporary storage containers)
- Photo-safe pencils and pens (for writing notes on the back of photos)
- Photo cleaning cloth (to remove dust and fingerprints from photos)
- Dental floss/Un-Du (for removing stubborn photos from peel and stick albums)
You’ll also need to gather several sorting containers as part of your photo organizing tool kit. Use what you have on hand…shoe boxes work great for this purpose! I’ll be using some of the existing photo boxes in my closet after I empty the photos out to sort them.
PRINT PHOTO ORGANIZATION PREP WORK ASSIGNMENT:
- Establish specific goals for your print photo organization project
- Designate a work space
- Gather all print photos throughout your home and bring them to the work space
- Take an inventory of your collection
- Create a photo organizing tool kit
- Gather sorting containers
Also, be sure to check out a few other posts that you may find helpful as you work through the print photo organization challenge this month:
I’d love for you to share a photo or your designated work space and/or the current state of your print photo collection on Instagram (use the hashtag #OrganizeandRefineChallenge and don’t forget to tag me) and/or share it in the Refined Rooms Facebook community.
Also, leave a comment below letting me know what your specific goals are for organizing your print photo collection.
This post is part of the Organize and Refine Your Home Challenge