The idea of gorgeous volumes, one for each major family event (or year), standing spine-to-spine on a shelf in the living room for all to enjoy is wonderful to imagine. Too bad reality gets in the way of those memory-curating fantasies.
Most people are months, if not years, behind where they think they should be when it comes to organizing pictures and mementos of good times with family and friends.
If you're behind, don't despair. We've put together a step-by-step guide for getting your memories organized.
We humans will always put off projects we think will be painful as long as the downside of avoiding the task isn't more painful. In the case of organizing photos, digital or analog, the downside is too vague to cause us any real pain.
By starting off with a small photo project, you get an early "win" that will motivate you to keep on keeping on through the more boring, but essential organizational tasks. In addition, simply going through the process of creating a photo project (like putting together an album or gallery wall) actually forces you to organize and classify photos you have accumulated.
Step Away from the "Inspiration"
While gazing at inspiring layouts and ideas in magazines and online can be fun, it can also be paralyzing. Social scientists who study how we make decisions have found that having too many options keeps people from choosing a path forward. In addition to what those social scientists have found, we have seen too many well-intentioned people become so intimidated that they give up before they even start.
Bottom line: As long as you are looking at what others have done for inspiration on how to create a "perfect" album, you aren't really making any progress.
Pick a Preferred Medium
Some people prefer to see their memories organized in photo books, others love actual photo albums or scrapbooks with physical prints and still others want digital albums that showcase their memories in real time on digital frames. How you choose to organize and display your memories doesn't matter. That you do it does.
It's much easier to make headway when you pick one medium to work with. As you gain experience with it, the time and effort it takes to create additional projects will diminish.
Establish a Habit
Organizing photos will require much less time and effort if you just take some simple steps every time you upload or print photos. Step one: Label what you are uploading or printing with the date and the name of the event the photos are related to. Step two: Delete any duplicate or unfortunate photos that aren't worth keeping around. Step three: Merge any photos you have just printed or uploaded into bigger organizational buckets as it makes sense. For example, you may have a folder for each year, with sub-folders for each major event, such as a birthday party.
Use Tools That Make the Project Easier
Sometimes in our quest to do things "right" we make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Look for tools that can help you simplify your photo projects in any way. For example, if you're trying to dig out from under an avalanche of photos, try using a service like the one offered by 1000Memories.com, which scans up to 600 photos for you and uploads them into a virtual album. If you just want to display photos physically, get a simple album with plastic sleeves so you don't have to think too hard about what goes where. If you store photos digitally, make the switch to photo books as you can skip the steps of printing photos and putting them into albums.
(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)