My New Photo Organization System

As I’ve written about here and here, I’m on a kick to organize my scrapbook area. I’ve made a lot of progress in organizing scrapbook supplies, but to say I was dreading the photo organization part is a drastic understatement. I finally buckled down and got it started last night…and I couldn’t stop! I was up until 1am even though I had to get up at 6. I was in such a groove, man. Wow, watch out for Ms. Organizer Geek over here!

Here is the old way I organized photos and memorabilia:

Photo Storage - BEFORE

Here is the new way I organize photos and memorabilia:

Photo Organization - AFTER #1

Photo Organization - AFTER #2

The old way: When I first started scrapbooking – like many of you – my photo “organization” was a hodge podge. Yes, I did have some that were nicely chronological in magnetic albums and in mismatched photo boxes. I had some in 2-up or 3-up photo albums. And the rest were still in photo envelopes and stored in various places around the house – the kitchen junk drawer, my nightstand, the office, etc. When I went to my first crop, my friend told me how she organized her photos and it sounded good, so I adopted it. This is it: Buy a bunch of manila envelopes from Walmart; they are cheap and come in various sizes (6×9″, 9×12″ and 10×13″). File photos by event in an envelope and use the larger size if you have memorabilia to go with it. In the upper right corner, write the Event and the Date. Write any journaling notes or page idea notes on the front of the envelope. Then when it’s time to scrap, just grab the envelope and you’re good to go. In addition to photos, I keep everything else too – ticket stubs, flyers, invitations, art, portraits, letters. These are things that don’t fit nicely into your average photo box or album. That’s why her system sounded great to me, and it worked very well for most of the 6 years I’ve been scrapping. But it’s time for a change because…there are flaws in the system. The 2 main problems I’ve discovered are storage area and convenience factor. By storage, I mean that I’m running out of room to store things this way. I have 6 of these white plastic bins full of photos and the leg area under my desk is full with them. I have nowhere to expand with this system and looking ahead, I can see it’s not something I can do forever. The envelopes would file easily in a standard filing cabinet, but I don’t have room to put one anywhere. (Side note: If I would scrap more and blog less, more of these photos would be in albums, but that’s not the point!). Because I ran out of room about a year ago, I’ve virtually stopped filing new photos. I wanted to file older photos too, but there was nowhere to put them. The other factor was convenience, i.e. how difficult was it to keep up this system? I felt like I was constantly buying envelopes and spending lots of time sorting things by event. I rarely ‘pre-flighted’ the envelopes for upcoming events so as time went by, ticket stubs and photos kept accumulating in piles on my desk. In other words, it’s not an easy thing to keep up day by day; it’s a project every time to sit down and do it. Well, who has time for that?!?! In the meantime, Creative Memories came out with the Power Sort Box and it was love at first sight. I like how you can store so many photos in one place, yet pull out smaller portions of the box at a time. I know my photos will be archivally safe in PS Boxes, whereas I was always doubtful of the manila envelopes (the box doesn’t indicate if they’re archival safe or not). So, the only hold up to changing my photo organizing system (other than my dread) was purchasing some PS Boxes…and them babies ain’t cheap! They usually go for $35 each but – patience IS a virtue – I just found 2 of them on CraigsList for $28 each. Consider it my Mothers Day present, yeah? Last night after all were in bed, I plopped down in front of Desparate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters, and sorted photos into my new Power Sort Box. Every time I finished a stack, I went back into my scrap room for more. It was so satisfying to get my photos in order! I worked on 2000 through 2006 and set aside any other random ones that turned up. I used the label maker to label the 12 new dividers with ‘Jan 2007’, ‘Feb 2007′, etc. so I will be inspired to sort this year’s photos as I go along through the rest of the year. For all the other years, I used the small index cards (vertically) and labeled them the same way for each year. It’s so easy to find things at a glance now and that’s why I want to keep going. There have been so many projects that have flashed in my mind over the years and then the next thought has been, “But I don’t know where those photos are”. Well, now I will. I will eventually re-sort all those photos in the manila envelopes into the PS Boxes. Now, I have just one envelope per month which is easier to maintain. I can just keep the current one handy and not feel so pressured to label them event by event. If I have journaling notes, I’ll just jot ’em down on scrap paper and put them in the monthly envelope also. This is actually fun (am I sick in the head?) and I’ll be working on it again tonight – can’t wait :) There are still other big photo projects to do: getting all my photos on computer, organizing them into files, and backing them up; and what to do with all those index sheets, CDs and APS cartridges? Oy, a worry for another day.

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