If you are like most people who breathe in and out, you have pictures. You have pictures of your family, your friends, your pets, your house, events, and vacations. You also have them EVERYWHERE. They are on your computer, on your phone, on those tiny little camera cards that are the size of quarter, on CD’s and in shoeboxes. They are in old albums, new albums, and in frames.
I understand - and it’s normal. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed, and you want to get them in order, start by gathering them all together in ONE place. A dining room is a great place, since it has a large surface.
Get some 4 x 6 index cards and a pen or permanent marker. Write decades at the top of each card. "1980s", "1990s", etc. Spread these cards horizontally along on the longest side of your table.
Now take a stack of photos or albums (yes, even loose slides) and place them in the corresponding decade. When you get to the CDs and flash drives, if they have labels, place them right next to those loose photos from the 90s. If they are not labeled, place them in a container or basket next to your computer for further investigation.
Once you have gotten your photos in their correct decade, take some shoeboxes and place each decade in a box. If it doesn’t fill the box, it’s alright. We just want to keep it separate for now. These boxes are great to store memorabilia along with the photos, by the way - so just add as much as you want! If you need two boxes per year, that is ok too. As you are going through those photos, if they are blurry, or if they are 20 pictures of the same sunset, it’s ok to throw them out (it’s ok!!!).
Once everything is in it’s box, pull the most recent box of printed photos out and begin there. Now we will fine-tune each decade into years and events, chronologically.
Get those index cards again and write each year in that decade at the top (i.e. 1991, 1992, etc.). Take your best guess and place each group of pictures in the best year that matches what is happening. Use context clues like location, hairstyle, and clothing to help you. Do this for each box.
Set up folders in your computer just like you did with the index cards, and remember to be consistent with your folder labels. Once you open those flash drives or look in your hard drive, you can start dragging those pictures into the right decade, then the right year.
Now that your photos have been sorted, decide if you want to scan your favorite pictures into a cloud based backup system, or if you want to just keep them where they are. You can share them a lot more easily if they are scanned and accessible to you quickly, but do what you are comfortable doing.
More about photo organizing can be found in our book, Chronological Order: The Fine Print for a Large Life!