Scattered Memories

I was never one to keep baby books up to date. I just didn’t make journaling our daughters’ every move a priority at the same time I was changing diapers.

But, about a dozen years ago, I decided I’d start scrapbooking, to capture their every move, favorite outfit, soccer game, dance recital, and holiday in a series of photo albums.

The first step though, was to organize our photos… an exercise that literally took me an entire summer.

Long before digital photography was so prevalent, I had envelopes of printed photographs scattered all around the house.  Who remembers actually having to mail rolls of film to be developed? I’m showing my age here, but my printer of choice was Mystic Color Labs – which was one of the fastest. But “fast” is relative. I still had to wait a week or more before finding out if the perfect photo was on that roll of 36.

Of course, I always had doubles, because they only cost a few pennies more. Theoretically, this allowed me to keep one copy and give the duplicate away. Well it didn’t take long before I had a multiple drawers and closet shelves scattered around the house, stuffed with our photo memories.  

When I worked on my younger daughter’s albums, about half of the photos I had were digital. Organizing our digital photos required additional steps – but I only had one place to go to find them – my computer.

If you can relate to this story, you’re not alone. The most important step is to make the decision that it’s worth investing time in organizing your family’s photo memories. Once you do that, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Set a goal for yourself. Is there an upcoming event, like a graduation, a reunion, or a wedding, where you would like to present your albums? Have you promised yourself that this will be the year when you will organize all those family memories scattered around the house? Having a clear goal will keep you motivated.
  • Decide on the organizational system that best helps you achieve your goal. Decide if you want to organize your photos chronologically, by family member, or by special event. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Choose a system that meets your needs.
  • Keep the long term in mind. Once you have successfully organized your photos, you will need to decide the best way to store them for safekeeping. Again this is a very personal choice. You could create scrapbooks like I did, or file them away on those same closet shelves in a well ordered fashion.

My goal was to complete albums for both of my daughters for their high school graduation. I am happy to report I met my goal. The effort was well worth it when I “catch” them viewing their albums when they have some downtime.

But even if you don’t decide to create albums from your organized photo memories – having them all in one place allows you and your family to enjoy them, more easily, for many years to come.

Ta-Da Tip of the Month

Even though it was many years ago when I invested a big chunk of time in organizing our family photos, I remember very clearly how I approached this major project. Here are 4 simple steps that will help you break down this sometimes-overwhelming task.

  1. Identify some space you can dedicate to this project for a period of time, preferably an area you walk by a couple times a day. This will encourage you to spend time – even a few minutes a day – toward achieving your goal.
  2. Gather all of your printed photos and place them near the space you plan to use. For your digital photos, identify where they reside on your computer. If they don’t reside on your computer yet – download them from those little SD cards that you use in your camera. SD cards are not a safe or dependable place to store your photos!
  3. Sort photos by date and give yourself permission to toss any photo that is blurry, of poor quality, is a dead ringer for another photo, or is not “scrapbook worthy.” The same is true for your digital photos – the delete key will become your best friend.
  4. Consider long-term storage options. Archival quality boxes are a good choice once you have narrowed your photos down to the “keepers.”

Take control of your scattered memories. You will be proud of your accomplishment. You will have eliminated SO much clutter. And – the best — your family will thank you some day, especially when you “catch” them looking at pictures. Ta Da!

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