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Confessions of a Creative Memories Failure (Or: Photo Organizing for Dummies)

Many (MANY) years ago I went to my first Creative Memories party and learned a lot about photo preservation. Mostly I learned I was doing it all wrong. Up until that time I was pretty good about developing film (does anyone remember “film”?) I got duplicates and sent photos to the grandparents and put the rest in photo albums with the peel back film pages. I dated the back of the photos and wrote the names of individuals or places that were captured. Then I learned that those photo albums were probably causing my pictures to deteriorate. So I took them all out and put them in a shoe box and set to creating a beautiful album with fancy stickers and borders and journaling. These were going to be keepsakes! My children were going to rise up and call me blessed! (It’s good to have dreams.) It was then that I discovered I had no talent for such work. I also had no patience.

The years went by and the photos kept collecting in the shoeboxes, still in their paper sleeves with the negatives. At least I had the good sense to date the paper sleeves and keep them in chronological order - more or less.

Then my firstborn went to college and I wanted all those years back. So I got busy and started to re-create all those years in the following simple steps:

  1. I bought several acid-free photo albums that held three pictures to a page and had a few lines for journaling next to each photo sleeve.

  2. I collected all my photos in one place.

  3. I made a chronological list of major events (vacations, moves, weddings, graduations etc.) for which I had taken pictures.

  4. Using that list, I arranged the photos in chronological order. For this step I created note-card divider tabs and divided up the large group of photos by year. This served to break down the project into manageable chunks.

  5. Next, I culled the bad photos out. Usually you take photos as events warrant. Within each year grouping, I worked with one event at a time, removing any that didn’t “deserve” to take up valuable space in the album. (Closed eyes, blurry, or unflattering pics.)

  6. I then slipped these culled photos in the sleeves.

  7. After each year grouping was done, I grabbed a pencil and journaled a few words that identified the pictures and told the story. (June - Our first day at Yellowstone. OR April - Hunting Easter eggs at Grandma’s. etc.)

The goal of keeping photos is to pass down memories. The goal of putting them in albums is to make those memories readily available. It’s just that simple. It doesn’t have to be beautiful and creative, as long as it’s done (but good on you if you have that talent!)

One more thing before we walk away from photo organizing:

Larger photos:

How many of you have a stack of school photos or sports photos that aren’t going to fit in the 4x6 photo sleeves in your album? These are usually 8x10s or 5x7s, wallets etc. For these I have a large three-ring binder and a package of page protectors. Each child’s school photos slip in easily. One “event” per page. These are arranged in chronological order as well. Write the date/grade/age on the back, because one day you will not remember so easily. Trust me on this one. I also have large older family photos that I store this way. It doesn’t get any easier that this! What a joy to know you can easily put your hands on any photo that you are looking for.

Since tackling the backlog of photos that had accumulated, I now print photos a couple of times each year and put them right in the albums. The only difference is that I cull the digital photos before I print.

They say perfection is the enemy of done. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but having it done is always within reach. You can do this!

Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend

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