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I have been working with this one client for 2 years. She has a large apartment so we kept busy with various rooms and closets and avoided the dreaded basement storage area -- until recently.

We pulled everything out of storage. A lot was donated to charity or given to household help. What we didn't anticipate were the many, many plastic bins of photo prints that had been up on high shelves and out of sight/mind for at least 10 years. (Digital photography came into being about 15 years ago.)

I suggested the client deal with them now as her kids were in their early to mid-20s and it was a good time to give each child an album of his/her own memories. Also, this client will be downsizing her apartment in several years and organizing the photos was now or never.

We brought all the boxes upstairs to the command station - a spare bedroom. Because of the volume of photos, I suggested our goal should just be to categorize the photo prints by type/family member and put them in attractive labeled photo boxes. Another time, she could take the kids' boxes of photos and use sorters by category, or put them in various types of albums -- perhaps by theme. And even later, when she was in the rocking chair on the front porch, she could add sorters to the rest of the boxes. (I was very anti-traditional photo albums in this case, given the large number of photos. It was way too time-consuming and perhaps a bit OCD, It would be a huge accomplishment just to get them in boxes by type.)

Four days later, working 5-6 hours a day, we got it all done. This is how:

  • We tossed all photo development envelopes, envelope stuffers and negatives.

  • We separated by husband, wife, husband with wife, each child alone, children together, travel and all other.

  • Within a category, we tried to keep likes with likes -- infancy, toddler years, pre/teen years, birthday parties, graduations, an outing, a family vacation.

  • We eliminated all duplicates.

  • If there were several versions of a photo, we kept the best and tossed the rest.

  • We tossed lots of Christmas photos from friends.

This same system could apply to digital photos. Gather them all onto one device, sort, purge, label and put on a cloud for safekeeping should you ever have a fire or robbery. If you don't have a lot of photo prints, you could scan them and add them to your digital collection.


  • You can't enjoy your photos if you can't access them easily. Take the time to organize them and you will have years of memories at your fingertips.

  • Don't strive for perfection. Just getting them into boxes by type can be a major goal accomlished.

  • Break up the project and spread it out over several days (not weeks or months but days -- or you will never finish).

  • Find a space in your apartment/house where you can spread out and not be in anyone's way.

  • Get help! If you don't have the time or patience, share the duties with someone who enjoys this kind of project.

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