Sorting your family photos can seem like a really daunting task, especially when confronted with boxes upon boxes of photos. I mean, where do you start, right?
Before I start a big project like this I make sure I have all the tools I'm going to need. If you have to continuously stop, go find something and then restart the sorting session, you're less likely to get much of anything done. So what exactly are you going to need?
My sorting toolkit consists of the following:
1. garbage bags
2. rubbermaid totes / bankers boxes
4. photo safe pen
5. sticky notes
6. sorting criteria
7. clipboard, pen
8. ziploc bags
No one has time to complete a large project like this in one sitting, so I have broken it down into more manageable pieces. I would usually set myself a timer for this first sort to ensure that I don't go down the rabbit hole of reminiscing over each photo and get lost in time. For this first sort all you will need from the kit is the garbage bag, and tote. You will only be sorting the photos into keep and toss based on the criteria you have prepared. Your criteria may look something like this, but make yours to fit your needs.
Toss the following photos:
1. Blurry: Unless it has supreme sentimental value, there is no need to keep these
2. Doubles / triplicates
3. Poor quality with a finger in the photo or something similar
4. Landscapes: unless they evoke a specific and sentimental memory you're not likely to look at the photos ever again from the trip you took back in 1982. Images of people will likely have much more meaning to you.
5. If you don't have a clue who the people in the picture are nor does anyone else in the family.
Now get comfortable and complete the keep and toss sort. Don't get stuck in the notion that getting rid of a photo of someone is akin to getting rid of the person. The first time I sorted my own photo collection, I had difficulty tossing the hundreds of extra school pictures I had of my daughter. It seemed wrong to throw away anything related to her, like it was bad karma or something. I finally went and asked for her opinion on the matter. She laughed at me. That's just stupid mom was the answer I received. I realized it was a non rational fear and threw them all out except for one copy of each. Now, I take no issue with tossing images of any type.
The second sort is more involved and will take more time, with a greater risk of getting drawn into the memories. Try to keep on task as much as possible. Once your project is completed you will have more time to appreciate your photos and their memories.
This time you will be sorting your remaining photos into broad categories. You will want to decide before you start this sort, what types of categories you will use. People, years, events, some other theme.
You'll need to get your containers ready (or just make piles). You will use the sticky notes to write down the categories as you come across them. If you come across photos that you need to write something on the back of them, use the photo safe pen. Other pens and some pencils will push through to the other side of the photo causing damage.
As you work through this sort, you may come across categories that have dozens of photos of the same event. Challenge yourself with those large categories and save only the best 5 of each event. Your photos should hold meaning and 25 pictures from your friend's cousin's wedding probably isn't necessary for the memories.
If your time runs out before this sort is complete, use the ziplocs to keep the photos sorted until your next session.
Certified Photo Manager and Professional Organizer from Saskatoon, SK., mother of one, lover of organization and animals.