If you’re like most people, you’ve procrastinated far too long when it comes to organizing all those old memories scattered about in boxes and storage containers in various closets, the basement and attic. But you’ve finally done it – you’ve gathered them all up and are on a mission to organize them so they can be enjoyed by family, friends and the next generation. But now you’re overwhelmed and asking yourself, “Where do I begin?”
The first step is one you might not instinctively think to take. Consider the environment in which those old family photos have been stored for years, some of which might have been passed down from older generations and therefore stored for decades. Basements and attics can be moldy, and you might find a thick layer of dust on the storage boxes and containers.
Consider your safety and health and wear old clothes that will go straight to the laundry post-organization, and wear a pair of latex gloves. You don’t want to make yourself sick or congested with allergens while reliving so many great memories as you organize.
Best Way to Organize Old Family Photos
You’ve likely contemplated a number of different ways to organize such a large volume of photos – by person, by place, by event, more broadly by siblings and cousins, or grouping memories by each year. There is no “right” way to organize your family history, photo albums and boxes of photos, so consider the following to help you get started:
- Sort by people
- Sort by event
- Sort chronologically
Hopefully any old family memories in your possession from past generations were labeled to help you identify individuals. If not, categorize them the best you can based on consistency you see of faces, environments and possible decades recognized from décor, fashion and hairstyles.
As you unbox your memories, you’ll probably find that subcategories or additional breakdowns naturally happen – such as “family events,” “holidays,” or “pets.” It’s important to stay organized as you organize, and utilizing the “parking lot method” will help considerably. That means tackling one box at a time to minimize clutter, distraction and avoid becoming too overwhelmed. Have a stack of index cards handy to label your categories, and stack each photo under the appropriate category as you go. Once a box is empty, move onto the next, but not until each photo from the previous box has been assigned to a designated category.
Decide How to Store Your Memories Moving Forward
Storage options have come a long way since those memories were put away in cardboard boxes or manila envelopes. Today, we’re fortunate to have acid-free storage options that will help preserve your photos for longer. Consider purchasing acid-free photo storage sleeves for each category, then place multiple categories into acid-free, archival quality boxes.
However, it’s important to understand that any long-term storage option won’t preserve your memories forever. You still run the risk of them degrading over time. Learn more.
Digitize for Permanent Preservation
The modern-day way to preserve your memories forever is to digitize them. This is the only guaranteed way to ensure your treasured family memories will be successfully passed down from one generation to the next. Digitizing memories requires sourcing a company with expertise in this area, sending your originals in, and receiving cloud-based access to them after digitizing. This will allow you to view them on any device, share with family and friends anywhere, and continue to add to them for years to come.
One such company is iMemories, which is considered the most trusted in the industry due to the fact that they have never lost or damaged a single memory after 15 years of business. With their Apple and Android apps, you can organize your family memories just as you did with the originals, making it easy to find and share any moment with loved ones. You can even order your memories on DVD or USB thumb drive.
Regardless of the way to you choose to organize and store your photos, make sure you take the time to start the process soon. Photos degrade, so taking the time to unbox, organize and safely store is time well spent preserving your family photographs for future generations.