The Right Way To Organize Photos

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What is the right way to organize photos?


I know many people who move through life with ease get stuck on what to do with their family photos. It’s like there is a well-believed myth that there is a “right” way to organize photos and if you didn’t learn it, or instinctively know it, you’re somehow a lesser human.

Your mom, sister, best friend, mother-in-law tried to teach you, tell you, show you the right way to do it but you could just never get it right.

You hired someone to organize your photos and she told you how you “should” do it but alas you could never keep up with the system.

It all feels like a huge mess that you’ll just never get the gist of.


For the record: I’m a life-long organizer, a Certified Photo Organizer, and Queen of the bossy pants. Let me set you straight…ahem….THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY!!!

And anyone who tells you how you “should” do it is full of malarkey and you have my permission to say so.

Here’s the truth. There are many, many ways you could organize your photos. Some of the ways are easier, some more complicated but none of them is the way you SHOULD do it. If it doesn’t work with your photos, your life, your circumstance, the way you think, or the way you live it will NEVER work for you. It just won’t. Accept that and move on to what does work for you.

When I tell you how to organize your photos what I’m giving you is a framework, based on what we know now, about the best way to sort and protect your photos. These are industry norms. They work for most people and their photo organizing needs. A consistent system, a central location, and a reliable/flexible platform are really the basis of all photo organizing.

Does that mean it will work for you? No. I’d say it’s a good place to start.


All that being said, don’t be afraid to listen to advice. My goal main goal is to protect your photos for generations. I will always tell my clients to digitize their photos and store them in a cloud service. There are a lot of people who do not want to do that. They want to touch their photos, hold their photo albums, and think the cloud is a data mining conspiracy theory. Who is right?

All good organization starts with your organizing needs and incorporates your individual circumstances. Never be afraid to say what won’t work for you. There is no right way but there are better/easier ways. In the end, the right organizing system is the one you feel most comfortable with and only you can know that.


5 Tips For Organizing Digital Photos

I’ve always organized photos. Well, I’ve always organized everything but photos are my favorite. I love the idea that each photo tells a little story. A moment frozen in time. A small window into another’s life or even your own from another perspective. It’s art and life and memories all rolled into one. When it comes to organizing digital photos we have the capability of recording every moment not just the occasional.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Can you believe it? Only ten years…and boy has the world changed. Not only are we all technically connected at all times…we take more photos in a year that had been taken in the 100 previous years.

It’s no wonder so many of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of digital photos in our lives. We are inundated. Here are a quick five things you can do today to help slow the flood of digital pictures into your life.

1.DELETE: Go to your photo library on your phone and delete all the “bad” photos. What I mean is fuzzy, weird, why did I take that photo on your phone. Also, unless you love the original photo, delete the originals you cropped, filtered, or otherwise improved. There’s no reason to keep a badly lit, poorly framed original when you’ve already improved it for publishing on social media.

  1. DUPLICATES: Run photo duplicate removal software through your photo library. Duplicates are a huge pain and it’s super fun to get rid of them. I LOVE easy duplicate finder. It works for either mac or pcs…which is handy if you have both. AND it is really easy to use.
  2. ORGANIZE: Now it gets personal. How do you want to access your photos? To make it easy..I recommend using a yearly system. Then sorted by themes/events (2017: ski trips). The most important thing is to go from the largest theme to the smallest.
  3. TAG: This part is so important, maybe the most important. You MUST tag your photos. If you want to do anything with your photos (gifts, albums, photo montage, sharing) you must be able to search easily. If you just dump all your photos into a 2017 folder, you will be creating a lot of work for your future self. Just slow down take a minute and tag the dang things. I recommend tagging the heck out of them (people, places, event, year). You want to be able to search for as much as possible. It makes life much easier later.
  4. BACK UP: You must have a backup plan. I say this a lot. It’s one of my foundational beliefs about life, not just photos. So, what’s your plan b? Computers crash, photos get deleted, natural disasters happen…what’s your plan for your irreplaceable photos? You have a lot of options depending on: how much you want to spend, how much time you want to spend, how you share your photos, and how comfortable you are with technology. I use Forever because it’s easy, safe, and easy to share. It is a cloud service and there was a fee involved. I have clients who prefer to use an external hard drive, I recommend picture keeper. And others just use a “free” cloud service.

It really is up to you and what you feel comfortable with.

One thing I will say about those “free” cloud services like Dropbox, google photo or Amazon’s cloud service…read your terms of service (TOS). They change often and your “free” use of a 3rd party service may mean you’ve signed away your digital copyright.

That may not mean anything to you now but it should. I’ll cover more on digital data mining and digital copyright in a future post. It’s an important topic and getting more important as we upload our lives into the cloud.

As you can see, organizing your digital photos is a little different than organizing print photos. Technology has made taking photos easier than ever. I think that’s a wonderful thing. However, it does mean that we need to be a little more vigilant about organizing before our once in a lifetime photos get lost in bad selfies, pocket photos, and pictures we forgot why we took.

The Hodgepodge Girl: Five Tips For Overcoming Photo Organizing Stress


Let’s talk about the emotional side of photo organizing. I know…sounds scary but I’ve got some ideas to help avoid the feelings of dread and resentment that many of you have mentioned as your top feelings associated with organizing your family’s photos.


First, I want to make clear that organizing your photos is NOT like organizing your spice drawer.

I’ve never met anyone brought to tears by an old can of baking soda but a photo of you and grandma in her kitchen with flour on your cheeks…waterworks. Wait…I’m not the only one…right?

Photos are packed with emotion. That’s the point. That’s what makes them wonderful. I would argue that organizing your family photos is good for your mental health. That sorting through those emotions and memories is as liberating as years of therapy. Keep in mind I’m not a psychologist…But I have seen people experience profound joy by rediscovering forgotten memories and self-acceptance by embracing the goofy little child they once were…

When I talk to people about organizing their photos the most common emotion I run across are a combination of obligation and resentment. We feel obligated to do something with these slips of memories and deeply resentful that the task has landed on our plate. Why us? Why not cousin Emily? Because she’s a flake who doesn’t deserve the family photos…she can’t even…

Sound familiar? I’ve heard it. Families are complicated. We all have black sheep, flakes, nincompoops, and knuckleheads.


Here are five tips to help you embrace the experience of organizing your photos and also create an atmosphere of self-care:


  1. The set-up is everything.
    • Block out 4 hours of personal time. Be unavailable to everyone. This is your time.
    • Gather all the albums, shoeboxes, and random envelopes that you want to organize.
    • Get a BIG glass of water, treats, and a box of tissues.
    • Make sure you have acid-free boxes and photo albums for your organized photos.
  2. You are going to make a mess.
    • The biggest mistake that I see people make when they try to organize photos is they try to keep everything tidy through the whole process. That’s very hard. Allow yourself to make a huge mess. It’s easier and way more fun.
  3. You don’t have to save everything.
    • If you don’t like a photo of yourself…ditch it.
    • If you don’t know who is in a photo…ditch it.
    • If the photo is damaged, unflattering, or a subject you could care less about…ditch it. If you think someone else in the family would appreciate the picture…send it to them in a card “thought you’d like this!”  Boom…you’re a hero and the dang thing is OUT of your life.
  4. There is NO right way to organize photos.
    • A lot of people get stuck at this part. They want to do it “right” but don’t know what that means…so they get overwhelmed and don’t do anything.
    • How you organize your photos is your business. You can organize them by color if that makes you happy. You can organize them by emotion. You can organize them by location. You can alphabetize them if you’d like. They just need to make sense to you.
    • I like to organize by year and then season. I know boring.  It’s just easier for me. If you organize your photos by color will you send me a picture…cuz that sounds awesome!
  5. Keep them safe.
    • Now that you’ve sorted, tossed, and reviewed your photos…you know how special they are. Please make a plan to keep them safe.
    • My top tip…always…is to get them digitized. You can do it yourself if you have a scanner and a lot of patience/time or you can have them done professionally. I recommend having them done professionally. It’s relatively inexpensive and a HUGE time saver.
    • Once they are digitized back them up on your cloud or use a service like Forever. Avoid using photo printing services like shutter fly or snap fish as your back up. One, you lose your digital copyrights to the photos and two you cannot be sure how long they will be around.

Organizing your photos is an emotional process. I know.


When I organized my own family’s photos I had multiple “good” cries. It’s part of the process and it’s healing. Rather than run from the emotion, embrace it. The fact that you care is a great sign. It means the family picked the right person to be responsible; you were the hero they were waiting for…

#1 Thing You Can Do To Organize Your Photos

This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Read more about this in our disclosure policy.


“What is the ONE thing I can do to organize my photos?”

I get it. You’re busy. You know it’s important to take care of your photos but sheesh…can a person get a break?

My top, top, top photo organizing advice…or really when it comes to organizing anything…is to get everything in ONE  spot. You cannot know what you have if you don’t know where it all is.

If you have your photos all in one place..voila! You’re on your way to getting organized. But I’m guessing that you have a few gems hidden away. Get sleuthing!


Concentrating all your pictures into one spot is the absolute must first step. If you do nothing else, just get all your photos together. Sounds easy…right???

I’ll make it even easier: Follow these two steps…or three if you’re a real go-getter.

First, pick a place to keep your photos (that is not your phone or a memory card).  It can be the photo service that came with your computer operating system. It can be a free service like Google Photos, an add-on service like Amazon Prime Photo, or a paid cloud service like Forever. I won’t go into all the reasons today why one is vastly better than the others but I will say that I use Forever and LOVE it.

Now round-up all your photos. Places they may be hiding: your phone, your camera, your email, your Facebook, cloud, pictures, photo, random memory cards. And those are JUST the digital photos. If you want to organize ALL your photos you’ll need to track down all of those random print photos as well.

Last, if you are feeling really motivated and tracked down all of your print photos…the next step would be to get them digitized. Hopefully, you have someone locally that can do the work for you. If not there are several services I’ve used in the past that are trustworthy and do a fantastic job. I’ll go over them in a future post.

That’s it. That’s your best, first step. Just get everything in one place. It sounds so simple but it is the foundation for any sort of organizing you’ll want to do throughout this year and beyond.


I’m excited to help you on your journey to get organized. Please do not feel overwhelmed. It’s just following a series of small steps. As we move through the year, you will praise the heavens again and again that you made this first step to finally get your photos organized.

5 Best Organizing Products For Your Photos

*This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Read more about this in our disclosure policy.


It’s crunch time. Not only are a few of the major holidays right around the corner we are fast approaching the end of the year. That’s right kids!! It’s time for New Year’s Resolutions!!! Here is a list of the 5 best products for organizing your photos.


Courtesy of Statistic Brain

Honestly, I find the resolutions on this list kinda wonderful. I want all these things (except the quit smoking…I want my husband to quit smoking cigars but I don’t think you can make resolutions for others…can you?) It’s a great list! All of them totally achievable with a little bit of work and a lot of support.


Today’s post is going to center on the #2 goal “get organized” but hopefully it will help you to spend less (when you know what you have you don’t need more), learn something exciting, help others, spend more time with family, and (my favorite) enjoy life to the fullest.

To access more information on each item, click the image to be redirected.

  1.  Acid-Free Photo Storage Boxes

These are THE only way to store print photos that you are not using regularly. They protect your print photos from UV damage, bending, and are easy to store. Each box holds 1,100 4×6 photographs. That’s a lot of storage.

2.Acid-Free Photo Albums

These are for your very best/frequently viewed photos. The photos that deserve to be on the coffee table. These albums are beautiful and should be for your A-level photos. Switching to acid-free albums is a must to save and protect your family print photographs.

3.16GB Picture Keeper

This is a fantastic way to back up and protect your digital photos without committing to a cloud service. Works with both PC and Macs and could not be simpler to use. My only “extra” tip here would be to store this in your waterproof/fireproof safe. That way your images are triple protected from loss.

4.Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

This little scanner is amazing. It runs on a battery which makes it easy to use anywhere. The resolution of the pictures scanned is as good as my super fancy scanner. This is perfect for when you come across a print photo that you want to save and share. I’d be lost without mine.

5.10.4 Inch Wi-Fi Cloud Digital Photo Frame with Email

This is not your everyday digital photo frame. Not only does it show your digital photos in high-resolution, you, your friends, and family can email photos directly to the frame itself. You can also sync your iPhone directly to the device and skip your computer entirely.

These five items are my absolute must for photo organization. They each provide a layer of safety and preservation for your photos while also being easy to use. I am confident that with these few items you can completely reorganize and protect your family photos.


3 Tips For Organizing Neat and Tidy Photo Albums

Don’t hate me…but I am the girl who got a pony for Christmas.


She was…and I’m not joking here…under my tree. I have the photo evidence: me, my dog, and the winter wonderland that was that Christmas to prove it.

I’m hoping that this holiday season you and your family have spectacular, wonderful, magical memories that you will cherish forever. At the very least, I hope you have super fun photos that you can use to extort family members for years. It’s often a season of odd choices…fashion-wise.

Today, I want to help you wrangle the plethora of holiday photos you’ll take in neat and tidy order and give you a few tips on what to do with the photos you already have.

Tip #1

Go through your digital photos while they are still on your phone and delete, delete, delete. You will save yourself a lot of time if you just take a minute to delete your photos before they get to the cloud and it becomes a huge chore of how to delete this gosh darn thing?! Been there, done that.

Tip #2

Make a folder on your computer (Holiday 2016) and upload your photos off your phone regularly. If you have kids, I would say daily. For the rest of us make a point of doing it at least twice this month.

Tip #3

Use a service like shutterfly to make physical photo albums of your holiday photos. They are not expensive, they make fantastic gifts, and they are much easier to store than traditional photo albums. This is an especially great tip if you have little ones and grandparents who don’t get to see them during the holidays. It’s a fantastic way to share your joy.

I hope these tips were helpful for how to set up a simple system for keeping your holiday photos neat and tidy. I cannot give a strong enough recommendation to preserving and sharing your holiday photos. If not for yourself, then for your family.

Holiday memories shared bring more joy than even the best present.

If you have a moment, please share a treasured holiday memory or gift that really touched your heart.


Disconnecting to Connect

I’ve just come back from a fantastic vacation.

I embraced the idea of disconnecting to connect.

feel rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to my true self. It was all things a vacation should be.


Every year I go back to the same small island off the coast of Massachusetts to reconnect to myself, my husband, and the beauty of the Earth. I watch the sunrise, I sail, I run, I bike, I eat homemade ice cream, I drink fantastic wine, I listen to the lighthouse’s boom on foggy evenings, I play with my dog, and I stare at the glory of the Milky Way every night. I live each day to the fullest.

What I don’t do is read the news, watch the news, or get on the internet.I don’t watch TV or return phone calls. I don’t email. It feels so refreshing.


It is often claimed that we live in the age of connection. That we are more “connected” than ever before. I disagree. If my “connection” fasts have taught me nothing else they have made crystal clear that the majority of us are more disconnected than ever before. A fantastic photo series by Eric Pickersgill illustrates how dependent we are on technology and how disconnected that dependence has made us. I find the photos heartbreaking. I also find them hugely truth-telling. We are not connected. We are barely present. We are barely living.

Next time you go on vacation, consider using your phone only for family photos. Take a break from “connection” and really be present in your own life. You will rediscover what it means to be truly connected.



Why Family Photos Help With Grief

An unfortunate part of the human condition is grief. I’ve lost people, pets, dreams and it’s never easy. It always hurts.

Let’s face it…it always sucks. There is no way out, only through.


I know this seems like a depressing topic but like taxes and poor hair choices, it happens to us all. What can we do? How do we make this a positive?

My only advice is love as hard as you can, for as long as you can.


I lost my maternal grandmother about 6 months ago. I miss her. I miss knowing she was in the world. I miss her laugh. She was a force. 

I’m lucky that I knew her, that we loved each other, that I have memories and photos.

September has been the “Save your photos” month and I hope you used all the publicity to take a moment to save your photos.

They are priceless. They are your ticket to loved ones that are no longer here.


If you haven’t digitized your print photos, I urge you to make the investment today. If you haven’t backed up your digital photos to a cloud service, I urge you to take the time.

The grieving process for loved ones is hard enough with the photo reminders of love, laughter, and a life well lived. I don’t want you to also grieve the fact that you didn’t save your tickets to the show.


Photo Gift Ideas For Empty Nest Syndrome


As we move into Autumn I know a lot of you are experiencing an empty house. Your kids have gone off to new adventures. You are back to your own daily grind without the thrill of beach trips, lake trips, road trips, or just those warm summer evenings in the back yard. You may be feeling a little blue.



I’m here to help! I’ve got a plan. A new adventure to look forward to. Let’s make photo books!! I LOVE photo books. They make great gifts, great conversation pieces, and even greater legacy pieces. They are as easy or complicated as you would like. And…they are a great way to encourage you to get your photos off your cameras/phones and get organized.

A couple of favorite themes for Fall are vacation albums or back to school albums. As we have just finished summer, the season where the most of us take our vacations, you probably have a lot of great candid photos to use. You could use “summer 2016” as a theme or if you were lucky enough to do something really special you could do something like “Italy 2016.” If you have a child who has gone off to university for the first time, this is a great opportunity to create a small family photo book. I know you’ll probably get little credit from the child but when the homesickness hits, and it will, your gift will provide a lot of comforts. Yay for great parenting!


If you’ve been lucky enough to go on vacation with friends or family, photo books make great gifts. What a unique and personal hostess gift!


One of my favorite vacation spots is Nantucket. My husband and I go every year and as soon as we leave I’m ready to head back. A Nantucket photo book is a must for me. I think that photo books make great coffee table books. It can spur conversation with guests or just serve as a reminder in the depths of winter that sunny days are on the way.When kids go off to school, leaving home, for the first time it can be a challenging time. For kids, they want to spread their wings but are often nervous. For parents, they want the kids out of the house but are scared to let go. It’s an action packed time emotionally. I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is a memento that says “I know you. I value you. You are still part of the tribe.” A childhood photo book is a great way to do that.

It is a physical reminder that no matter how far you wander you have people who care for you and will be there when you find your way home.


Photo books can be as simple or complicated, as expensive or inexpensive as you wish. There are services that will do everything for you and services where you do everything yourself. If you are new to this I would recommend that you chose something in the middle. I know everyone is busy and doesn’t want a project like this to take over their lives and yet there’s no substitute for your real input. You can find a list below of photo book services. I’ve used them all for different projects. I’m confident you can find one to help you create something you are really proud to share.



Unique Photo Gifts

Professional Photo Albums

Brief Preview of “Hodgepodge Girl’s Tips For Organizing Print Photos”

When I explain to people what I do, organizing photos, I occasionally come across a response like “oh, I couldn’t let anyone else go through my photos.” I get that.

Our photos are very personal, sacred, objects that many people would feel uncomfortable handing over to someone they don’t know well. I will say that a professional organizer is not in the business of judgement. We are there to help. However, for those who would feel more comfortable doing it themselves I thought I would lend my years of advice into a “how-to book.” The following is an excerpt from my book “Hodgepodge Girl’s Tips For Organizing Print Photos.” It will be available in early 2018.

I know many people who move through life with ease who get stuck on what to do with their family photos. It’s like there is a well-believed myth that there is a “right” way to organize photos and if you didn’t learn it, or instinctively know it, you’re somehow a lesser human.

Your mom, sister, best friend, mother-in-law tried to teach you, tell you, show you the right way to do it but you could just never get it right.
You hired someone to organize your photos and she told you how your “should” do it but alas you could never keep up with the system.

Let me set you straight…ahem….THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY!!!

And anyone who tells you how you “should” do it is full of malarky and you have my permission to say so.

Here’s the truth. There are many, many ways you COULD organize your photos. Some of the ways are easier, some more complicated but none of them is the way you SHOULD do it. And if it doesn’t work with your photos, your life, your circumstance, the way you think, it will NEVER work for you. All organizational techniques must be customized to each client. There is no one perfect system.

When I talk to clients, I always ask “what do you want to use these photos for?”


The answer, and the medium of photos, drastically change how we move forward. For the sake of this post, let’s assume the client wants to organize and store her photos. She has no immediate plans to use them but wants access.

We could use:  Year>Season>Event (ex. 2016>Spring>Ski Trips)
Or another person might like  Event>Year>Location (ex. Easter>2016>Our House
Yet Another may like:   Person>Year>Event (ex. James & Jane>2016>Wedding)

None of these are wrong. But I will say for the sake of your sanity, especially with printed photos, it is much easier to think in broad categories when creating albums or storage in boxes.


For instance, I think it’s easier to organize in terms of either year, events, or people. An album or acid-free box devoted to each year and everything that happens within that year. Or Holiday album (ex Christmas) where all your holiday photos go. Or sorting all your pictures of a specific person (ex James).

If you try to get too specific you end up with 100 boxes or albums and while that is better than a hodgepodge mess, it’s still too many places to make the photos truly accessible.
So, before you begin your photo organizing project, take some time thinking about how you want to move forward with your photos. What makes the most sense for how you’d like to use them. There is NO right way and NO wrong way. There is only YOUR way.