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.


Organizing Family Photos

Are you overwhelmed by the idea of organizing your family photos?

I have photos…you have photos…we all have photos!

So. Many. Photos. By several experts opinions, we are reaching the point of 1 trillion photos taken annually worldwide. ONE TRILLION!! And that number only includes new photos were taken, not the boxes and boxes of physical photos that we have inherited from beloved family members. To say that we have a photo storage problem is an understatement. We are drowning in photographs. What to do with all those treasured family photos?

I know that sounds overwhelming. I know your busy doing your best for your family. I know that “getting organized” is one of the top New Year’s resolutions every year. I know that you love your family memories and have real concerns about how to store and save and share these precious mementos.

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to give you a real plan on how to save these beauties, how to share them with your friends and family, and how to set up a system that will let you access every single one of your photos and is an easy way to organize your future photos.

Can you do that? You ask…Heck ya!


“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” Mr. Rogers

If you’ve stumbled on this blog, I’m guessing you have because you believe that family photos are valuable. Let me tell you, you’re not alone.

We’ve all had the heart-wrenching experience of believing a treasured photo lost only to feel the relief when we find it tucked away safe. Many of us have also had the profound joy of finding a photo; perhaps of us with someone passed, that we didn’t know existed.

This is me with my grandpa, you’ll hear a lot about him on this blog, the last time I saw him before he passed away. He was giving me a hug goodbye. We loved each other; I think you can tell that by the photo. The thing is…I didn’t know this photo existed. A few months after he passed my Mom mentioned in passing that she found a photo on her phone that she thought I’d like to have. When I saw it…I cried. I’m crying now. That’s the power of a little piece of paper. It gives us back people we’ve lost, places we won’t return to, events that cannot be recreated.

I’m excited to help you reconnect with yourself and your family.

3 Tips For Spring Cleaning Your Photos

Has the spring cleaning bug hit you yet? Do you find yourself whistling as you reach for the toolbox? Are you spending more time perusing the cleaning supply aisles at target?

I like to think of myself as a minimalist so I’m always trying to reduce reduce reduce!!!


The result of this hobby is that both my husband and my dog get a little nervous when I start walking around the house with a plastic garbage bag and a look of determination. I promised this year that I wouldn’t “TOUCH THEIR STUFF!” OKAYYYYY….SHEESH…

That leaves me with more energy/ideas for helping you. How’s the photo library looking? Did you take lots and lots of photos over the holidays? New Years? And super fun ski vacations? Gosh, I hope so.

Now you may be experiencing a sense of feeling overwhelmed. You know you took some great shots of the kids but where the heck are they?

I’ve got a plan. It’s easy…three steps…and you’re done.


Let’s start with digital:


  1. Pick up your phone and get deleting. Don’t over think here. Just delete. A lot. Anything that doesn’t make you smile. Make sure you are deleting from the main photo library. Not off the cloud or in albums. Those are just copies and when they reappear you’ll be super confused. Been there.
  1. Put those beauties in albums. Hopefully, you’ve taken my previous advice and set up a framework for your digital photos (YEAR>CATEGORY>EVENT) If you haven’t it looks like this (2017>Ski Trips>Snowmass Trip). Don’t forget to use those tags (see reference list below).
  1. Get sharing! However, you share your photos make it a habit to just do it! Have a great photo of your girlfriend…share it with her! EVERYONE loves to get a photo of him or her with a note/text/email. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just reach out.

Let’s get physical:


  1. Ready, set, go! Give yourself a time-limit (1-hour max), set a timer and see how many photos you can put in the shred pile. A few common themes: out of focus photos, too dark photos, oddly framed or… Who is this? Why soooo many pictures of this? I like to use a discard box as opposed to a bag, much easier to chuck stuff into.
  1. Research. Hop on google and do a little research of who scans photos in your area. The future is here and it’s digital. If you still want to keep your original print photos…right on. However….you want your photos digital. They are safer, easier to share, and SO much easier to store.
  1. Tag your it! Most photos taken digitally now are pre-packed with lots of information about the photo (location, date, weather, face-recognition, etc), photos we’ve scanned aren’t so lucky. They are a fresh, clean slate. If you don’t add any info about who, what, where, when it will be MUCH harder to find and use your photos when they are swooped up into the cloud. Do yourself a HUGE favor and update your scanned photos before you upload them to your storage service. If you need help deciding on keywords…here’s a reference list
Click to open printable

That’s it! Your photos are sparking! Now you’re ready for all the wonderful adventures of summer.

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.


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

Protect Your Family Photos

The most important part of my job is to encourage you to make a plan today to protect your family photos.


In the last couple of weeks, mother nature has thrown the mother of all temper tantrums. She has let loose with fires, floods, earthquakes and even a double tornado. A lot of people have had life altering loss and my heart goes out to everyone who is impacted by these events.

As we move forward we can prepare. We can hope that nothing like this happens again but the reality is…it will. If you haven’t created a disaster plan for yourself or your family, please use this opportunity to create one. When I was a kid, my parents would hold regular family meetings to review what we do in a fire. As an adult, my husband and I discuss our earthquake plan. We have emergency supplies. We’ve planned. That even includes what to do with our photos and important documents.

In poll after poll people say that when the evacuation call comes they take their family, pets, and photos. The stuff that really matters. While I am a hundred percent down with the first two, I say forget the third and run! Yes, I’m a photo organizer. Yes, I live and breathe photos. Yes, I believe that your family photos are incredibly valuable. They are also replaceable.You, your family, and your pets are not.

It takes only a few minutes to create a plan for how to protect your photos. There are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

How are your photos formatted? Are they prints? Are they digital?

What type of disaster are you trying to protect yourself from?

How tech savvy are you? Are you comfortable on-line?

I always encourage clients to digitize ALL their photos as the best way to keep them safe. If your photos are in print form there are still a few things you can do to protect them from smoke or water damage.


  1. Get a waterproof/fireproof safe: these are not actually waterproof but they will protect photos and albums from most of the damage. It only takes an inch of water to destroy photos so anything you do is better than nothing.
  2. Zquaredaway bags These bags are made from the same material as firefighter uniforms. They offer fire protection and some water protection. The main benefit of these is that they are easily portable.

If your photos are already digitized…YAY! You’ve already made the best step toward keeping your photos safe. My tip for digital photos has much more to do with your computer. I don’t want you running around wasting precious moments looking for your phone or your laptop. Get your photos off those devices and into a cloud service. There are many, many great options loaded with tons of security to keep your pictures private. If you are using this service strictly as a backup and do not want any bells and whistles I recommend using Amazon cloud drive. I use it myself. If you have prime it’s free, unlimited storage. It doesn’t have a lot of the features of a pay service but for a simple backup, it works great.

If you have digitized your photos and do not feel comfortable with cloud services (HI MOM!) There are still things you can do. These thumb drives from picture keeper are specifically designed for photos. Upload your photos to this drive, they hold an amazing amount of pictures, and then put the drive in your safe or Zquared away bag.

I can’t encourage you enough to do something to protect your photos. Just take a few minutes. Don’t lose your family history.



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.