How to Control 4,200 Photos

When I was a teenager, my room was knee-deep in laundry and random stuff, but you better believe that my CDs and books were always in alphabetical order. There is always one area of my life that is hyper organized to make up for the chaos that is the rest of my (lack of) housekeeping skills. Now that I’m a mom, the only thing that’s impressively organized around here is our photos.

I take pictures of the kids obsessively at a rate of about 300 shots a month. We end up printing about 1/3 of them. As a result, we have approximately 4,200 photos in 21 albums from the past 4.75 years. All of the photos are put into albums in chronological order. It’s pretty insane to see them all lined up.

Because it wasn’t enough to have all the photos in chronological order, I numbered the outsides of the albums so they would always be in the correct order on the shelf. The kids love to look at the albums and were leaving them all over the floor. I’d go crazy trying to remember what order they belonged in, so I labeled all of them. I also write the date range for the photos on the inside cover.

But if that wasn’t obsessive enough, I label the back of every single photo with people’s names, the month/year and where we were when the photo was taken.

Zig Photo Signature pens seem to work best. They are the perfect size for writing small and they dry very quickly so you can put the photo in the album immediately without smearing the ink.

When I tell people about my albums, they seem most impressed that I’m able to know what month each photo was taken. This part is actually really easy. I print the photos about once every 6 months, but it’s relatively easy to keep them in chronological order because Walmart (I ALWAYS order from Walmart. I’ve found their shipping/price per photo combo to be a better deal than the alleged “free” photos you can get elsewhere) sends them in the order you uploaded them. I keep the photos in data folder by month, so it’s easy to see what photo goes to what month. Since the pile Walmart sends me comes in chronological order, I just need to know what the first and last photo is for March and then label each photo in between as “March 2012″.

Why do I do this? Why not just label the page the photos are on with the date ranges? I don’t know about what happened with your parents’ photos, but at my parents’ house most of them ended up in boxes in our china cabinet. They are completely out of order and it’s impossible to tell what YEAR most things happened in, let alone what month. None of the photos are labeled and my sister and I were practically identical as babies and wore a lot of the same clothes. I have a lot of trouble knowing at whom I’m looking when I flip through photos. If there is an estranged family friend or long deceased relative in the photo, I don’t know who they are unless I ask. Sometimes even my parents don’t know who the people are in our pictures. Even if a photo was in an album, sometimes my sister or I took the photo hostage and you can’t tell what happened around that time.

I didn’t want that to happen with our photos, hence the hyper-organization. If a friend or classmate is in a photo, I make sure I put that friend’s first and last name. I include the names of all aunts and uncles. We think our kids will remember these people, but who knows what will happen. There’s a chance these people won’t be in their lives later on and even if they are, maybe they’ve aged in a way that makes them unrecognizable in the pictures. Also, as an adult sometimes you “meet” and befriend someone from childhood, only you don’t remember knowing them as a kid. Having these photos labeled will let them know and marvel that as babies they sat topless in a swimming pool with the boy they are crushing on in high school.

And all that worry led to the most obsessive thing I do– the only thing I’m organized about. And you can be too. It’s actually not that big of a time commitment and we LOVE looking at our 4,200 photos and pulling them out of the album to see how old people were and where we were visiting.

See? I can be neat and organized. Just don’t look in my closets, cabinets or drawers.

EDIT: I spend about $150/year on the photo printing and albums. I get my 200-picture albums with cloth or faux leather covers at Hobby Lobby for $7-$8 a pop.


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