How to Organize Years of Photographs

by Sheila C. Wilkinson

Almost everyone ends up with a ton of photographs when they hit adulthood and the collection just grows from there. You reach a point where you never look at old photographs because it's just too much trouble to find anything you want to see. Here are some tips for a system to organize all of your photos once and for all.

Think about your photo collection. Is it mostly family photos, travel photos, or do you have photos you've taken because it's a hobby? The easiest way to organize them is chronologically and then by topic. If however, there is no rhyme or reason to your photos, you may want to organize them into topics like family, travel, and nature photos.

Write on the backs of your photos. Add a date if there isn't one--even just the year would be nice when you look at them much later on. Write names of people not in your immediate family or occasions such as someone's wedding or birthday party. This may seem endless now but you will appreciate it later.

Sort the photos into piles and write out an index card stating what is in each pile. For instance: "Fred's Wedding" or "1972 Montana Camping Trip."

When you finish with the photo labeling and the cards you can start to put them into boxes. If you don't want to buy the photo boxes which are already decorated you can decorate shoe boxes with contact paper yourself to save money. Just cut contact paper and cover the box. Cover the lid separately.

Put your photos in the boxes. Start with the earliest ones and put the index card you wrote out for them in front of each sorted pile.

When the first box is full write out a card with the dates of the first and last photos and their contents. For example, write "Mom's Sixth Birthday, 1975 through Baby Jason's Christening, 1993."

Cover each card that goes on the outside of the box with clear contact paper, wrapping it around the box to affix it at the same time. Repeat these steps until all of your pictures are organized and at your fingertips.


  • check If you want to organize things further, color code your index cards: kid picture index cards in one color, travel index cards in another color, and so on.

Items you will need

About the Author

Sheila Wilkinson worked as an editor and writer for "The St. Mary Journal" and has published extensively on various websites. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Alabama, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies in the areas of psychology, sociology and English. Sheila owns an Internet bookstore.

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