One of the most common questions Life Your Way readers ask when we talk about decluttering and organizing is how to organize photos. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be talking about all things photo-related with a special series from the Association of Personal Photo Organizers!
The following is written by Holly Wilton:
Hands down the best way to have an organized photo collection is to have a regular system for keeping up with photos each time you take pictures. Good advice — but it doesn’t address the photo backlog that most of us, especially seniors, have amassed over many years.
For seniors, photo organizing means going back through decades of old photos in many different formats such as prints, slides and albums as well as photos stored inside frames. Why would someone even bother to tackle such a daunting job?
I’ll give you three reasons:
1: It’s time to do it.
Seniors who are downsizing can no longer put off deciding what to do with boxes and closets of pictures. Retirement condos have very limited storage space, so moving from a large home to a much smaller living space necessitates paring down.
2: Seniors enjoy passing on their knowledge.
One of the blessings of aging is an appreciation for life and an acquired wisdom. Seniors know that their knowledge and experience can educate, inspire, and instruct younger generations. Photos are possibly the best springboard for storytelling and an amazing way to bridge a generation gap. Looking at old photos stirs up memories that shed light on family history and helps family members bond.
3: Someone else cares about those old photos.
Everyone treasures their own pictures, but seniors don’t always want to bother preserving their photos because they aren’t sure if anyone else wants to look at them.
If you are a senior, ask your children if they are interested in your photo collection. If you have aging parents or grandparents, let them know you care about their photos. If they know you want to preserve family history and enjoy your own childhood memories, they will find a way to share their photo collection.
Ok, so now what?
Maybe you are a senior looking to manage your own photo collection. Or perhaps you have an elderly parent or grandparent and you’d like to help preserve their collection.
I suggest these five steps to get started:
Step 1: Start talking about the photos in your collection.
Start by pulling out just one album or box of pictures when family members are together. Children and grandchildren can ask questions while someone takes notes.
Better yet, set up a video camera and let it roll while reminiscing about each photo. When you do this, magic happens. Stories that haven’t been recounted in ages begin to surface. This is a time for family members to appreciate and honor each other.
Step 2: Choose one story.
Choose the one you’re most interested in preserving and sharing with your relatives and children. Focus on a set of photos or an album that depicts your or your parents’ and grandparents’ childhood, courtship, and early marriage, military service, world travels, career — one “topic” that fascinates you.
Limit the topic to one that can be conveyed in 200 or fewer photos. 200 photos would be a good number for creating a 30-page photo book with narration or a 20-minute slideshow.
Step 3: Scan that set of photos.
Or pay a pro to scan them — and then use the digital images to create a book or slideshow of that story. You can transcribe the stories you recorded and use them as the text for the book, or pair the audio portion of your video interview with a slideshow of the photos.
If you need help with any part of this process, contact a personal photo organizer in your area. They can answer your questions and even provide one-on-one service to help you manage the task.
Gather everyone together if you can, and enjoy looking over the story or viewing the slideshow together. If it is not possible to get everyone together, that’s ok. Unlike traditional albums, siblings and other relatives get a copy of the photo book or slideshow.
Step 5: Enjoy their praises and get inspired to do more.
I promise that your relatives will see your effort and many will be deeply moved that you have given such a meaningful and lasting gift. You will feel inspired and excited about doing more photo projects.
Holly Wilton is a mother to two teenage boys and a Personal Photo Organizer in the Orlando, Florida area. Her business grew out of a passion for photography as well as her public speaking and business experience. A member of the APPO Association of Personal Photo Organizers.