Organization Hack: Photos

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This is only about a 1/4 of the unpacked boxes and is where my office is supposed to be!

I had totally planned a different organization post for today and then my OCD took over and I have switched gears.  Once I get an idea in my head, I have to follow through so today’s post has taken a detour.  My family and I moved to a new state a little over three months ago.  I will admit that there are many boxes in the basement that have not even been touched other than to move them out of the way and there are some that are opened just enough for me to get out whatever I needed.  I’m honestly struggling to make myself go down there and go through them all.  About half of them are my teaching stuff (there is a LOT), and then the rest of them are the boxes of all of my crafting/vinyl/office stuff mixed in with other stuff (I don’t even know what) that has been in storage for years.  Part of my reasoning for not doing it yet is that we are currently renting this house.  We signed a 1-year lease with the plan to take our time to find the right house to buy in the neighborhood and school zone we want.  I don’t want to unpack it all just to turn around and repack it in a few months. The other part of me that is procrastinating is that the thought of all of it just overwhelms me. There is so much down there that really needs to be gone through and gotten rid of.  There are boxes and totes of things that haven’t been opened since our previous move and some that haven’t been open since we got married.  When it was all in our attic at the last house or the shed at the house before that, it was kind of out of sight and out of mind so I just didn’t worry about it.  I know that I really need to unpack the stuff in my office, but the rest of it is fine staying in boxes, right? The answer is no! Why is it no? It is no because the stuff really needs to be gone through and much of it needs to be either thrown away or donated.  I seriously think that my husband might loose it if I make him move and store all of that school stuff again.  I really do need to downsize especially since I’m not actually teaching.  There is always that chance that I will go back to it, though, and I might need it one day. Those are the thoughts running through my head, but I know the right thing to do is to go through it and downsize.

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So where am I going with this post? Well, over the past couple of days I was forced to open some of those totes and boxes that haven’t been opened in years to try to find all of the old pictures that I used in the post yesterday about my tribe.  In the process I made a huge mess because there was no rhyme or reason to how all of these pictures were thrown in there.  There were multiple shoeboxes that were all taped up with duct tape and they were smashed and torn.  Pictures had just been shoved in there (not even neatly) and there was no order to them. There were also several random, ugly photo albums that looked like I just shoved as many pictures as I could get in there, including being on top of each other in the sleeves. I can’t believe that I ever did that with them.  It’s totally uncharacteristic of me.

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Anyway, I have hundreds of old pictures that range from my childhood through the first couple of years of my oldest child’s life.  This was back before the world of digital photos and being able to save them on your phone or computer.  You guys, there are a million negatives in there! For you young kids that don’t know what negatives are, it was the way that we had to develop the pictures years ago. There was no sending it from your phone or computer to Walgreens to have it printed.  There were no SD cards.  You had to take the film out of your camera and drop it off to be developed.  Some of these date back to  before the days of one hour printing.  You actually  had to wait days to get your pictures back! Then if you wanted more copies printed, you had to take those negatives back to the store to have them reprinted.  It wasn’t possible to scan it into your computer back then. I know it is hard to imagine, but it happened. It’s amazing how the world of technology has changed so much.

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The dilemma now is what to do with the mess that I made.  I cannot in good conscience just throw them all back in the torn up boxes  and into the tote in the random state they are in. I was seriously lying awake last night thinking about this.  After both of my girls were off to school this morning, I jumped in the car and headed to our local craft store to look for a better storage solution.  I immediately went to the scrapbooking section thinking they would have some great storage options and, of course, they did. They had this big square plastic box that had 16 smaller, colored, photo-sized plastic boxes inside it.  My guess is that the smaller boxes could be used to help organize your photos by category.  Great idea, right? Wrong! After looking at them for a second, I started to think about how big the box was and how it would be hard to store it.  Then I looked at the price and almost had a heart attack. Just one of these boxes costs $41 and some change! Seriously? I would need like 3 or 4 of them to hold all of the pictures that are on the floor in my basement! No way am I spending that much! I was walking out of the store and heading to Walmart to just get some plastic shoes boxes or something (which is a great option) when I spotted a section near the front of the store that had simple heavy duty cardboard photo boxes for $5 each.  I was thinking that I could handle $5.  Well, they were all pretty and decorated with flowers, stars, stripes, arrows, and many other designs.  Of course, I didn’t really like any of those patterns. They were a bit much for my taste. I started moving the boxes around to see if there were better designs behind them and I found a natural cardboard colored one with a nice metal nameplate on it…simple and nice and just my style.  Unfortunately, they only had one of those, and I knew one wasn’t going to be enough to hold all of the pictures I had.  I went to ask someone that worked there if there were anymore like that anywhere else in the store.  The guy took me back to the scrapbooking section to a different aisle than I was on before and pointed to the very top shelf and said, “This is all we have.” There weren’t any more of the cardboard colored ones that I really wanted, but they did have plain white ones with the same nice metal nameplate holder.  I asked him to get me 4 boxes and home I went with them.  With my coupon it cost me less than $20 to get 4 photo boxes! That’s more than half the price of just one of the plastic boxes! They are sturdier than a normal shoe box like I was using and much nicer looking.  If fact, I think I may add them to a shelf in my office (whenever I decide to up pack it and set it up), and they will look nice with the years printed on the nameplate.

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Now that I have the boxes, what am I going to do with them? It certainly isn’t going to be me just throwing all the pictures in there.  That would drive me crazy.  I am actually going to go through every picture and sort them into categories. Luckily, my need for organization is further evidenced by the fact most of the pictures already have labels on the back.  Yay for being organized (at least partly).

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I started with dividing everything up by year.  To do this I got sticky notes and wrote the years on them.  I just started with the late 80s and the 90s since that seemed to be the bulk of what I had in the first box, and I began sorting. Then I sorted them into categories within that year.  For example, I sorted piles of Christmas, school, proms/formals, and any other category I could come up with.

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Next, I made some dividers from card stock (you could also use large index cards) that I can use to label the years and the categories within that year to make the pictures even easier to find in the future. It is going to take me a long time finish, but I believe it will be worth the time it takes because the next time I am looking for a picture, I will know right where to find it. That’s the thing with getting organized. It may take some work initially to get everything together, but it will save you time in the long run.  Plus, having an organized system just makes me happy! Another positive to sorting through every picture is that I get to continue reminiscing about past.  I am feeling very nostalgic these days! My next job will be to get all of the pictures off of my phone and camera and organize them and back them up. Isn’t organizing so rewarding???

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Anchored and organized,


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