5 Expert Tips for Organizing All Your Old Photos Right Now

Yes, you're finally ready to get started on organizing your old photos.

Grandmother and grandchildren looking at photographs
Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc. / Getty Images

Spending so much time at home amidst the coronavirus pandemic has been hard, but one bright spot for people has been the downtime it's afforded us to tackle long overdue household tasks. Some have finally painted that dresser with the teal paint that's been sitting in the closet since last fall. Others have gotten their pantry organized like a Marie Kondo superstar. Many have taken to reminiscing over old family photos. Oh, have there been pictures!

For most, however, the prospect of organizing these irreplaceable keepsakes has been daunting. That's where the experts come in to put us on the right track and save us from grabbing a manila envelope, stuffing, sighing, and calling it a day. Read on, and get excited to check this off of your to-do list—grandma is cheering you on, whether from heaven or on earth.

1. Be prepared from the outset.

You're plopped down on your couch, or perhaps on the beanbag chair in your childhood bedroom. Now what? Make sure you have organization essentials to make the process of sorting and labeling old photos straightforward: "Have a number of empty boxes/totes/large envelopes with covers, labels (or masking tape), and a marker. How many boxes you need depends on how you will be organizing photos. By person? Trips? Years? Up to you," says Felice Cohen, professional organizer, author, and speaker. "You don't have to label [the photos] right away, you can see how many of each you have and then label," she continues, recommending you also keep a garbage bag handy for any duplicates, old film negatives, or photos you don't want to keep (for more on that, proceed to tips #2 and #3).

2. Use the one-touch rule.

"Pour out piles of photos at a time on your kitchen table (desk, wherever you work)," suggests Cohen. "When you pick up a photo, ask yourself 'where does it go?' Is it of trees, buildings, people stuffing food into their mouths at a wedding? Do you really want the picture? If no, toss it. If yes, which box does it go in?" Asking these questions as you go through your photos will help streamline your efficiency and help you determine which memories are truly worth preserving.

3. Before adding a photo to the trash bag, think about who may appreciate seeing it.

For some pictures, you may want to snap a photo of it and share it online before putting it away for safekeeping or deciding you want to part ways with it. For other photos, you may want to mail them to the person who is in the picture. You may also want to upload photos to a family tree site like Ancestry.com.

4. Use Google Photos to organize and share photos with loved ones.

Take the advice of Miguel A. Suro, a Florida attorney and lifestyle writer at The Rich Miser: "If the pictures were not taken digitally, digitize them (either do it yourself or have a tech-savvy friend do it). It's worth it to keep them forever and easily organize them," says Suro, who recommends cloud services like Google Photos, which offers unlimited storage of high-quality images. "Google Photos can automatically run facial recognition on your pictures and organize them by person. That way, you can select a loved one and instantly see all of her/his pictures," he adds.

5. Or, hire a service to scan your photos for you.

Services like ScanMyPhotos.com will also do the brunt work for you in digitizing and organizing your memories, with their most popular offering being "fill-the-box" photo scanning, starting at $145 with free shipping to archive about 1,800 photos digitally. "Choose between 72 dpi resolution for social media sharing to 600 dpi resolution for the highest professional archival photo scanning," advises Mitch Goldstone, CEO of ScanMyphotos.com.

Now, dearest readers, if you'll be so kind as to excuse us now, we've got a 1970 trip to Thailand to revisit. And piles and piles of pictures to get organized. Cue the 1940s swing music. Let's get started.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles