For many of us, sorting our photos and memorabilia is such a daunting task that we put off making scrapbooks. This file has ideas to make sorting and organizing easy - including Getting Organized, Ready, Set, Sort, and Divide and Conquer. Also see One-Day Albums and Quick Albums. This page was originally created for scrapbooks consultants to teach as a class but works just as well for anyone wanting to get their photos organized.

Ready, Set, Sort!

The "Ready, Set, Sort!" workshop really was a great way to get those with stacks and stacks of pics started, particularly those who are at a point of being so overwhelmed they won't even start.
THE BASICS: Each person got their own table (mine was a six foot round). It was held at a church. At each table were a few pieces of candy, 5-6 complimentary die-cuts, a stabillo pencil, long thin labels like you use on the INNER file folders when filing, a post-it-not pad, and a very sturdy legal (?) size (approx. 12 x 17?) accordion file--hard plastic outside and cover flap with a handle and a pretty good closure apparatus to keep the lid shut securely. The inside had 21 pockets.
You took your envelope of pics, or individual pics and if you knew the year you wrote it on a post-it-note and placed both on the table. If you knew or could figure out the year, great! If not, you tried to group by common elements like clothing and hair styles. If one envelope's year wasn't identifiable, the next one might be and because so-and-so's hair was the same you were able to make the link. The lady who had the two Rubbermaid tubs was right at the next table from me and by the end of the evening she had varying sized stacks of film envelopes all sorted by year. I was amazed!
It really goes quicker than you would think. You are also to have a post-it-note pile labeled, "No Idea" for those pics you haven't a clue about (don't know what year, who's in the picture, or even why the picture was taken!)
Another table had a husband and wife team (only male in the whole place). They had brought 10-15 magnetic albums full of pics and memorabilia. It was hubby's job to take the pics out of the albums and the wife sorted
chronologically (easy--since that's how they were in the album) but she was also pulling some out by theme ("Colorado Vacation") and specific child. In my case, what I was sorting was a large box of very old family photos my aunt gave me two years ago. Sorting chronologically was out of the question, so I sorted by family. When I finished sorting, around the perimeter of my round table were post- it-notes such as "Uncle Cliff's Family," "Aunt Tweetie," "Old Ritsema Relatives" (knew they were that side, but didn't know who they were specifically), and "Combos" (group shots with several of the other categories represented) as well as one "No Clue" (ancient postcards, etc. I didn't want to throw them away - maybe they depicted where my aunt and uncle honeymooned, etc.) Each person really does need their own table to be able to spread out and as you are walking around your table placing pics in various piles (like dealing out cards!) you aren't in anyone's way.
If you needed a break, the CMC's who put this on also had several albums on display and they had brought a bunch of purchasable supplies. (They had a crop going on in an adjoining room for their usual group.)
Once it was all sorted, you wrote each topic on a label and placed it on the tab of one of the pockets and inserted the photos in the corresponding accordion file pocket for safe keeping until you were ready to get them into a scrapbook.
The customer gets to keep the file as well as the stabillo pencil, die-cuts, etc.)

Welcome to Ready, Set, SORT! We are so glad that you have decided to get your photos and memorabilia in order so that you can have your pictures organized and ready to place in a photo-safe album. We are here to help you through each step of the way, but just in case you're ahead of the class, here are the steps we'll be following tonight.


Clear everything off of your table except post-it notes and a pen.
Take a moment to think through what type of album(s) you wish to create:
Family, Children (1 for each), Christmas, Vacations, Anniversary, Wedding, Heritage (Family History), Sports, Senior Year, Retirement

STEP ONE: Chronological Order

Take a post-it note and write the years (or decades, or months) your pictures cover, one on each note (i.e. 1997, 1996, 1995).
Set the post-its around your table leaving space between them for stacks of pictures.
Begin with a group of pictures, placing them in the appropriate pile for their time period. Look for clues like seasonal clothes, hair styles, or dates on the back, which reflect when the pictures were developed. You may want to have a post-it note with the words 'No Clue" for pictures that you just cannot identify. Eliminate any blurry or duddy pictures--toss them out!
If your stacks for each year are quite large, you will need to take an additional step and break them down by event, again using the post-it notes and making stacks.

STEP TWO: Selecting

Once your photos are in order, you can determine which pictures you wish to use in each album. Again, using the post-it notes, place one for each album you want to create. For example, if making one for each child, write the name of each child on a separate post-it and begin selecting photos IN ORDER, that you will use in each child's album. Remember that you will want pictures of siblings in each album.
If you find that your pictures are limited for certain events, like Christmas, or a family vacation, you may want to include those in the family album and use birthdays and school events for your children's albums.

STEP THREE: Storing Temporarily

Use the file folder labels to identify each of the 21 divisions in your storage case. If you need more than 21 divisions, use the large envelopes to store additional piles.
Place each stack in a folder or envelope. (You may want to group events together in the baggies to keep them from getting unorganized).
Place any memorabilia relating to your pictures behind the stack in each folder. Keeping them together will help you remember to include the memorabilia when you are working on those pictures in your album.

STEP FOUR: Get Started!

You're ready to start your album project Sign up for a crop or workshop--your first one's free--and let's get some pages done.

Ready, Set, SORT!!

(A slightly different version of the above idea)

Welcome to our annual Get Organized Workshop! I'm so glad that you have decided to get your photos and memorabilia in order so that they will be ready to place in your albums. You also have the opportunity to get your supplies organized so that no matter how little time you have to work on your albums, you won't spend half of it looking for your supplies!! I'm here to help you through each step of the way, but just in case you're a little ahead of the class, here are the steps we'll be following:

Hopefully you brought all the sorting supplies, photos, memorabilia, and scrapbook supplies that you want to work on today. If you need them, additional Zip Lock bags and manila envelopes are ten cents each.

Step One:

Take a moment to think of what albums you wish t create (see separate handout for some suggestions). Write these on Post-It notes and place them around your work area.

Step Two:

Sort your photos chronologically by year. For example, group all your 1997, 1998, 1999, photos together. After that, begin to sort them by month. If you have decades of photos, you may want to divide them into 3-5 year increments or by decade. Use your Post-It notes to label each pile.

Step Three:

*Set out your Post-It notes with the pre-determined albums you wish to create (Step 1).
*Begin to divide your photos into the appropriate album piles. Be sure to note of which photos you'll need to make reprints of!!
*While you go through your photos, eliminate blurry or dud photos--toss them in the bag next to you (if you're not comfortable throwing photos away, begin a misc. pile). Keep in mind that the only photos you want to use are the clear shots!! As an incentive you'll receive a special small gift for EACH photo you toss at the end of the workshop.

Step Four:

Now that your photos are in order, you need to go through your memorabilia. Place each item with the corresponding stack of photos. Once this is done, you may place your stacks of photos and memorabilia in your Zip Lock bags or manila envelopes. If you have "sub-stacks" within your stacks, put those into a separate baggy in your Zip Lock or envelopes so they don't mix in.

Step Five:

If you have time left, and you wish to get your supplies in order, now is the time to do it!

Step Six:

You're ready to get started on your album projects! Be sure to sign up for a workshop and let's get some pages done!

Have FUN!


Photo Organization Workshop (by C. L. 1/99)
Note: The first part is for sending to the person once they register for the class and the second is for the night of the workshop!)

Thank you for registering for the upcoming Divide and Conquer class. Along with ALL your photos and memorabilia (anything and everything you would save in an album), you need to bring the items listed below.

1. Pendeflex Hanging Folders - Letter Size
One folder per month for each year you plan to organize. For example: If you plan to work with photos and memorabilia from the past seven years, you need to bring 84 pendeflex folders. (7 years times 12 months = 84) Plus twelve extra folders for good measure.

2. Small "Post-it Notes"
Approximately one for each month.

3. Storage Containers with lids that will hold Pendeflex folders.
One box will hold approximately 25 folders. Therefore, you need one storage box for each two years of photos you plan to organize plus a
storage box to set up for the current year. A variety of companies make these containers in everything from plastic to cardboard to metal. You can purchase them at office supply stores, department stores, Target/Wal-Mart, etc.

4. Envelopes - regular size, leftover, old, whatever!

1. If time permits . . . before you come to class, attach the tabs to the folders and put all the folders in the boxes.

2. Feel free to throw some of your "stuff" that you need to bring in the boxes with the folders for transporting them to class.

3. Bring your boxes, drawers, bags or whatever you currently have photos and "stuff" in. Do not organize it to bring to class. This is duplicating your efforts and not necessary! :)

4. Dress comfy and be ready to work! SEE YOU SOON!


Step One:

Label post-it notes with the month and year for the entire time frame you plan to organize. For example, if you are working with 1985 through 1995, your first labeled post-it note would read . . . Jan. '85, Feb. '85, March ' 85, April '85, etc . . .
All the way to Dec. '95. Write on the non-sticky end, upside down.

Step Two:

Place all folders in boxes, approximately 24 per box. Attach post-it notes so they stick up above the folder and are easily visible.
** Note: In this area there is a box drawn that looks like a file box with the tabs sticking up with dates on them. You can add a similar drawing if you want.

Step Three:

Grab a pack of photos, separate photos into events. For example, if the pack has photos of Dad's birthday, Easter and a trip to the beach, you will end up with 3 piles of photos.

Step Four:

Place each pile in a separate envelope. Place envelope of photos in proper folder. Keep in mind that a single pack of photos may have pictures of events spanning several months. For example, the pack mentioned in step #3, Dad's birthday photos may be from March, The Easter photos are from April and the beach trip was in May. File the photos appropriately.

Step Five:

On the outside of the photo/negative envelope that the pictures were in when purchased, write the month/year and events. For example: March/April/May '93 - Dad's birthday - Easter - Daytona Beach trip
Leave the negatives in that envelope and file them in a photo storage box.

Step Six:

Continue in this manner with all your photos.
*Organize professional photos in all sizes in the same manner.
*Memorabilia such as cards, brochures, ticket stubs, plane tickets, invitations, etc. can also be placed in the appropriate months folder.
*If you are not sure of the month and year . . . Guess! If it's that hard for you to determine, no one else will know the difference!
*If you know a set of photos was taken in the fall of '87 but you can't remember the month, just file them in Sept. or Oct. or Nov.! Who cares!
*If you have lots (like five or six packs or more) of photos from one event, make a separate folder just for that event. For example, for a trip to Europe in June, label the post-it note, Europe, June '93 and place that folder between May and June '93.
*If you have a lot of photos related to a specific event, such as your husband's hunting, that you don't want in your family album, you may want to make a folder just for that so some day you can make an album just for him!
*If you come across "stuff" that is before the time frame you are working on, place it in a folder at the very beginning of your first box.

Step Seven:

Pull out any folders that do not have any photos or memorabilia in them.
Congratulations! Now you are Ready to Crop 'til You Drop!

Step Eight:

Attach the label holders that come with the folders and sip in the semi-permanent labels. Discard post-it note labels.

Step Nine:

Make a box of folders for the current year. Attach the semi-permanent labels.

Step Ten:

Include folders for special events that you know will happen that year and a folder for each child.

Step Eleven:

THIS IS IMPORTANT! In order to stay organized . . . as you bring home a pack of photos, divide them in the same manner as Steps 3, 4, and 5. File the negatives. Transfer the photos to envelopes; carry them around in the large outside envelope from the store to show them off for a few days. Then file them in appropriate month's folders.

Step Twelve:

When the kids bring paper home from school (report cards, certificates, excellent work, special art projects, etc.) file them into the folder made especially for them. When you get time to make an album just for them you will most likely discard some stuff.


Getting Organized

Are you stumped on how to get started on your album project because your photos and memorabilia are in every closet and crevice all over the house? Don't let that stop you from enjoying your family history and sharing memories with those you love. Here are a few tried and true tips to help you get organized. Pick the one(s) that will work best for you!

A) Start with the roll of film you picked up last week. Since the pages of Creative Memories albums can be rearranged, you can start anywhere. Keep adding your new rolls of film as you get them and you will never get any further behind! (You can go back later and do the older photos.)

B) If you want to go back and organize your photos and you are only working on one book, get a large accordion file and label the pockets by years (or whatever time frame you are working with). As you go through your photos and memorabilia, slip them into the appropriate pocket. If you're not sure about the date, look at the visual clues, i.e., size of child, wallpaper pattern, car in the driveway, etc. Give the photo your best guess. I know of one lady who titled a whole section of her book "the 60's". In the overall scheme of things, some order is better than no order.

C) If you are working on more than one book at a time, this is the method you will want to try, First, get together the following items:
1 large plastic or cardboard box that will accommodate hanging file folders
several hanging file folders
manila folders

1) Label the hanging file folders by time frame, whether you are working with months, years or five year time periods.
2) Label manila folder by subject of album (Danny, PTA,. family, etc.)
3) Put one manila folder for each album into each hanging file folder

Now gather all the photos and memorabilia you can find and start putting them into the correct manila file according to who's book it's going into and what year it's from. Don't worry if you can't find everything, the beauty of this system is that you can add the things you find as you come across them, and because the albums can be rearranged and added to, you can always go back and add an extra page where needed.

If you have some years where you have a lot of memorabilia, you could use expandable hanging file folders., they will accommodate much more than the regular kind.
Remember to ruthlessly throw away the blurry, duddy photos and divide up the similar photos into all of the appropriate people's albums. Now it's easy just to pull out one manila folder and work on that section of a book. You don't have to finish one book to start another.

You might offer a divide and conquer portion of the workshop at this time too. A divide and conquer is just a session where you help them sort their photos. This is sometimes why people won't come to workshops. They feel the task of actually organizing the photos is too overwhelming. If you tell them that you can help them get organized before they actually start working in albums, then maybe that will attract them. I know that I have had customers use this reason in the past as to not attending workshops.
At a divide and conquer, you will need:
shoe boxes or buy inexpensive photo storage boxes (one customer of mine uses baby wipes boxes- thoroughly cleaned out of course), cardboard for dividers, Ziploc baggies and a sharpie marking pen.

Have them sort their photos into broad categories first, like: Christmas, or the 80's, the 60's etc. Or just all of one person. Each broad category then goes into a Ziploc bag and is labeled. When each category is done, then you can go back and sort each bag into order. (This can be done at night watching TV, in the car in line to pick up kids at school, anywhere)
When this is done, then sort the bags into the order you want them to go into the album. Put them into the storage box or shoe box and you can then add appropriate stickers or die-cuts at this time in with the photos so that as you work on the album, you have your supplies that you need readily at hand.
Each of these steps can be broken down into different time frames, so it all doesn't have to be done in one session. The idea is to get the photos in a certain order for placing in the album. (You do NOT want to leave photos in Ziploc bags for an indefinite period of time however. These are plastic and may be harmful for the photos. But for the purpose of sorting, a few days or weeks should be OK)

Organizing Photos

If you are like I was the first time I tried to put my photos in some type of order you have a difficult task. The first few years I was married it never occurred to me that I might forget the date or occasion behind a photograph. And of course I would always know which of my babies was in each photo!

After about ten years of marriage I decided that I would put some of my photos in albums. What I job it was when I tried to get them in order. I have two blonde blue-eyed daughters who are less than a year apart in age. Since I sewed I had made them many outfits alike and also the youngest wore hand-me-downs from her sister. Though I mostly could tell which was which in the photos (except for a few photos taken the first couple of months) I still was having quite a time figuring out when many of them were taken. I eventually figured out the order--if no the exact date--on most of them by comparing hair length, which car we owned, where we lived, etc. I eventually laid out the photos that were from specific identifiable events on the floor in order and then fit the other photos where they belonged in between them. To help me in my sorting I looked at old calendars, check book registers, etc.

If you face a similar problem and want to use one of the ideas mentioned in the "divide and conquer" or "ready, set, sort" ideas to get organized there are some things you can do first to make your job a lot easier.

Take four sheets of paper for each year of time you are covering. Divide each paper into three sections. Label the papers with the year and a letter (i.e. 1991A, 1991B, 1991C, 1991D). On the "A" pages label the sections "January", "February" and "March". Continue the rest of the months on the other pages. If you have a lot of years to cover label the pages with the months, add in regularly recurring events like holidays and birthdays, photo copy the pages and then add the years.

Now put down significant events where they belong. Put is births, deaths, weddings, etc. Include things like when you moved to another house, when you got a pet, when you bought a new item of furniture, when you got new carpeting, when you traded cars, etc. Old calendars, check registers, tax papers and things like that will help you with this. Also put down things that will help identify people if you know it. Like when they got a hair cut, had their arm in a cast, when they got glasses (or new glasses), etc. At the top of each page you can also make notes about the ages of people at the time, what year the children were in school (and what school they were attending, etc. Also note holidays, birthdays and special occasions your family usually celebrated, vacations you took, historical events that affected your family in some way, natural disasters or accidents that concerned them, etc.

Not only will this "time-line" be invaluable in sorting your photos and memorabilia, but also it will help tremendously with your journaling.

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