What’s Your Story?

Generation Y (The Millennials), and Generation Z, are the most photographed people in history.  Yet, these are the individuals that see their own pictures the least in the context of their life history.   Why?  Because everyone takes millions of pictures that remain in their iPhones forever, without any proper backup, rhyme, or theme.  These pictures cannot tell a story that way.

On the other hand, so many people struggle with clutter and find many loose pictures from years past, gathering dust, disorganized, among many unrelated documents or stacked in plastic bags in the most unimaginable places.

Knowing our life story and our family history gives us resilience and enhances our self-esteem.   Pictures tell our stories. This is important. Pictures are important.  We need to organize our pictures and give those photographs the respect and importance they deserve.

How do we reconcile the forgotten past (printed pictures in plastic bags) with the high-speed present (pictures hidden in our iPhones) to make them come alive and tell our stories?  Where to start? We need to organize the pictures!

  1. Gather all printed pictures. Find them all around the house, office, car, relative’s homes…. (Suggestion: undergo a serious home organization and clean-up process to start with.  So many pictures are found this way!).
  2. Sort them all. Preferably, classify your pictures by year (and if possible, by month).  If not possible to precise the year, start with a decade then.  When the chronological order has been established, then sort by event, if this is an important criteria to consider.
  3. Scan all printed pictures. Either scan them yourself, take them to a company dedicated to this type of service, or contact a member of The Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO)
  4. Add all digital photos to the mix. Add the photos from all other sources you might have (iPad, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and any other devices) to your new digital collection. Do not forget pictures you might have stored in places such as Shutterfly, iCloud, or any  other place you might have used in the past.  Sometimes you need to pay these places to retrieve your own pictures.  Be aware of that!
  5. Get rid of duplicates. A very common occurrence in digital photos is to have several copies of the same picture due to the various times we might have downloaded them.  There are programs available that make this process easier.
  6. Rename photos in a consistent manner. Once all pictures (printed already scanned and digital ones) in the same place and the collection is skimmed of duplicates, rename all pictures in the collection. Consistency is the name of the game:  Year/Month/Event, for example.
  7. Back-up. Avoid losing your life story by employing two or more backup systems. The most common ones are external hard drives and The Cloud.
  8. Discard original prints. Once the process is complete, discard the prints. The clutter will be greatly reduced and your collection will be safe in a minimal amount of the space.
  9. Have a system in place going forward. From this point on, have a system designed to easily, efficiently, and systematically incorporate all new pictures taken (let’s say, every month) into your main digital collection, properly labeled, following the rest of the collection’s scheme.

Having all pictures in digital form, allows us to enhance and repair them, use them in a multitude of projects (crafts, books) and imprint them in items (think mugs and blankets for gifts, for example).  Also, any given picture or group of pictures can be selected to be displayed at home or office at any given moment while these displays can be easily and often changed to suit the season, the mood, or the occasion. Displayed pictures will be of any size and format we choose, and with all necessary modifications applied at will.

The digitizing process can be daunting and the organizing part of it, even more, especially if you simply don’t have the time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help!  Some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.

A word about memorabilia

These items evoke fond memories when saved in manageable amounts. Memorabilia should be a sampling of happy memories that make you smile, not an overwhelming heap of stuff you’d rather avoid.

The amount you save can be the difference between being a blessing to your family members or a burden. When choosing what to keep, remember that you want to pass down bits and pieces of your life or someone else’s, not have them relive every moment. It is the moments and memories in our lives that are most important, not the things. Save or display only the best.

A good alternative to keeping items is to take good pictures of these items and save those pictures in the appropriate electronic folder, while letting go of the item itself.  That way you have the image but not the clutter.

It helps to have a “warm & fuzzy” box in a private space like a shelf in your closet.  This box should contain only very special memories of your life.  Be very selective with what you place there.  Not everything makes it to this box because when everything is special, then nothing is special.

Happy story telling!