Picture Perfect

OK. Admit it. You’ve got hundreds of family photos stashed in a shoebox or two. And don’t even mention the negatives. But what do you do with all those memories? If you are overwhelmed by the thought of organizing your precious pictures, just start here.

First, grab a venti latte. Gather all of your pictures, envelopes and negatives. Sort the photos into two piles - toss and keep. Toss the blurry ones, the bad ones, the ones with the heads cut off, the duplicates, the ones with red-eye, and of course, the unflattering ones of you. You don’t have to keep every single one. Organize by year or by category. Work backwards – do the most recent pictures first. Start with this year, and then when you have more time, tackle last year.

Label the backs of your photos with an acid-free photo-safe pen. Write the date or a few keywords on the back of each photo so you can identify them later. Place the negatives in labeled archival-safe envelopes and keep them in a fire-safe box.

Get into the habit of taking a few minutes to sort, toss and label your photos as soon as you get them processed, whether you are printing them at home or from the photo processor. Ten minutes now will save you hours later.

Most plastic pages, bags, boxes and envelopes will release harmful vapors that will permanently damage your photos. Make sure they say “acid-free”, “photo safe” or “archival quality”. Paper clips, rubber bands, glue and tape are not photo safe and will ruin your pictures over time.

Keep a separate box for supplies – blank discs, labels, photo-safe pens, and a red-eye remover pen. This way, everything will be handy when you do sit down to sort through your pictures.

And for all you digital girls out there, you’re probably taking thousands of pictures. Just because you can’t see computer clutter, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Make sure that your computer’s directory is sorted into a logical file structure so that as soon as you download photos, you can place each one in its proper file. Naming your pictures logically each time you download them will make them easier to retrieve later. Download from your camera frequently (preferably after every shoot), erase and reformat the card. Back up on a regular basis. To make things easy, you can use an on-line photo storage site like Picasa (free from Google), iPhoto which comes free with every Apple Macintosh or a photo service like snapfish or shutterfly to manage, organize and store your photos. Most importantly, get your photos off the computer and into your albums. Print the ones you like and start enjoying them.


Robin Chettleburgh runs How Neat! She is dedicated to achieving great results by helping her clients find a calm, balanced and organized space, whether its a home office, basement, kitchen, kids playroom or just a couple of closets and drawers.

Robin will share her secrets of organization with you, because she knows that not everybody is as obsessive as she is about having the right organizational system in place to keep their lives running smoothly. She'll work with you to minimize your clutter and get a system in place so that you can do more important things like feed the kids and walk the dog once in a while.

Robin can be reached at [email protected] or (416) 312-2002. Clear your space, clear your mind.