Motivation to Start #2: Sorting is Fun!

As I’m progressing on my family’s photo collection, I’m reminded of another benefit to getting started organizing your photos: doing a broad, quick sort is fun and immediately gratifying!

Chances are, you have a box in your collection that contains a hodgepodge of photos – different people, different decades, different types of prints, all jumbled into one big mess. Maybe the disarray of this box is keeping you from getting started on your photo organizing journey!

But what might seem like the most daunting box in your collection can actually be the most rewarding to start with!

The trick is to make it fun and do it fast. This isn’t the time to scrutinize tiny faces with a magnifying glass to decide if that’s Aunt Mabel or Aunt Bessie. Or agonize if it’s Christmas 1973 or 1974. 

Just put on your gloves and start sorting your prints by what the prints themselves look like. Are they color or black and white? Rectangular or square? Are the edges smooth or deckled? Are the borders wide or narrow? Is there a decorative flourish in the border or is it plain?

To me, this feels almost like a card game. It’s fun to match each photo with others of the same type! And you can start off sorting into very general categories, such as color and black and white, then take those batches and sort more specifically within them.

Plus, these initial sorts don’t have to be perfect, they are just intended to get similar photos together so that they will be easier to sort later on. And you may have some oddball photos that just don’t fit anywhere, and that’s fine, too! For instance, I came across a ton of school photos and portraits of all sizes, so I just put those all into a “portrait” pile for the time being.

Once you’ve gotten your box sorted into these general piles, you can put on your detective hat and start looking for other clues on the prints to determine which photos belong together: are there numbers or markings on the back? What kind of paper was it printed on? Do some photos seem to share the same general appearance, like having an orange cast to them?

In no time at all, you can go from a mess to a more organized starting point to identify and sort your photos, all without really looking at the subject of the photo! And as you can see from my examples, it won’t be too difficult to now to put these in batches by decade, which will make further chronological organizing even easier.

Here I’m sorting the photos a bit slowly for demonstration, but you can imagine how quickly this can go! And for those that don’t fit in a category, like the portrait at the end, it’s okay if they go into a “Miscellaneous” pile for now.

Published by Amy

Professional Organizer specializing in digital and photo organization. Bassist/singer for prog-rock duo Clatter.

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