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Pandemic Induced Photo Organizing. Have you Caught the Bug?

It’s been a busy summer at Organized Photos Forever, thanks to pandemic-induced photo organizing. The brilliant cartoon above, published in The New Yorker, explains what I mean. Families quarantining at home FINALLY had time to tackle the monumental task that had been haunting 'to-do' lists for years … Organize My Photos.

My clients’ first symptoms began in late March, armed with time and optimism about getting their homes and photos in order. By May, when the weather improved and their earnest attempts at organizing had turned into frustration and boredom, my phone started ringing.

My client Maddie agreed to share the story of her quarantine-induced attempt at photo organizing. If this sounds like you, you might need an Organized Photos Formula.

I met Maddie in 2018 when we worked together on an album project. At the time, she showed me her huge bins of photos. “I want to hire you to digitize these, but first I want to do some organizing on my own.” Maddie is a wonderful person with great intentions, but as a busy mom who works full time, fitting that project into her schedule was ambitious. The bins remained untouched. Each time I checked in, Maddie assured me she wanted to go ahead, as soon as she had time to sort through the bins. Maddie and her Bins

Fast forward to March 2020, when the medical office where Maddie works closed for the indefinite future. The time had come! Maddie tackled her bins with industrious enthusiasm. With some remote guidance, she sorted the pictures into categories based on time period and event. She had about 20,000 print pictures from her grandparents in Italy, through her entire childhood, and then fifteen years of her own children. Maddie was making great progress! When we spoke in early May, Maddie informed me, “I’m done”. “Fantastic,” I said, “you’re done!”  “No,” she confessed. “I’m not done ORGANIZING … I’m done MENTALLY. I can’t do this anymore. Can you take over?”

I understand why Maddie had hit a wall … organizing print photographs is extremely draining. It’s emotional to visit the past. It’s physically tiring to bend over a table sorting for hours. It’s mentally taxing to attempt to pin down dates and match up similar photos from different bins and albums. It's extremely time consuming. Without a system, the piles can grow into their own brand of mess. While exciting at first, properly organizing a lifetime of photos is not something most people see through to the end. 

As you might imagine, I love to help families organize their photos, so I was happy to take over where Maddie left off. By asking the right questions, and with the help of my workflows and spreadsheets, I’m able to curate a large collection, arrange my client’s photos into chronological order, and group events together to get the pictures ready for scanning.

In May I picked up Maddie’s semi-organized collection and discovered there was quite a bit of work still to do. Maddie had sorted her collection into eighteen small bins by time period, which was a fantastic start. Many of the bins were further labeled by event, but some bins were a jumbled mess. Many photos were not even in the correct bin, or the same photos were in multiple bins. In addition, there were forty-five albums to disassemble and incorporate into the proper date and event. Yikes!

Semi-Organized Bins and Albums

Don’t worry, Maddie’s story has a happy ending.  By July, almost all of Maddie’s collection was organized, archived into photo-safe storage, and professionally scanned! Over 8,000 photos have been digitally preserved. Each file is named by date and description and organized into over 200 folders. The files have even been re-dated to reflect the approximate date the picture was first taken, not the date it was scanned. Maddie’s family history is safely preserved and the family will be able to find the photos they are looking for!

Photos Organized and Archived

Epilogue: Maddie’s office reopened and she’s back at work. In her free time, she’s busy making new memories with her family, not worried about organizing and preserving past memories!


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