Photo storage and organization tips

May 10, 2017

I sat down at 12:30 yesterday and didn't leave the room till about 6. It was a marathon. My family brought me food. 😂 I blogged about my need for photo organization (both online and printed) a few months ago. You all shared so many good ideas -- be sure to check on the comments on that post for recommendations. 

For now, I just needed to get this cleaned up. When we had the bathtub torn out of the bathroom behind this closet the banging caused a couple of the photo boxes to fall. It was a total mess and every time we got something out of here a few new photos would come fluttering from up top: 
Organizing a messy bedroom closet

It was even worse than it looks. I would try to stuff back up on top but it just made things worse than before: 
Organizing printed photos

I haven't addressed these boxes of photos in probably ten years, so it was time to at least get them sorted. 

It took forever. 

This is what I sat in the middle of for most of the time: 
How to organize printed photos

It always gets worse before it gets better. :) 

Before I would keep every single photo, no matter the quality or who was in it. Now, as I get older, I look at them differently. I tossed hundreds of pictures -- duplicates, people we don't know, blurry pics, old photos that were damaged, pictures of people we're not in touch with was a major purge. 

It felt SO GOOD. I was able to fit everything in the photo boxes we already had, and that included adding in an entire box just of band photos from my husband's 30+ years of band directing. 

I purchased this large portfolio for big stuff from the Container Store a few months ago:
Portfolio for large photos and prints

It holds laminated newspaper articles, posters, some really large old photos and other random stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else. 

I cleaned out the long boxes and used one for mementos (it goes on the other side of the closet) and this one holds 8x10 sizes: 
Large box for large printed photos

I spent nearly six hours going through the photos and then organizing the closet a bit again. It felt good. The larger white boxes that I use for each school year (see this post for more) are going to the storage room since we don't touch them much anymore. Someday I'll go through them with our son and whittle those down too. 

We have a CLEAN closet again!:
Organized guest closet

That big monstrosity is a steamer my husband uses. Someday I'd like to put it in our master but for now we store it here. 

Over the years many of you have mentioned you store luggage under your beds. I wish we could do that because I think that's a brilliant solution! None of our beds are tall enough, so they stay here: 
How we organize our extra guest closet

I use simple cardboard boxes to hold our photos. They have protected them well for 20+ years now. I finally labeled them -- all this time I would pull a box down just to figure out what was inside: 
Cardboard boxes for photo storage

Labeling is one of those things that easily could have happened years ago, but you know how I roll sometimes. :) 

Here's a look at the other side -- it wasn't too bad, but I got rid of a few pillow inserts and a blanket and was able to consolidate a bit: 
Adding shelves at the end of closet

You can't really see the simple shelves I built into that end but they are a life saver! You can go here to see how I built those for next to nothing. 

The funny thing is (not so funny really, I kind of want to cry thinking about it) that I didn't even begin  to go through all of the photos. I only sorted through those that didn't have a home -- maybe two boxes of the eight? I want to go through each box (holding hundreds of photos) with my sister someday and we can decide together what to keep and share. I hope to get the boxes knocked down to six at the very most. But that's for another day!

It is so much fun to look through the old photos though! I have so many I'm going to share on my personal Facebook page because they bring back so many wonderful memories. 

Our local IKEA will be done this fall and I have a plan to redo all of our closets next year. I know we're not using them to their potential (all that space at the top!) so I'm excited to tackle that someday. Those wire shelves are the bane of my existence. ;) 

If you missed my previous post about photo storage and organization and you have any helpful tips, please feel free to share them here! This is just my first step in this process so I welcome your advice. 

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  1. What a transformation! You're motivating me to clean, and I never do, haha.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Great job! Really satisfying before and after shots. Pictures are so tough to go through, because it feels wrong to toss them. I ended up scanning all of our photos, minus a dozen of my favorites, into Google Photos. Best thing ever!

  3. My husband scans all our photos (took him years to do that with all the family's old photos, but he is "the keeper of the archives"). However, I keep several boxes of older ones that I don't want to lose, should our online storage ever crash. No, I don't trust "the cloud". I still have some ancient negatives that I need to get developed (does anyone even know how to do that, anymore?). Anyway, good job! It's hard to slog through all that stuff. I feel your pain about the wire shelves, too;) Where did you get your wire magazine rack in the photos?

    1. If you look online for 'developing negatives' and you are prepared to pay a bit more, you can find a photo lab. You may have to send the negatives through the mail. Be sure to keep a record of what pictures you expect to find on the negatives. Most places now put everything on cd and toss the negatives. But they create files of the negatives, try to color balance them (not always the greatest), and then put the new file on cd. One set of my prints from slides all came back terrible! They had saved the wrong file to cd and printed from there. I complained and they redid them all. They don't use the old machines that printed from negatives, which is sad, because they were better and quicker than personally checking every picture.

  4. Ah, the dreaded photo chore. I am in the process of purging the house, but I know that will likely be the last thing on my list! Thanks for keeping it real!

  5. I did a post on this very subject...archiving photos... One important note...make sure EVERYTHING an old photo touches is acid-free or "archive safe." I was shocked at the damage older methods of storage did to old photos!

  6. Hi Sarah! I'm so curious which Ikea closet you're considering for your closets?! I just used the algot system in my walk-in closet and I love it! Installation wasn't too bad but I definitely wound up making a couple extra trips back to Ikea for various doo-dads, so you're smart to wait until you have an Ikea near you. I'm trying to decided if I want to use algot in my walk-in pantry as well or if I'd rather build shelves. I love the look of wooden shelving, but I love how easy it is to rearrange the shelving with algot. Anything would be better than the badly spaced bouncy wire shelving the builder installed!

  7. So funny. I just sat down after finishing an almost exact closet purge as you this a.m. I started at 6 a.m. Tossed 1/3 photos, donating lots of games kids out grew, older decor items, scrapbook stuff I never used, blankets and empty photo albums I'll never use. I now have 4 shelves open and the floor space. Now I can tackle the disaster that is our linen closet in our girls bathroom. You can't even believe how bad it is. The door barely closes. Yikes! Each week I hope to tackle another closet, cabinet or drawer. It may take all year, but honestly I know we will all feel better having less to weigh us down.

  8. Several years ago I went through photos & organized them in boxes from the container store that have 12 little cases inside. They've been fantastic and I can find what I want easily.

  9. Several years ago I went through photos & organized them in boxes from the container store that have 12 little cases inside. They've been fantastic and I can find what I want easily.

  10. I have the same situation with my photos, Sarah. It's pretty defeating. I'm trying to get them into some IKEA boxes (spray painted/embellished to coordinate in my room). Because of the limited space in My Wee Abode, the boxes will be out in the open, on shelving. Going to try to make them look 'designer'. ;-)

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  12. Bravo, mama!! I'm happy for you! I haven't visited here in a long while, not because I don't like your blog but

    My un-dealt-with photos (print and digital) have been haunting me for so long, I've actually laid awake at night worrying about it. Such a first world problem, I know, but still. Every time I go to do it, something more urgent comes up, or I just don't have the gumption to follow through, so thank you for this inspiration!!


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