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How to Organize Photos

I love to scrapbook and have been known to get over-enthusiastic and scrapbook for friends and family. Often the hindrance to scrapbooking is that your photos are jumbled and out of order.
Having organized my fair share of photos, I will share my techniques for sorting (use only the ones you need).

1. Use the envelopes you pick them up from from the store in. Even though sometimes we might take months (or years) to develop our photos, this will give you a starting point for chronological order. In a corner of the envelope make a note of possible dates (and events) inside.
2. For the ones not in envelopes, sort first by size. Recent photos will be 4x6. Older ones will be 3x5. You might find polaroids, smaller pics with rounded corners, ones with a white border, or black and white. This will be the most basic sort to help you put them in some order.
Don't confuse yourself by looking for faces and events just yet. -Sort by batch numbers and then by print order (which puts them in chronological order). If they are not numbered, sort them into piles based on the paper they were printed on (fuji, kodak etc). Put your sorted photos in envelopes like step one.
5. For unnumbered prints or to date a photo: look for context clues. Check for same clothes on the same person, what's going on in the background, what's the setting? (inside or out)
6. Figure approximate dates by considering things like-who is the baby in the photo? How many candles are on the cake? Has someone changed their appearance since then?
My mother-in-law gave me a pic of my husband dated Christmas 1972. My husband was born in the summer of 73. By factoring in that what was on the mantle behind him was Easter baskets and not stockings....we relabled the picture-Easter 1974.
Hope this helps you get organized...email me for scrapbooking tips

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The Art of Placement

Now if you have properly sorted and purged--the next step is to find the perfect place.
The rules in this area help to ensure that you don't hit any of the snags that might undo any of your hard work.

1. Measure what you have BEFORE you buy containers.
When we resolve to get organized, we usually run out and buy every type of bin, basket, or container and figure that these will get us organized. Until you know just how much you have and how often you need to access it, these "organizers" are just clutter.

2. Think outside of the box.
I love boxes, but not all of our possessions need to live in one. Some ideas of containers that might fit our items are: a mug for pens and pencils or a large basket for blankets . The important thing is to consider how you will use your items and what container will make them user-friendly.

3. Put items where you would normally use them.
If you went into anyone's house, you will probably find the extra toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet . But other items are used differently in each household. So, if you normally put your mail beside your refrigerator, then put your mail filing system there. If you put your system on top of your desk, it will go unused and sit dusty while the pile by the fridge will grow larger.

4. Consider zones.
Imagine a kindergarten room divided into "centers". In each center are all the materials needed for a specific activity (reading, art, building). By having these zones specific and coordinated, it's easier for the kids to visualize what they will be doing in each area, and where to put things away.
We can use zones to sort a child's room, a kitchen, a craft room etc.

5. Consider the priorities.
Put low priority items on high shelves or behind other items in your closet or pantry. Use bins for storage of limited use items like Christmas decorations.

6. Think mobile.
Put your scrapbooking tools in a bag for attending crops. Make a cleaning "tool box" for supplies that you use in multiple rooms.

Thanks for taking the time to read through the class. I hope that this class gives you inspiration and motivation for decluttering your life. Start with a small area like a pantry or a closet, and practice, practice, practice!!! Once you start purging, you will feel freedom and empowerment. And after awhile, you will find that you don't have to go in order, but can sort, purge, and place simultaneously.

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More purging....

More questions:

6. Does this belong in a different room/space?
Sometimes our items just need to be relocated. In one instance, I was organizing an entry-way closet for a neighbor, and it was filled with heavy coats during the summer. She realized that these heavy coats could live in the garage during the summer to make room for the lighter jackets that were sometimes necessary.

7. Am I keeping this just because it was a gift?
Nobody gives us a gift with the intent of it cluttering up our lives. If they do become offended, it is usually short-lived. Your health and well-being and the running of your home should not be hindered by guilt.

8. Will I finish this project? How long has it been unfinished?
I love it when Dr. Phil says that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. If we have not finished it, it was not a priority, and will never be finished.

9. Have I used or looked for this recently?
Do not get me wrong. I do not believe in generalized organizing ideals....I do NOT want you to put something in a box and leave it closed, and then if you haven't opened it in a year, throw it out. DON'T DO IT. This will only make you wonder what was in the box, and hold on to your possessions even tighter.
I want you to consciously look at everything you have and make a desicion about whether or not it is something that you need in your life.

10. Would I display this?
Another thing I take away from these organizing shows that I love to watch (and judge), is that if you have a collection, it should be displayed.
If it is hidden, in a pile, or in a box, then we are not proud of it and it is clutter.
"Hello, welcome to my home. Would you like to see my lovely collection of cardboard boxes?"

11. Is this replaceable?
I have to say that this one is one of my favorites. As I was contemplating teaching this lesson for the first time, I had an epiphany.
Let's say that you have some popsicle sticks. You have kept them for 10 years thinking, "I might need these. I might be asked to be a Den Mother. My kids might need them for a school project."
Then let's say that after 10 years, you make the decision to throw them out. You haven't needed them and they are just clutter. Now we all know what is going to happen the very next day. You will need them for something.
The epiphany is this: how long will you mourn and kick yourself before you go out and replace the item? maybe 10 minutes. So consider that 10 minutes and balance it against the 10 years that you held on to something that was useless, that you had to keep in mind (in case someone asked for it), and that was a waste of space.
So what is worth more? Your brain space, your peace of mind? or the two dollars you will have to spend to replace something you didn't need for 10 years.

12. Could someone else benefit from this?
Why hold on to baby clothes for a baby that might be a different sex, or a born in a different season of the year, or will be born so many years later that the clothes are out of style...when there are more mothers who could benefit from free clothes that didn't come out of their budget. There are many things that we have, and don't use, that could bless someone else's life. And believe me, the joy that you will get from sharing far outweighs the loss of something you never used.

13. Is this holding me back?
Sometimes we hold on to things and become stuck in a memory or time frame (when our children were babies, when we were happy in high school, when our parents were alive etc). In order to move forward with our lives, we have to let them go. You will not be giving away the memory, just the item.

I hope these help. There are more, but they are more specific. These will cover most of your clutter. I do not want you to clear out your house. I want you to make your house a comfortable place where you can find peace.

The need and drive to hold onto things usually comes down to the feeling that somehow "this is special". I've heard this lesson echoed in many movies, TV, and books that I want you to apply to your possessions: When everything is special, nothing is.

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The urge to purge

Now that I have you surrounded by massive piles, it's time to purge. And yes, you do have to purge. If you had enough room for everything then you wouldn't have had to organize.
I've always called these the purging rules, but they are more like questions you should ask yourself.

1. Is it broken, unusable, or worn-out?
After you've "used it up and worn it out", you're supposed to throw it out. We expect our kids to let go of these kinds of beyond-repair items...so we have to set a good example and let go of ours.

2. Do I have enough of this item already.
I have seen some crazy collections of grocery sacks and the like. You need to ask yourself: Will there ever be a situation when I'm going to need 30 empty butter containers?

3. Would I pay a storage fee for this?
On one of the organizing shows, I heard the organizer say that if we are not using our rooms for living space, then our mortgage is just a storage fee. I really liked how thought provoking that was. So if most of your rooms are filled with clutter and are unusable, ask if you would pay a storage fee (as high as your mortgage) for these items.

4. Does this represent who I am today?
We are not our possessions.
Our actions represent who we are, not our clutter. Do we hold on to things because we think they represent us-- or once did?

5. Does this invoke happy or sad memories?
After my mom's death in '01, we had to clean out her house and decide what to keep. My mother was a collector, so there was plenty to spread around to her nine children and then some.
When choosing which items to take, I realized that if I chose things on the basis of: "I remember this was always on Mama's dresser" or "Mom really loved this" then every time I looked at it, it would remind me that my mother was no longer here to enjoy it.
So instead, I chose things that were pretty, or that would look great amongst my things. So now, when I look at these objects, I am happy. I can think, "Look at this beautiful object....I got it from my mother".
Our loved ones do not wish for us to be sad or to live our lives for them. They want us to be happy, safe, and fulfilled.

I don't think there's much room left, so I will stop here....but there are eight more questions so keep reading.

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Time to sort

Usually to prove my point that anyone can organize, I'll ask for the self-proclaimed least organized person to sort a bin of select items.
Never have I encountered someone who couldn't sort this bin into piles of the same types.
We were all trained to see patterns as we learned our colors, shapes, and letters.
Now, if I've convinced you that you are capable - I have to give you the "rules". Most people who set out to get organized and fail do so because they didn't have these points in mind beforehand.


1. Set aside the time.
Sorting will take more time than you think, and will make the mess larger and more spread out. If you don't take the time, you'll give up mid-way and stash. Then you'll be left with a big mess, no sense of accomplishment, and no progress. I have a few friends who subscribe to the "only clean fifteen minutes a day" philosophy. But as another old friend said, "That's only enough time to shred the junk mail."
It can take anywhere from six to eight hours to complete a basement, garage, or large room.
So start small, and take the time.

2. Bring with you: storage bags, pen and paper, a donation box, and a trash can.
You will need the bags for small items, pen & paper for notes or labels, the box for things that will obviously be donated, and there will be trash.

If it belongs in another room-make a pile of things that belong in other rooms.

4. Disconnect from the objects you are sorting - no reminiscing.
When we start to reminisce, we stop sorting, and start planning. There will be plenty of time for reminiscing during the purge phase. So for now, no thinking, just make piles.

5. Don't skip anything.
Chances are that box in the corner is filled with as many disjointed items as the rest of the room. And knowing what you have is half the battle.

6. Contain it.
If the task becomes too overwhelming, don't lose your progress - put your piles into containers .

Happy sorting!


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I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 who likes to organize, craft, & read (among other things)