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Vicki's Corner
Getting Organized

Organizing Photo Albums

Vicki Norris
Restoring Order

CBN.comThe month of May is host to National Scrapbook Day. This is a day when ambitious, creative “scrap bookers” worldwide convene to work on their memory albums. Crafting beautiful photo albums is such a growing phenomenon in America that the noun “scrapbook” has actually become a verb (“scrap booking”) when describing the act of compiling albums.

Most people don’t know how to even begin tackling their mounting memorabilia. Should we make an album for each kid, one for us to keep, and how do we begin the sorting?  Should we toss the unused photos or will that induce heart failure?  We are taunted by empty albums waiting for pictures. What about trinkets and souvenirs? Do we need separate albums for vacations and holidays? Where do we even begin?

I want to share with you some ideas I’ve personally used to help you face your epic photo album project and get the ball rolling.

Don't let those scalloped-edged scissors pierce your heart with fear. In fact, don't buy any scrap booking supplies until a lot later in the process; there will be plenty of time for enhancing your photos. If you buy paper, trims, and all those cool tools (which for some people is an addiction) too soon in the process, you may be blowing a lot of money you could use to hire someone to help you make your albums great.

Put the vacation albums out of your mind. In fact, put all albums out of your mind. My recommendation is to begin by sorting. I think a chronological pre-sort is an excellent place to begin. An hour a day would give you a dedicated period of time to work on this. Set up a few tables in a spare room to work on this, and try to get all photos into the room. Then, you're off to the races, and the sorting begins. You can line up boxes on the tables or on the floor. Then, write the approximate dates on each. They can read, "Pre- 1985, " "1985-1986," and so on. Or, if you don't have dates on your photos to help with this process, you can simply label the boxes with major events like, "Pre-children,"  “Baby’s first year," "Kids--elementary," "Kids-middle school," and so-on. Events and trips that happened during those times would just go in the right box to start. Be sure to make a box that is labeled "?". In this box, put all photos whose date you don't know. Then, when you've finished with your sort (which will take a long time), you can come back to the "?" box, and resolve the mysteries from there. By then, some of the photos may remind you of others, and may fall right into place.

After you've finished the macro chronological sort, and found general "homes" for the dateless photos, it's time to add the memorabilia related to those years. Bulky things won't fit, of course, but most things, like maps, pins, concert programs, napkins, tickets, and coasters will fit just fine. After adding memorabilia, I like to micro sort each box again, one at a time. You can apply the same sort, but on a smaller scale within each box, sorting into photo boxes, using the tabbed guides provided in the photo boxes to mark months, seasons, or major events. Don't get too caught up in worrying about the exact dates. Seasons and events work just as well.

Realize that each child does not have to have an album for each year of his/her life. Accept that, as much as you cherish every photo, your children will not be nearly as impressed as you think they should be with an album you create on their behalf. Since your project has likely waited a number of years, you also have some time to get these done. This can be fun if you don't self-impose a strict deadline.

Only after each box is organized to the point where you've grouped like photos together should you begin thinking about albums and supplies. At that point, you will be feeling quite confident about your new organizing skills, and you won't be as intimidated by your piles of albums. Simply stack up all the albums you currently own instead of purchasing more. Make a list of each type of album you'd like to make, and match the empty albums available to your list.

Your list might look something like this:

  • Baby albums for all three children
  • Family album for every two years
  • Birthday albums for each child
  • Cumulative vacation albums--as many as will fit in one album

Whatever you do, enjoy walking down memory lane as you begin this process. Remember that you are not tackling a project; you are beginning a new (or revisiting an old) hobby. You are preserving memories for posterity. You are the keeper of your family's history, and this is important work. Make an hour-long date with yourself to work on albums, complete with coffee and biscotti, every day or weekend or whatever works with your schedule. Some people tune in to their favorite talk show while they work. A lot of your questions will be answered as you go, and the sorting process will help clarify what is important, and what may not be important anymore.

About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. She is author of Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki Norris (available now at and in July 2007as Reclaim Your Life™.  Copyright © 2007) and of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, copyright © 2007, a room-by-room household organizing guide, both published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally syndicated Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine.

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