Things you need to think about before starting to organise your digital photo collection

Recently, one of my newsletter readers wanted to know what to do about all the digital photos they have floating around on their various devices.

Things you need to think about before

The good news first: this is a very common issue and you’re not alone!

These days, our photos are on all kinds of devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. Of course we can also find them on the memory card in our digital camera/s, in email attachments, and in many other places. To make matters even more complicated, most of us also have printed photos. Feeling overwhelmed yet? Let me know if this doesn’t overwhelm you because then you should probably be a photo organiser ;-)!

As with any organising project we start by creating a vision. What do you want from your photos? Making albums or other keepsakes? Do you want to share them with your relatives and friends overseas? Do you want to be able to find a specific photo within a few seconds? How about leaving a meaningful photo and story legacy to your children? Think about this vision or goal before you do anything else. The reason it is important is because it will help you make decisions further down the track. Not only with regards to which photos you want to delete but also when deciding which photo management software is suitable for your skill level and needs.

Let’s have a look at the basic system:

Digital Photo-Life System

 

Input

I reckon the input side is probably the easiest part. Think for a moment and write down where your photos are at this point in time. To make things easier I have prepared a checklist for you which you can download here.

 

Hub

Deciding what your hub is going to be is already a bit trickier. Imagine the hub as a big bucket in which you throw all your photos. It’s nothing more than the place where you gather and organise all your photos. The hub is also what is (hopefully!) being backed up regularly.

The first question you need to think about is whether you want to store your collection on your computer (which can also mean an external hard drive if you have a lot of photos) or in the cloud. There are of course pros and cons for either solution and it will depend on your needs. The cloud might be better for you if you want to access your photos from different locations. I won’t go into detail at the moment but will talk about that comparison in the next post.

 

Output

Once you’ve gathered all your photos in one place and hopefully organised in one way or another it is time to actually enjoy your photos. How would you like to do this? Through photo books? Canvases? Keepsakes? A digital photo frame or a video slide show? Prints?

Again, this in itself is an extensive topic and I will write about it in another post in which I will also give you links to suppliers of the mentioned kinds of products.

Until then, why don’t you take some time to think about what you want from your photo collection and go through the checklist of the input devices. You can then start to gather all your photos from these devices and places. If you’re not sure about your hub yet, let’s assume it is going to be your computer. If you haven’t already started some kind of organisation there for your photos, you could create a core file structure which is nothing more than a folder per year with sub-folders per month to which you add your photos accordingly. It looks like this:

2016
2016-01
2016-02
etc.

This is a lot of work though and there are photo management systems that do this automatically for you. Here is the link to the checklist again if you haven’t downloaded it already.

I hope this helps you get started. Good luck and don’t forget:

 

All great changes

I’d love to hear in the comment section about any questions or experiences you have had with photo organisation. The more you let me know about the challenges you encounter, the better I can serve you with sharing tips.

 

Looking forward to reading your comments – best wishes,

 

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A holistic approach to getting organised

Since I’ve become a professional organiser, it has become clearer to me that a holistic approach is necessary to create order and, more importantly, to keep it that way.

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Oftentimes you hear people talking about decluttering, but what comes afterwards? Or you buy some fancy organising and storage products and are disappointed because the mess is not going away. That’s because one doesn’t work without the other, or at least only for a very short time.

The third issue is maintenance, which is often overlooked completely. You can declutter as long as you want. If you don’t build new routines and/or habits, the mess is going to be back pretty soon. Same with storage: The best organising products don’t make you tidier or more organised as long as you don’t declutter beforehand and change your habits at the same time.

In my view, we need to fuse all three factors in order to be successful. Let me explain each of the three circles and my holistic approach in more detail:

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Declutter

What is decluttering anyway? If you Google a definition, sentences along these lines will come up: ‘Remove unnecessary items from (an untidy or overcrowded place)’ or ‘To simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, complications, etc.’

Mess, dresser with scattered clothes, shoes and other things

I think we can all agree that it’s about letting go. Usually, the first things that come to mind are, of course, physical possessions. However, I think it is much more than this. How often do I hear (after a decluttering session): ‘Wow, now I can think a lot clearer!’? Some people even lose weight after decluttering their physical spaces!

Digital clutter is becoming a serious issue in this day and age as well. So are constant interruptions and impressions that we need to deal with. Our brains are overloaded (or at least feel like they are), and we struggle, too, with the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome.

I see decluttering as a shift in one’s attitude towards things, thoughts, and even people. Knowing where you want to go in life, knowing your purpose and priorities, is important when decluttering. It makes it a lot easier to make decisions. Does this item enhance my vision or not? Maybe it’s even a hindrance! So, focussing on the positive side and on the outcome, letting go becomes easier.

Also see my post about ‘To Purge or not to Purge …’ that gives you guidance if you struggle to decide what to let go or don’t know how to do so.

 

Organise

In this context, organising means arranging things systematically, putting them in order, arranging them in an orderly way.

So, let’s analyse this a bit closer. It’s about systems and order. For me, it answers the question about where and how things are stored. Again, this is not only for physical things but also for digital ones. We need to create a storage system that suits us. And because we are all different, there is, of course, no one-fits-all solution.

In short, it’s nothing other than about, everything needs a home! If things don’t have a storage place, they will be put in random places. An example that is quite common: People don’t have a place to put their keys (or don’t use it) and constantly waste time looking for them.

As mentioned above, a system can’t stand alone; it always includes habits and routines. Let me give you an example: I really like my SpaceCube. Let’s say you use it as a command centre. If you don’t change your habit to drop your paper mail on the kitchen bench top instead of using the SpaceCube as an inbox, it won’t help you at all. The letters will still pile up on the bench top.

That brings us to the third circle: Maintenance.

 

Maintain

Maintenance means preserving a condition or situation. So, after we have decluttered and found a home for everything, we want it to stay like that. This is only possible if we invest some time and energy into maintaining the current state.

Motivation is What Gets You Started Habit Is What Keeps You Going written on chalkboard

I like to compare it with dieting. After shedding 10 kilos, we can’t just go back to the old eating habits. If we do, we’ll carry the lost 10 kilos plus possibly more around again a few months later. We need to change habits to sustain our new self.

Of course, changing habits is often difficult. It takes discipline and some time until a new routine becomes a habit. However, we may not have to change everything at the same time. Pick one new habit and only work on the next one when you actually get used to the first.

 

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As the three circles imply, I think the three topics are interlocked. They are not necessarily in sequence though. For example, before I start working with a client, I often ask them to start working on one new habit. It’s a myth that you can only start a new system or habit once you’ve decluttered and reorganised everything.

If, for example, paperwork is an issue for you, nothing stops you from creating an inbox and throwing all your mail in there instead of piling it up on the kitchen bench. This is a habit you can easily get into before you start decluttering the piles and piles of old paperwork.

As you can see in that example, organising and maintenance go hand in hand. Having a physical inbox and putting the mail in there is organising. It’s a system. However, the actual action of putting the mail into that box is going to become your habit, hence maintenance.

The Heart

By the way, if you are wondering about the heart in the centre of it all … decisions are usually not made based on logical and rational reasoning. I encourage clients to listen to their heart (or guts), especially when they are decluttering. There is no right or wrong, it has to feel good for you.

 

 

This hopefully gives you a better idea of my holistic approach to organising. If you’d like to learn more about how I’m working with clients and what packages I offer, don’t hesitate to call me on 0413 216 589 or email to Chantal@simplyinorder.com.au.

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