The ultimate guide to curating memories for scrapbooking slackers


There’s something truly wonderful about that concept, isn’t there?

The idea of gorgeous volumes, one for each major family event (or year), standing spine-to-spine on a shelf in the living room for all to enjoy is simply wonderful to imagine. Too bad reality gets in the way of those memory-curating fantasies, right? Most people are months, if not years, behind where they think they should be when it comes to organizing their pictures and mementos of good times spent with family and friends. One woman we spoke with recently figured she’s at least 6 years behind and many more still hadn’t sorted through and organized the thousand or so pictures they snapped on their last family trip.

If you’re behind, don’t despair. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide for getting your memories organized.

Start Small

We humans will always put off projects we think will be painful as long as the downside of avoiding the task isn’t more painful. In the case of organizing photos, digital or analog, the downside is too vague to cause us any real agita. And so – we keep putting off dealing with it.

By starting off with a small photo project, you will all get an early “win” that will motivate you to keep on keeping on through the more boring, but essential organizational tasks. In addition, simply going through the process of creating a photo project (like putting together an album or gallery wall) actually forces you to organize and classify photos you have accumulated. So, in a way, a small photo project actually serves as a Jedi mind trick you can play on yourself so that you get a start on the organizational work you don’t think you want to do.

Step Away from the “Inspiration”

While gazing at inspiring layouts and ideas in magazines and online can be fun, it can also be paralyzing. Social scientists who study how we make decisions have found that having too many options actually keeps people from choosing a path forward. In addition to what those social scientists have found, we have seen too many well-intentioned people become so intimidated (i.e. “I wish I could make my album look like that, but I wouldn’t even know where to start.”) that they give up before they even start.
Bottom line: as long as you are looking at what others have done for inspiration on how to create a “perfect” album, you aren’t really making any progress.

Pick a Preferred Medium

Some people prefer to see their memories organized in photo books, others love actual photo albums or scrapbooks with physical prints, and still others want digital albums that showcase their memories in real time on digital frames. How you choose to organize and display your memories doesn’t matter; that you do it does.

It’s much easier to make headway when you pick one medium to work within. As you gain experience with it, the time and effort it takes to create additional projects will diminish. So, for example, the more photo books you design, the more quickly and easily you will be able to create them in the future, and the more likely you will be to make one each time you upload photos from a major event. It’s a virtuous circle that keeps you a step ahead of the photo chaos.

Establish a Habit

Organizing photos will require much less time and effort if you just take some simple steps every time you upload or print photos. Step one: label what you are uploading or printing with the date and the name of the event the photos are related to. Step two: delete any duplicate or unfortunate photos that aren’t worth keeping around. Step three: merge any photos you have just printed or uploaded into bigger organizational buckets as it makes sense. For example, you may have a folder for each year, with sub-folders for each major event, such as a birthday party.

All in, it takes about five minutes to do that as you upload or print. But if you wait until you have to do the same for thousands of photos, it becomes a monster.

Use Tools That Make the Project Easier

Sometimes in our quest to do things “right” we make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Look for tools that can help you simplify your photo projects in any way. For example, if you’re trying to dig out from under an avalanche of photos, try using a service like the one offered by, which scans up to 600 photos for you and uploads them into a virtual album. If you just want to display photos physically, get a simple album with plastic sleeves so you don’t have to think too hard about what goes where. If you store your photos digitally, make the switch to photo books as you can skip the steps of printing photos and putting them into albums.

Are your photos organized? How do you prefer to keep your memories – in photo books, in photo albums with actual prints, or in virtual frames?