start organizing old photos and memorabilia

We'll be moving (again) in a few months, and I'm already looking around and thinking about what I can get rid of before we go. When we moved into our last house, we lost our office and gained a couple of kiddos, so space was at a premium. I consolidated a bunch of old photos and memorabilia in a big box. It weighs a ton, and it just sat under our hallway desktop for over three years. 

When we moved into our new house in October, The Box ended up in my new office, and it's just been sitting here for the last few months. We got a ton of snow over the weekend, so I decided to break it open and start sorting through some of the stuff inside.

I'm not sure what I thought I'd do with everything. I think I had some delusions of grandeur at the outset. I imagined that at the end of the weekend I'd be flipping through beautifully crafted albums filled with vintage photos of me in college have a grand ol' time in the dorms, etc. Uh... that didn't happen. It was pretty overwhelming. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of photos in this box, as well as a whole lot of personal memorabilia covering a span of over a decade.

I decided to pull everything out and just start by deciding whether I was keeping it or tossing it. I really didn't want to have to do something with any of it yet. I just needed an inventory of what I had. I found some junk and some treasures, a real mish-mash of my past. It definitely brought back some memories. In addition to tons of photos (many of them really, really bad!), I found all the paper stuff I saved from our honeymoon, conveniently contained to a large Ziploc bag.

I found floppy disks from grad school. No idea what to do with these.

I found Nick's copy of our wedding invitation - it had never even been opened! I guess he didn't send in his RSVP ;)

And I found the letter Nick gave me the day he left on his first deployment, over ten years ago.

Once I dug in, it was a lot less overwhelming than I'd initially thought. I only spent about an hour on this over the weekend and I was able to get through everything in the box. The key was to not try to do too much. So all I did was decide whether something was a keep or a toss and then do a really basic sort.

I bought a few plain white storage boxes at Michaels for $2 each to corral the artifacts and break them down by category.

Then, as I went through everything, I dropped things into boxes by category: school years (anything before college), university, post-grad and projects. Apparently, for the last decade, I've only printed photos I use immediately for Project Life or a photo album or something, so my post-grad box didn't contain a ton of stuff (even though I graduated about a million years ago!).

At many points during my sorting, I couldn't determine the year a photo was taken. College? Grad school? The summer after grad school? How do you know you're getting older? When you can't tell the difference between photos of you in the years 2001 to 2004. Context clues are helpful, but printed dates are even better.

I think I'm most excited about my "projects" box. Apparently, I was pretty organized in the mid-'00s when it came to saving stuff from trips, bridal showers, etc. Everything was pretty well contained, so it's not super-overwhelming to think about going back and documenting a few of these things, like our honeymoon or our trip to Europe pre-kids.

Once I'd put everything from the big box into a smaller, category-specific box, I made labels and put them on the shelves in my office. I really like this basic sorting system for now, because as I run across random things in my nightstand or wherever, I know where to put them - either in the trash or in a box with their corresponding group.

These boxes and the memorabilia and photos they hold might hang out this way for a few more years, which is fine by me. For now, I'm content to just know that I've gone through all of it. I know what I have and what I was willing to toss. And maybe now that I know what's in there, I'll actually start putting these memories into albums. They're definitely rainy-day projects, and I think there are plenty of those in my future.

Do you have a system for organizing old photos and memorabilia?