Ah, Spring. Or should I say, “Achoo!” Spring?! I’m certainly sneezing a bunch since everything is blooming here in Las Vegas! Hopefully things have started to come up green where you live. If not yet, they will. But today is like a second New Year’s Day of sorts. We can use it as our fresh start. A chance to re-commit to a list of things we want to accomplish. Starting over with a clean slate.
That’s why so many of us tend to tackle cleaning & decluttering projects in our homes this time of year. We crave order, simplicity & calm. Most of us need to do a re-set every six months or so — hence spring & fall cleaning. [Don’t you think it’s a bit odd why no one talks about summer or winter cleaning?!]
If you’re here, you clearly want to take back control of your digital photo collection by spring cleaning your photos! You’re in the right place because yes, you can. And you will. If you just promise me (& yourself) that you’ll give each daily task at least 15 minutes of your focused effort each day.
Imagine waving a “magic wand” tool over your digital devices, because in 15 days, you’ll be so proud of yourself & your organized, sorted, shared & safely saved digital photos that you’ll be doing the dance of joy, shouting your accomplishment from the mountaintops, & high-fiving everyone you see. [Actual results may vary. Some additional effort may be required.]
And not to burst your “happy place” bubble but this is not a lifelong cure. It requires consistent maintenance or you’ll be right back where you are now with an overloaded hard drive, maxxed-out phone storage, file folder chaos, and an inability to find a photo you want in less than an hour (if that). So go into this 15-day challenge knowing that you’ll need to spend about 15 minutes a week (or so) to keep things tidy. That averages out to about 2 minutes a day. About the length of time you’re supposed to brush your teeth so I think you can fit it in to your schedule, no matter how busy. After all, good habits will continue when the system and processes are in place that make it easy on us. This does that for you.
Without further adieu, I welcome you all…but let’s get started with our 15-minute fling!
[AUTHOR ADVICE: I do suggest you read the entire day’s post before starting the steps as I’ve included some helpful info throughout the post that may save you time (or gray hairs) during this process.]
BEFORE YOU BEGIN:
MAKE SPACE. While this may seem like a common-sense point, I’m stating the obvious for those of you who did not have it dawn on them earlier. If your hard drive is maxxed out already, you are at greater risk for drive failure, and probably insanity from working on a slower, overloaded machine.
Analyze the available space on your main/primary computer’s hard drive. You’ll need enough room to put (hopefully ALL?) your photos on it first to use as your workspace for organizing and sorting. Then you can safely (& thoroughly) archive them and then confidently delete the files to reclaim more room. Before you start this process, you can take a FEW QUICK minutes to delete files you KNOW you don’t need. Don’t spend hours on it. Or search out hidden files to delete. In fact, if you aren’t 100% sure, DON’T delete! It’s easiest to pull off large videos/movie files and music onto flash drives as a backup or at least a temporary move for the next two weeks as we work through the photo organizing and archiving process.
If you absolutely cannot free up enough space on your computer’s hard drive, I recommend using an external hard drive (EHD) for this process. You can buy/find one large enough to hold your entire collection for a rather economical price. Run out to the store right now to buy one. We’ll wait for you. Okay, not really. But if you need to stall your start while you wait for a 2-day delivery of an EHD from Amazon with your Prime membership, just come back here & try to play catch up. Or work at your own pace. No one is really watching. Well, Big Brother, but that’s another blog post! Ha!
DIGITAL = NO PHYSICAL CLUTTER
But you know one really awesome benefit of being in a DIGITAL organizing challenge instead of one dealing with physical print photos? This digital one doesn’t take up ANY extra space outside of your usual existence! Technically, it’s just a bunch of 1s and 0s on your computer’s hard drive, although you mostly see a long list of nonsense filenames like P1057247742.JPG and IMG_8396.JPG and DSCF2705.JPG.
No need to unearth boxes and totes from the basement, attic, garage and Aunt Edna’s house to take up tons of space in your home office or spare bedroom. No need to spread them out all over the kitchen table so you can’t feed the family until you’re done sorting. Or feeling frustrated or rushed when you have to shove them all back in the box in a hurry just to make a meal or do homework. No mess. No rushing. No clutter. No chaos. No upset family members or spouses (at least over the photo organizing mess or clutter anyway!).
So enjoy the ease of working with digital files vs. print photographs in this way. Does it have disadvantages? Sure, but we’re not going to discuss them because I’m only asking for you to give me 15 minutes for 15 days and I have a no whining policy.
After all, anyone can handle doing something slightly uncomfortable for a 15-minute stretch, right? And it’s only 15 days in a row! Could you keep going after that? Knock yourself out. I may even throw in a couple bonus days at the end, but this isn’t a year-long ordeal or anything. Not even one of those popular 30-day challenges to turn it into a habit. So cowboy up, folks. You can deal.
WHY TAKE PICS?
First let’s touch on why we take photos. Duh, because we don’t want to forget the moments, right? I’d also say because we can. Today, almost every one of us owns a high-end digital camera thanks to our smartphone, except for those few folks with flip phones. (I mean, really, people, why bother?!) Most families also have at least one point-and-shoot pocket camera, if not a fancy-pants DSLR too.
That wasn’t the case “back in the day.” Anyone remember film? With limits of 24 exposures? For you youngsters, it’s why your iPhone stores your pictures in a Camera ROLL, because film from the olden days came rolled in a small canister. Seriously. Google it. And I won’t get into the woes of the world not printing any digital photos but you know it’s a fact. Can you hold up to the screen the last 4×6 you printed so I can see it? Yeah, I don’t see anything but your sheepish, guilty face. Point made.
These days we’re seeing trends that the “real” camera is often left at home (or even in the closet), leaving our ever-present smartphones to capture our regular daily life & often our major milestone moments as well. After all, we usually have it with us ALL the time — even in the bathroom, which can be a bad thing, and that leads me to my next point.
WHY SAVE PICS?
Why on earth do we need to bother with backing up digital photos? Because, heaven forbid, what if the worst happens?!? Remember the bathroom where we usually bring our phones? In that instant moment of regret with the “pants pulldown backpocket kerplunk” or any other number of digital disasters awaiting our JPGs, such as accidental deletion by the toddler you’re trying to entertain the backseat/church/checkout line (or really anywhere). Or the devices we’ve lost or “left behind” at the park/bar/Walmart (depending on your stage in life).
Whether it goes for a swim, takes a dunk, gets splashed, or just goes dead into brick mode for no apparent reason when updating, sometimes the tech geeks at the cell phone store can save your digital butt IF you were being backed up by accident (Hallelujah for Big Brother!). Otherwise you’ve now become “A Statistic,” a sob story, and have learned a hard lesson learned about archiving, a.k.a. backing up your butt, formerly called CYA (Google it if you must).
DAY 1: 15-MINUTE “C, D & P” FLING!
Set your phone’s timer or stopwatch for 15 minutes & ready, set, race! Run like a mad woman (or man) all over the house to GATHER ALL (yes, I mean ALL) digital photos! In whatever way they exist. Yes, I mean all. Even the ones from 5 (or more) years ago.
Start with the Cs — every computer, camera, & card (memory). Don’t forget the cables & cords for all those. Now we need the Ds — drives (flash/USB/external) & discs (CD/DVD), even those blank ones you’re not sure about. Last but not least, get the Ps — phones, (i)pads, phablets (or tablets, I just had to be phunny). (I realize that some family members may require a bribe or be asleep before giving up their device for a download session so you might have to schedule your workflow accordingly.)
Now you see the task before you. Well, technically you can’t SEE the problem because one of the benefits/challenges of digital hoarding is that it’s hidden! We can’t look at our neighbors and “see” if they have a digital photo-hoarding problem. Although chances are quite good that they most definitely do!
Because it’s essentially invisible, we can hide it from others and we can even hide it from ourselves for the most part. Buying flash drives in bulk and stocking up on external hard drives because ours always get full are the only signs of a possible problem.
Don’t even get me started on the crushing feeling of guilt we have for not doing “something” — anything! — with our zillion JPGs! Or the FEAR we have that “something” BAD is going to happen to them before we ever get around to backing them up the way we know we should but never seem to do anyway.
We live on the edge of regret praying we never have that sad tale to share while playing Russian Roulette with our own children’s precious childhood memories and family heritage, knowing that we’re one accidental click, coffee spill, lightning strike, flood, tornado, fire, theft, or [insert other calamity here] away from vaporizing our valuable memories.
Whew, anyone sweating yet? Heart palpitations? If not, you’re totally UNDER-estimating the seriousness of this situation. I’ve talked to so many mothers who’ve lost their child’s photos and there isn’t anything that can “fix” that. No do overs there. Well, unless you’re these guys but they had the originals for reference.
While you have all this tech hardware handy, take a piece of paper (yes, paper or stone tablet if you want it to last longer) & write down an inventory of these devices just so you know what you have & what you need to check for photos on a consistent basis in the future. (See, I warned you I’d talk about doing this in the future!)
JPGS ON A PC (OR MAC)
On your main computer, locate the PICTURES or MY PICTURES folder. Whether you have a Mac or PC, it’s likely to have one of these already. It’s a good idea to use this default location as it’s a common sense spot, aptly named & well, there isn’t really a good reason NOT to!
Whatever you want to call it, we can’t do much until you get this step done. Plug in the cable or the memory card to let the computer read the device so you can find the photos and copy/transfer them ALL to the main hard drive. Don’t take the time to judge now. Just dump them into that main PICTURES/PHOTOS folder. Let your software auto-name the folder by the date or whatever it does. We will adjust these later.
Using your Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows), if you search/sort by JPG filetype or name, you’ll likely find all you need. Granted you might end up with a few strange extras from software programs too, but at least you’ll get all of yours. If you find various folders of all kinds of names and labels elsewhere on your hard drive, just throw them all into the PICTURES folder too. Make sure EVERYTHING resides in the same main location. We can rename folders later; it might save you some time if they are already sorted and grouped by topic. A girl can dream can’t she?
DO NOT DUPLICATE the ones already on your hard drive! Just MOVE them into the right spot. Although you are COPYING the image files from the camera memory cards, phones, flash drives and such onto the main computer hard drive. These will stay on the original device until you choose to delete them. You can do this right afterward if you are confident that your files are already protected in AT LEAST TWO DIFFERENT ways (type/location), which is doubtful unless you’re already a semi-pro at this stuff. Otherwise, you should wait until I advise you to do this later in the series. Once they’ve been sorted and organized, you’ll WANT to delete the other originals as they will only mess you up if you download/transfer them again.
Inside the main PHOTOS/PICTURES folder, create a New Folder named 2015. Please drag (move) everything taken from January 1st to today into here. DO NOT COPY THEM! You don’t want to end up with twice the trouble & half the hard-drive room! Highlight the batch & right-click (or click & drag) to move/send them to this new folder. (Remember you are sorting by the date the photo was taken — not by when it was uploaded!) This is usually called “date created” instead of “date modified.”)
This is all we’re going to attempt for Day 1! Although I assume a few of you might guess tomorrow’s task & try to jump ahead by making folders for the months. But I’ll bet 95% of you will do it wrong. Trust me. You can wait until I show you the very best way. Relax and know you’ve accomplished enough for your first session & have begun the hardest part of any major task — the first step — starting! You’ve overcome the hugest hurdle of inertia!
In summary, your DAY 1 DUTIES:
- ROUND-UP ALL PHOTO-TAKING & -HOLDING DEVICES
TO MAKE A HIGH-TECH HOME BASE FOR YOUR DIGITAL LIFE.
- LOCATE THE MAIN “PHOTOS/PICTURES” FOLDER
ON YOUR PRIMARY COMPUTER’S HARD DRIVE.
- DO A DIGITAL DUMP OF JPGS FROM ALL DEVICES INTO IT
& MOVE ALL OTHER IMAGES INTO IT AS WELL.
BONUS: IF YOU STILL HAVE A FEW MINUTES OR ARE FEELING AMBITIOUS,
MAKE A NEW “2015” FOLDER & MOVE ALL JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH PICS INTO IT.
TALKING TIME LIMITS
Obviously, I said you should spend 15 minutes at this task but without knowing how many photos you have — or how many devices, or even how slow your computer might be at transferring them, I’m not 100% sure if this will take a few minutes or a few hours for you. If it’s the latter, let it work and go do other things knowing this is definitely a long overdue task for you.
SAY A PRAYER
No clue if you’re a religious person and this isn’t really meant to be a faith-based point but if you just put ALL your photos on your computer — all your eggs in one basket — it probably goes without saying to be extremely careful and kind to your computer or hard drive. Don’t do any updates/upgrades to software or systems right now. Don’t decide to take the laptop to the beach or work poolside. Don’t drink coffee (or any liquid) next to it — at all — for any reason! Don’t let the kids download new games or play on it. Take every precaution possible until we’ve organized your photos and then safely archived them using at least two methods besides this hard drive. And let this sentence release me from all legal liability should anything happen to any of you really unlucky folks. Til tomorrow when we meet again…same time, same place!
Please share your progress, success or struggles in the comments section below. You may also ask any questions there if you believe my answer could benefit others, or email me directly [ask (at) photo organizing pro dot com] if you have a more-specific request.
© Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.