Digital Declutter: Photos

Hello everyone and happy Friday! Welcome to Part One of the Digital Decluttering series on my blog. This post will focus on organizing photos, whether they are on your phone, your laptop, camera, or stored on flashdrives or dropbox. If you’re looking for something to take on this weekend, this would be a great project to tackle in a few hours.

Read the full intro: Guide to Digital Decluttering

I will be working through my own photos along with you in this post, so you can see my step-by-step methods for organization.

I like to do a complete “digital detox” about once every six months and clean everything up. Sometimes when things are busy, we tend to just save things in random places or leave duplicates without taking the time to clear things out. Does anyone else have a bad habit of saving things to the desktop and leaving them there? I especially tend to do that with photos I download and don’t really need to use again.

So, first things first with the photos. Let’s get them all into one place. Think about all the places you are storing photos. Your phone’s photo app. Your computer’s photo folder. Those are the easy ones. But what about your Google drive or dropbox? Flash drives, CDs, or hard drives? Then there’s your downloads, documents folder, desktop, and any other additional folders you might have on your computer. Do you have an older computer, phone or laptop that you haven’t taken all the photos off yet? I do. Really think about all the places you are storing digital clutter, and let’s work towards eliminating that.

If you’re a blogger or take any sort of photos on your phone for any reason, your photos app might look a little bit like mine: an insane amount of duplicate photos from one photo shoot. And most of them will be trash.

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If this is the case for you too, I would recommend working through your phone’s photos separately before importing them onto your computer. Delete anything you know you do not want to save, and then import everything that’s left, which will be sorted later.

Once you’ve located all the photos, move them from wherever they are and get them into one folder. You can use your computer’s pre-made pictures folder or make a new one. I would recommend saving the photos (edit: the photos you intend to keep after the declutter is complete) to an external hard drive just in case anything happens to your computer. Wherever you choose to put them, get them all in one place.

Note: If you already have pre-organized folders designated for specific things such as assignments, work, etc. that contain photos, we will work on those separately as part of the computer declutter in Part Two. For example, I have one folder dedicated to my freelance graphic design. There are lots of photos in there, but I’d prefer to keep them in one folder in my documents under “Freelance.” As long as they are already organized and only include the relevant photos, you can leave those alone for now.

Here’s my Pictures folder with everything in it, including previous folders of photos and everything from downloads and other locations on my laptop.

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Once you’ve collected everything in one place, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve made it through the hardest part of this challenge. Now all that’s left to do is systematically organize all the photos.

We will start by creating subfolders within your Pictures folder for different categories. There are a couple of different ways to go about this, depending on your needs. If your photo collection is mostly personal photos, you could create folders by year or month. If you have a mix of personal, work, blog, etc. photos, you can start with those larger categories. You may also find it necessary to split certain large collections into their own folder, like “Disney Trips” or “House Renovation 2015.”

As for mine, I have decided to split the folders into categories first and then organize by date within each category.

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At this stage, you can go through and start deleting photos that you do not need. As you go along, move the photos you are keeping into the corresponding folders, and don’t worry about organizing them within those folders just yet. If you find that you don’t have a location for some photos, you can always create new folders along the way.

And here is my finished product. Five folders within my Pictures folder, all with many sub-folders within them.

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My categories are pretty self-explanatory. I made them very broad at this stage to encompass everything I have to store. Of course, your categories may be vastly different than mine. It really depends on what your personal needs are.

I might eventually move my blog photos folder into the main folder I use for most of my blog related things, just to stream line that.

Disney Trips contains photos from all the Disney trips I’ve taken this year. Most of them were on the Disney photos website so I had to transer those before they expired. Those are organized by month. As you can see, there are several levels within my main Pictures folder.

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Old photos is kind of a throwaway category (not to say that it’s disorganized.) This folder contains all the photos I pulled from my old laptop that I don’t really need to access frequently. They all were already organized by date, so I just put them into this folder as is. Anything from 2015 or earlier went into this folder.

If you want to take your organization a step further, you can rename all the photos. Right now they most likely have names that are comprised of mostly just numbers that mean nothing. If you wanted to, you could rename each photo with a date or description of the photo. Some people like doing this so you can easily search for a photo without digging through folders. For example, you could look up “D.C” and the search would pull up all photos from your Washington D.C. trip. Although, those would probably be easy enough to find under one folder in “personal.” Perhaps you are looking for a cute photo of your dog. You could search for “Daisy” and find all pictures you’ve ever taken of her, regardless of the date or location.

Personally, I don’t have enough photos to have a need to rename them. I think my folder system is easy enough for me to find everything, and I don’t want to take the time to name each one. If you think this would work for you, by all means, you should do it! Whatever level of organization makes your life easier.

Alright. How do you feel now that everything is organized? There’s one last step before we can call this project officially done. We need to empty the trash! I would just do a quick double check that there’s nothing important that you’ve accidentally thrown away. Don’t forget to do this on your phone as well.

Ahh yes, nothing quite as satisfying as an empty trash can.

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Keep looking for Parts Two – Six of this series to come. They will focus on other aspects of digital clutter.

Let me know in the comments how your digital declutter is progressing. Any questions or concerns? Any advice for others? Please share!

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