Inspired by Our Experts to Organize All Those Hard Copy Photos Taking Up Space and Collecting Dust

To conclude Organization Week, we bring you inspiration to tackle your hard copy photos.

As Alison and I sat listening with rapt attention to Lisa Burlee’s tutorial on organizing digital photos, we got to talking about organizing hard copy photos. Over the years the children and I have raided our photo albums for various projects, like adorable little books for lower school, my life posters,

old photo collage © The Gracious Posse

yearbook ads and senior videos. In addition the attic is filled with oodles of frames that, though holding precious memories, I no longer want to display and dust. The result: I have gaping holes in my photo albums, and a bunch of bins, stacks and envelopes full of unorganized photos that I don’t have efficient access to when I want to use them.

I’m trying to follow Kim Menges’ advice on stuff:

If you don’t use it or love it, get rid of it.

My numerous photo albums need consolidation to free up valuable storage space, and certainly the old frames need to find new homes because I no longer use or love them. 

Step 1 — Make a List by Year of Major Events

Alison devised a simple approach when she had to start making senior ads out of baskets full of untamed photos. It dovetails nicely with how I have chosen to name my Events in iPhoto. Her methodology for organizing hard-copy photos is to make a list by year of the big events that occurred during it. I love how she made a column for her children’s age and grade in January of each year.

Alison's event list by year © The Gracious Posse

Though I’ve saved old calendars for piecing such a list together, this process became an archaeological dig. Eventually I found all my old calendars, beginning with 1993, but to my dismay, I discovered that when I started using a digital calendar and traded machines here and there, I lost my old digital calendars; they have no afterlife. In the future I will have to proactively document major events and activities on our family photo calendar because, as my children have grown, I no longer keep their activities on that calendar that used to be my command central.

Tip: If you use a digital calendar, be sure to self-document your family’s highlights on a hard-copy calendar in case you lose your digital one.

Step 2 — Sort and Stack Photos by Year

sorted stacks of photos © The Gracious Posse

Initially I tried sorting a bin of photos without my list of events by year, but my poor memory wasn’t up to the task. With Alison’s guide, I dedicated several hours to making my Year list. Trust me, the time investment is worth it.

One kink in the sorting methodology I ran into was what to do with photos of individuals, you know, class pictures of friends and family members not necessarily related to a particular event. I put those photos on a separate table and will group by family. It’s not perfect, but I’m not going to let a little imperfection get in the way of finally making sense out of the rest.

All Sorted, Now What?

Once you process all desired photos, put them in envelopes to hold for future scanning or return to them to photo albums or boxes.

Alison's photo boxes © The Gracious PosseAlison’s photo boxes are neatly labeled and stored in a closet.

My fantasy is to scan the photos I want to save into my iPhoto library. I’ve heard there are businesses dedicated to just that task, so I might consider outsourcing. If you’ve used one, please let me know. Stay tuned!

For now, the weight of disorganization is no longer crushing me thanks to Lisa and Kim’s sensible ideas. If our experts have inspired you to start organizing your photos or other stuff, please send us a picture. Let’s share the inspiration with each other!


January 23, 2014

p.s. Congratulations to the winner of our Second Anniversary Giveaway of the Dana Gibson Emperor pillow, Sarah Wiley.

 Rafflecopter winner Screenshot 2015-01-22

Thanks to everyone who participated and especially to Dana for donating this fabulous prize!

Take Charge of Your Household Stuff with Help from The Gracious Posse’s Home Organization Expert, Kim Menges

Kim Menges has been a household name (pun intended) to the organizationally challenged in RVA since starting her business in 2002. With legions of devoted clients who have improved their lives with her guidance, she has skills and practices that we can all use. When I asked if she could provide our readers a takeaway, like Organize Your House in 5 Easy Steps (haha, I know you’re laughing all the way to the junk drawer), she replied that she doesn’t do lists like that.

Kim Menges describing her organizational approach in her own home © The Gracious Posse

Her premise and approach to working with clients is everybody is different and a system that works for me may not work for you. She doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach. Instead she seeks to know you and your family and in the process determine what works for you and what your stumbling blocks are. Then she helps devise a plan that fits your lifestyle. Call it Real Life Organization, not the kind found in sexy organizational publications found in the grocery store this time of year.

Kim Menges inbox and filing box for current matters  © The Gracious Posse

First Kim helps you sort through and determine the disposition of your stuff, then she figures out how to make an organizational system work for you. The result is a household that gives you more time in your day because you don’t waste time looking and looking for something. Music to my ears.

her children know that all electronic cords are corraled in this old picnic basket in Kim Menges's office  © The Gracious Posse

Our visit with Kim took place at her house where she invited us to play a game. She said, Open any drawer, cupboard or closet.

This is how I live. I try to practice what I preach, that we are all imperfect. But because I have organized my house, I function at a high level and don’t waste time looking for anything. My husband and (three) children know where things belong and where to find them. 

She had me at imperfect!

Throughout our visit, we eagerly pulled open drawers and peeked into closets,

Kim Menges's gift-wrapping drawer © The Gracious Posse

and Kim’s organizing philosophy revealed itself. It can be boiled down to a few fundamentals:

  • If you don’t love it or use it, get rid of it. The less you have, the easier it is to organize your life. 
  • Don’t look for perfection in your organization, i.e., your resulting system doesn’t need to look like it stepped out of the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog, but it should work for you. 

As we opened drawers and cupboards

Kim Menges's arts-and-crafts cupboard © The Gracious Posse

we had lively conversation centered on the Q & A’s she has with her clients as she helps them sort through stuff, evaluating belongings using the use it/love it rationale.

Do you use it? If yes, then

  • Put it in the room where you use/need it.

water bottles corralled under Kim Menges's kitchen sink © The Gracious Posse(e.g. scarves, hats, sports bottles)

  • Group like things together.

Kim Menges keeps a cupboard of old toys and books for younger visitors © The Gracious Posse(e.g. back-to-school supplies, baby toys for visiting moms, floral supplies)

Do you use it, but not very often? Put it where it’s out of the way, yet accessible.

Kim Menges 's Christmas dishes sit back behind everyday dishes © The Gracious Posse(e.g. Christmas dishes tucked a nook of the cupboard, not in a container in the attic)

If you don’t use it, can it be re-purposed? Would you use it and love it then? aRarrived at our choir Christmas party this year bubbling about her Kim Menges idea:

 spode plate

Kim convinced her that her chipped Spode Christmas Tree plates could be repurposed into leave-behind serving trays for parties. Naturally I thought it was ingenious!

Okay, those were easy questions. Now for the hard ones. Imagine her asking you:

If you don’t use it, are you hanging on to it because you love it? Does it bring you joy? Hmmm…fairly easy to answer.

Do you have too much stuff that you love? Oh, getting harder.

Can you not part with something, even if you don’t use it or particularly love it? Now are you uncomfortable? 

Part amateur psychologist, part task-master, Kim helps you get to the bottom of your stuff, literally and figuratively.

Kim Menges uses her sentimental keeps © The Gracious PosseKim actually uses her grandmother’s sugar bowl and iced tea spoon

The bulk of Kim’s clients now are estate-oriented: she works with seniors trying to downsize or with adult children charged with clearing out a parent’s estate. In both cases, you can imagine the emotions attached to stuffbut her compassionate psychologist/task-master demeanor works well to bring about change.

Harrison Menges, Jr. memory box © The Gracious PosseAs Kim did after her father-in-law passed, consider placing condolence notes and other special papers and mementos into one memory box for a deceased loved one.

As I tackle my basement, going through the dumping ground 

basement storage

that doesn’t make the house tour but holds an insane amount of stuff I might use, I hear Kim’s words, Do you love it? Do you use it? over and over. The visit to Kim’s home has instilled me with new resolve to continue to purge, recycle, donate, repurpose and just plain throw away until I’m satisfied. If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know where to send the rescue squad.

Many thanks to Kim for gamely opening her home to us and sharing her professional expertise. If you think you could use Kim’s help, she can be contacted at .

Keep Calm and Organize On!


January 21, 2015

p.s. It’s the final hours of our anniversary giveaway. If you want to win this Dana Gibson Emperor pillow, you have to enter. Please confirm that you have indeed entered.

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The giveaway closes at 11:59 p.m. tonight

Organize Your Digital Photos With Help from The Gracious Posse’s Technology Expert, Lisa Burlee

Welcome to Organization Week. First up, as requested by a Gracious Posse follower, is organizing digital photos.

One of the perks of this job is getting to know experts who can make our lives easier. In this case, I have known and admired Lisa Burlee since our Junior League days, dating back to 1994, when we set up a computer lab out of old donated computer parts at the Sacred Heart Center. From a middle school teacher before she and her husband started their family, Lisa slowly built her technology career over the years she was raising her three sons. She began by teaching six hours a week at a local computer lab and then set up a workshop of classes. Now as an empty-nester, she runs her own thriving technology consulting business for home and small businesses. RVA has countless happy technology consumers thanks to Lisa’s expertise, patience and good humor.

Lisa Burlee at home with technology

When I wrote Time for a Fresh Start, I knew I would turn to Lisa for expert advice in organizing my digital photos. This post addresses photos in digital format only. Look to this Friday’s post for advice on organizing your hard copy photos to prepare them for their digital life. (Note: I will be referencing and demonstrating with the Apple iMac and the most current version of iPhoto software.)

To start making sense out of your photo library, you need to

1. decide a naming convention

2. name Events with the new convention

3. rename old Events, subdivide old Events into meaningful ones, move or merge Events into re-named Events.


Step 1 — Decide What Event-naming Convention Works for You 

My digital photos have had no organization methodology whatsoever. 

variety of event names in iPhotonote the plethora of diverse names for my events

Until our session with Lisa, I had no appreciation of the impact that years of importing photos, synchronizing devices and Photo Stream without naming Events consistently has had on my iPhoto library. All I knew was that it was very time-consuming to locate photos I needed to use.

I am going to adopt Lisa’s naming format going forward: by year, then event, such as 2014 Christmas. All of your photos from 2014 will group together in your library, for example, if you use this method. You could name your events after children or vacations, but for Lisa and me, using a year first makes the most sense.

Step 2 — Name your Events Using Your New Naming Convention

It is imperative to understand that your digital photos live in one place: Events.  If you don’t organize and name your events when you import photos to your library, iPhoto will do it for you, with the descriptive

Unnamed Event

to describe the group of pictures it holds. Try to find the photo of your precious Muffy at the dance recital in 4th grade with a multitude of Unnamed Events. Better pour a cup of something to keep you company while you scroll through your thousands of photos.

Tip #1: Organize by Event, using a consistent naming convention that makes sense to you.

A word about Albums in iPhoto: photos don’t reside there. They just point to the events holding the photos. Your photos live only one place in iPhoto – in Events. For instance, if you are going to collect photos of a child for his high school yearbook senior ad, name an album something like John’s Raps and Taps, then add photos to that album as you scroll through your events. You’ll have those photos at your fingertips in the album when you are ready to use them.

Album names

Lisa has always told me to organize by event as a precaution. If you wish to use a different photo application other than iPhoto down the road (or you switch entirely to a PC), your events will move, but the albums will not. You could lose your filing method if you file by album. (Although there is a work-around for moving albums, I’ll let Lisa sort that out with you if you need it).

Tip #2: Use Albums to organize photos for projects, not permanent organization. 

Step 3 — Rename and/or Move Photos to Events

Begin by importing photos still residing on cameras, phones or tablets. If you are an iPhone or iPad user and you have turned on Photo Stream, all of your photos should be in your current photo stream or previous months’ streams. You may want to import and delete them just to free-up storage on those devices.

Rename Events 

Rome photos in iPhoto

One of the few events descriptively named in my library contains photos from my choir trip to Italy, but they are named by city only. The easiest organizational change to make here is to simply rename the event, in this case 2013 Choir Trip Rome.

How to Create a New Event out of an Existing Event

You probably have oodles of untitled events with photos taken on the same day; perhaps they are from one event, but possibly not. In that case, you should subdivide that untitled event, creating a new event(s) from the related pictures. Here’s how.

Δ Choose an event to begin organizing your photos.

arrow pointing to untitled event

I chose this unnamed event because it was filled mostly with photos from our review of the Lewis Ginter Splendor Under Glass Gala.

Δ Select photos by clicking on them from that event that you want to choose to file in a new event.

photos selected for new eventselected photos have yellow border

Δ Choose Create Event from Events Menu.

Create Event window

Δ Find the new untitled event (pink arrow) that was created with selected pictures and change the name to your new filing system name (click on the words untitled event to change).

arrow pointing to newly created event

arrow pointing to renamed event

The green arrow in photo below points to the two unselected photos left from the original event. You then can either rename that untitled event or move the pictures to other named Events. 

green arrow pointing to remaining photos in untitled event

In this case, I’m going to rename that event 2014 November and begin moving photos taken in November to it that are not related to a specific event. As I go, I will delete unwanted ones. In the photo below I’ve clicked on four photos above it and dragged them into the 2014 November event.

photos selected to move


moving photos with arrow and circle © The Gracious Posse


Continue subdividing, renaming, moving and deleting until you are satisfied with your organized library. 

Note to Photo Stream Users: Photo Stream automatically creates an event out of each month’s Photo Stream, so for photos taken on your iPad or iPhone, you don’t need to import them. They already reside in your monthly Photo Stream event and are ready for you to subdivide to other events if you want to do so. 

December 2014 photo stream

In the example above, December 2014 Photo Stream is an event that lives on my Mac, not in iCloud. The active Photo Stream still holds the rolling current 1000 photos.

Wow, Now What? Can I Do This?

Yes! Just start small. Remember, the naming convention and organizing by events are the MOST IMPORTANT keys to your success. Take one event at a time.

With the volume of digital photos probably residing on your computer and other devices, you may choose to NOT organize old photos. That’s okay, too. Just begin with new photos using the new naming convention. Remember, organizing has to work for you.

Tip #3: Start small.

If you need Lisa’s expert services, she can be contacted at

Step By Step Computer Training

For our readers living outside of RVA, Lisa does remote support sessions. Alison and I have both had remote sessions with her, and we can attest that it works! In any event, be sure to sign-up for Lisa’s helpful newsletters (just send her an email request to be added to the list). She is well-versed in both the PC/Microsoft and Apple worlds and addresses both environments.

Alison and I appreciate the time Lisa spent with us. Keeping up with the ever-changing digital world is challenging, especially when we have other demands on our time. Thank heavens for Lisa Burlee, the technology expert amongst us.


January 19, 2014

p.s. You only have two more days to enter our Dana Gibson Emperor pillow giveaway. If you think you did enter, please make sure that you completed your entries on Rafflecopter. The photo graphic will tell you how many entries out of a possible 8 have been recorded on your behalf with Rafflecopter.

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Sometimes you have to click more than once when you return to the graphic for your entry to be recorded.