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Organize Snapshots and Souvenirs

Despite good intentions of creating beautiful family photo albums, most of us have unruly piles of pictures stashed away in closets and cabinets.

In the first part of our six-week series, "Organize This!," The Saturday Early Show got some guidance from Abby Damrauer, associate lifestyle and design editor at Family Circle magazine, about taming those piles of photographs and souvenirs.

Damrauer says everybody has photos stuck in desk drawers, piled in shoeboxes or stored in a disorganized state. Throw some ticket stubs, matchbooks and other mementos into the mix and you have a real mess that's impossible to enjoy.

Here's how to fix the situation: When you're ready to attack your big pile of photos, give yourself plenty of time to get organized. Damrauer says that reminiscing takes time - you will wind up looking at every single photo.

Throw away or give away as many photos as possible. How you actually decide to organize the remaining pictures is up to you. You can try to do so chronologically. Or, consider grouping all of your family vacations, all of your child's school pictures, etc. Damrauer suggests labeling photos with dates and names or events such as "Moving out of apartment, '99."

Damrauer demonstrated how to creatively display some of your photos and souvenirs, and organize the rest.

Photo Displays

  • Lunchbox: Take an old-fashioned looking metal lunchbox and decoupage favorite photos to the outside. Decoupage is a glue that dries clear and can be purchased at any craft store. Smear the back of the photo with glue to stick it to the lunchbox and then use a brush to spread the decoupage over the entire lunchbox to seal it. Damrauer says the lunchbox is decorative enough to have sitting out in your home but small enough to easily tuck away. She says the best part is that you can store more photographs or memorabilia inside, and it makes a nice, personalized gift.
  • Memory Bottles: Damrauer says this is a great way to save mementos such as ticket stubs, maps or postcards. First, gather some decorative glass bottles. (Think old vinegar bottles, etc.) Then, make reduced color copies of your chosen mementos and affix them to the outside of the bottles. You can then feel free to throw away the originals. Damrauer says the goal is to make each bottle reflect a different trip or theme. For example, after you've affixed a matchbook cover and airline ticket from your beach vacation to a bottle, fill it with sand, sea glass or shells. These bottles can also serve as bud vases. Damrauer says they look nice alone or in groups.
  • Shadow Boxes: Mount a favorite photo in the back and then include mementos in the box itself. Damrauer says this is also a good way to artistically display matchbooks or postcards.
  • Cabinet Wall Album: This is a wooden box that hangs on the wall but also opens up to show 200 more photos inside plastic sleeves.

    It's simply not possible to display all of your photos. Damrauer says the best way to organize pictures is to keep only the ones you really like and trash the rest. If you can't bear to do this, compromise and save all of your negatives.


    Most developers will return your negatives to you in plastic sleeves. Keep them there and clearly label each with an event and date. If you do nothing else, Damrauer recommends, label the pictures. It will allow you to easily find the negatives you need. Also, Damrauer suggests, keep all of your negatives in one place. You can buy products specifically designed to hold and organize negatives such as a narrow wooden box that's sold as a negative organizer or a clear plastic box.


    When shopping for albums or boxes to store your pictures, Damrauer says to look for products that are archival quality. Archival quality means:

  • No PVCs (often found in plastics)
  • Acid free (acid discolors photos over time)
  • Lignen free (a substance in some papers that also causes yellowing)

    Damrauer also recommends staying away from albums with sticky pages because after a few years the pages will lose their stick and your photos will fall out.

    Of course, albums come in a variety of sizes and looks. You can choose ones with plastic sleeves or heavy paper pages that require mounting photos with photo corners. Also consider photo boxes, which hold hundreds of photos and can easily be stacked in a closet or under the bed.

    Keep your albums or boxes in a cool, dark, dry place. Stay away from basements and attics as they can often be damp.

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