Welcome to the beginning of Photos Month in Tidy ’24!

We’ve made it through Email Month, and I hope everyone feels much better about your inbox–or, at least, that you’ve made a big dent in it and have a clear path forward. If this doesn’t describe you, feel free to reach out to me directly for additional tips or answers, or you can review earlier email-related content by visiting the Tidy ’24 Calendar page.

Photos Week 1: Find Your Media

Now that we’ve spent a month working on our inboxes, it’s time to shift gears and address a challenge affecting many of us: photo organization. Photo organization is such a vast area that I can’t hope to have everyone achieve a perfectly orderly collection after only four weeks. But even with just a few basic tasks over a month, I’m sure we can make visible progress and give you some hints and momentum to continue heading in the right direction.

(One caveat: Photos Month in Tidy ’24’ is focused on solutions for amateur photographers–those of us who take pictures of events, friends, family, pets, and so on because we want to. If you’re a professional photographer, these steps will likely not go far enough to manage organization in your business. However, if you’re a professional photographer, you likely already have a system to keep those photos organized.)

With that out of the way…

It’s frighteningly easy these days to capture pictures and videos with near-zero effort and in large quantities. This “cheapening” of the process yields collections of thousands or even tens of thousands of photos, most of which are never reviewed or appreciated again. Further, as technology changes, smartphones get upgraded, and new hard drives are purchased, this giant media collection often spreads across our digital landscape.

For example, you might find your photos or videos in any or all of the following places:

  • Laptop or desktop computer “Photos” and “Videos” folders
  • External hard drives meant for backup or sharing
  • Small USB flash drives and digital camera memory cards
  • Old computers or smart devices that you no longer use
  • Social media accounts, especially Facebook and Instagram
  • Photos app on smartphones and tablets
  • Attachments in your email accounts
  • Messaging apps on smartphones and tablets (don’t forget those!)
  • Cloud photo storage services such as Google Photos, iCloud, or Dropbox

Therefore, to properly launch Tidy ’24 Photos month, our first task is to find your media.

Action Steps:

  1. Identify the devices, apps, and cloud services that you’ve used to capture, store, or share photos and videos
  2. Make a list of each item along with a small note indicating how important its contents are to you

For a lucky few of you, the only thing you have to worry about is your smartphone with your entire relevant photo history in a single camera roll, and you’re pretty sure you’ve transferred everything automatically each time you upgraded your device. That’s a best-case scenario.

Others may have a few devices: a laptop and smartphone, an external drive or two, and a cloud service where you’ve backed up some or all of your media.

Still others might find themselves in my situation, with decades of pictures and videos across dozens of devices, most of which are no longer in active service and might even require special USB interfacing hardware to access their data.

Yikes.

For fun, here’s the list I ended up with back when I first went through this process. It’s probably much more complicated than most of you will end up with, and for that, I envy you. 😅

  • Desktop computer (HIGH IMPORTANCE)
    • 3 drives have photos/videos
    • 1 drive has only unrelated files
  • Laptop computer (LOW IMPORTANCE)
    • 1 drive, all photos/videos are mirrored to desktop
  • External hard drives (MEDIUM IMPORTANCE)
    • 3 USB hard drives, may have photos/videos
  • Internal hard drives (HIGH IMPORTANCE, MANY MEMORIES)
    • 8 desktop hard drives (!!), may have photos/videos
    • 13 laptop hard drives (!!!), may have photos/videos
  • USB flash drives (MEDIUM IMPORTANCE)
    • 13 flash drives of various capacities, some may have photos/videos
  • Flash storage cards (LOW IMPORTANCE, PROBABLY EMPTIED ALREADY)
    • 4 SD cards from Canon digital camera, some may have photos/videos
    • 8 micro SD cards from Raspberry Pi experiments, none have photos/videos (whew!)
  • Cloud storage/sync services (HIGH IMPORTANCE)
    • Google Photos, absolutely full of photos and videos
    • DropBox, some photos shared or synced for small project-specific backups
    • iCloud, some photos synced for family sharing
    • OneDrive, photos and videos synced as part of automatic PC backups

Whatever your situation, identifying where your stuff is will almost always be the best first step, which is why we’re doing it here in Week 1.

And while a comprehensive list is ideal, don’t worry too much if you think you missed some devices, apps, or services off your list. This process will still work fine even if you only attack part of your media collection; if you uncover more later, you can go through the same process on that smaller part of your data.

If you’d like feedback on your list or you aren’t sure what to put on it, reply with a question to this email or reach out on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.

How Does This Help?

Any organization project should start by clearly identifying what you want to organize. This process provides several helpful insights:

  • Clarity about the scope of the task
  • Context to help us prioritize and choose where to start
  • Awareness of parts of the task that may need special consideration

The identification step is usually more manageable than the organization work itself and doesn’t take much time. It’s a great jumping-off point for building motivation for the rest of the task and convincing you that there is an achievable path to your goal.

Who Does This Help?

If contemplating your digital photo collection creates a sense of dread, finding your media will help eliminate that. It’s like having a chaotic catch-all basement, where you blindly toss boxes of stuff down the stairs into the dark, junk-filled room. One day–TODAY!–you decide you’ve had enough. You open the door into the veritable abyss, march determinedly down the stairs, turn on the lights, and look around.

Yep, that’s a lot of mess. But with the lights on, you can actually see it. It’s not a vague and endless disaster. It’s a big project, but now it’s defined and understood. All you have to do is take one box at a time. It doesn’t matter if there are two or a hundred. You’ll eventually get to the end.

Who Does This NOT Help?

If your photos and videos are already organized, feel free to take this month off. (Or don’t…there might still be some exciting and helpful bits of information for you.)

Or, if your photos could be more organized but they’re all already in one or two obvious places–perhaps your phone and one computer–cataloging just those two or three devices and services won’t be valuable.

Quick Review

For Week 1, your task is to find your media. Figure out which devices, apps, and cloud services you’ve got photos and videos on, then list them with small notes about their importance for prioritizing later.

If you have questions about this task or anything related to digital organization, reply to this email or comment on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.

Happy data-taming!

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