In Plain Sight

Having hundreds, even thousands, of old family photos can be a mixed blessing.  Sure, you’re thankful that relatives–many of them now gone–thought ahead to preserve on film that Thanksgiving dinner at your great-grandmother’s house in 1943 or your first steps in your backyard in 1979.  And even if you haven’t looked at them in years, you know right where all your priceless memories are.  Unfortunately, where they are is likely a dark, dank, out of sight, out of mind kind of place.  And packed inside each tattered box of neglected photos is also a ton of guilt.

Organizing and preserving your family treasures can be overwhelming.  You know they deserve better and vow to get to them someday.  But when it comes to your ever-fading photos, over the years you’ve gone from being a garden variety, well-intentioned, amateur procrastinator to a top of the line, well-intentioned, professional procrastinator.  You don’t just put it off forever, but forever and a day.

If that sounds like you, I have a solution, or more like the start of a solution.  Here’s what you do.  I want you to go to that closet, storage room, attic or wherever else your old photos are entombed.  Throw open the door, drag the boxes out into the light and place them in a well-traveled area, such as your living room or family room, someplace you’re sure to see them every day.

The next step is to open a box of pictures and pull out a handful of pictures.  What we’re looking for is a photo taken in or around one of your family’s homes.  Do you recognize the people in the picture?  Can you recall or find out the address of the home?  How about the approximate year the snapshot was taken?  If the answer to all three questions is yes, the hunt is over for now.  There’s no pressure to organize your collection all in one day.  Close up the box and put it aside.

Write down a few sentences about the home in general.  Who owned it.  Some of the events that took place there.  Your memories of the home and its residents.  Add a separate couple of lines about what we see in that specific picture and note the approximate year it was taken.  Next, either scan or take a digital photo of the picture and email the jpg and your written descriptions to me at
I’ll start a HomePage for the address on and post it on our map.  In the future, you can go directly to the website and add additional photos and captions for that address.

And what about those boxes of photos?  I want you to leave them right where they are, sitting in plain sight. The entire dynamic has changed. You’re no longer guilty of ignoring your treasured photos. Gone are the days when you would put your head down and walk swiftly past them.  You’re actually doing something now.  Even if it’s just one picture at a time.

Once you see the history of the home preserved online, I’m betting that what was once a chore will become more of a willing work in progress where you find the time to sift through other photos from the address, or another home you once lived in.  And flush with your success locating and sorting the pictures of your homes, don’t be surprised if you can’t wait to begin organizing the rest of your family photos.  Remember, no task is too big when you break it down to bite-sized pieces.


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