And then I came across Stacy Julian's, of BigPictureScrapbooking.com, Photo Freedom. And this is how I'm putting it into practice:
First, I pulled out mountains of past photos, scattered in drawers, in incomplete photo albums, in boxes, and separated them from their envelopes. This was nerve-wracking! But I kept going, reminding myself that a.) the envelopes themselves are not archival safe, and b.) when, really, is the last time I've ever gotten copies of old film negatives made? In the last 30 years?
The negatives have all gone into an archival, plain, small, storage box, to be kept at my office, so the next time my house floods (hopefully never), or if Excel NEVER gets around to replacing the potentially-exploding gaslines, or the Cedar Waxwings attack my house, (get through the windows) and make a mad dash for my photo negatives (also hopefully never), they'll all be safe in my office, out of my house.
Next, I organized the photos in chronological order, roughly, first by decade, then year. And I threw photos out! Lots of photos, repeating the mantra to myself "Not all photos are created equal." The bizarro elbow shots, or apparently out-of-focus lunar landscape photos all bit the dust. The 15 shots of the same pose, most of which were terrible, got pared down to 3 or 4. And I threw the rest out. If they truly didn't make me happy, or bring back memories, or if I wouldn't have want to inherit (the task of tossing) this photo from someone, I tossed it. And it felt good!
Then, one chunk at a time, I took the chronological photos, pulled out many that were just "bleh" but I couldn't part with, and put them in archival boxes I labelled "cold storage." If I ever really want the photo, I'm welcome to go on a search through these boxes to find the "gem" that probably will never really be needed or wanted again. These cold storage photos are in very roughly chronological order. The photos that survive this cut are put in "storage binders", photo albums sometimes referred to as "3-up". The binders are, wonderfully, 3 ring binders that allow for re-arranging the order I have them in for when I realize that my 2nd son was actually born after my first, and so therefore should have been stored later.
The binders have 3 pockets per page, are archival-safe, and can store at least 4 or 5 photos in one pocket--so the duplicates that really don't need to each be looked at, but are beautiful alternate scowls of my lovely first-born, can still be saved. The albums you see on these two shelves are two different styles of the storage binders that I'm using:
As I put the photos into the storage binders, I come across photos that I really, really love--photos that I just know I'm going to want to use someday in a nice layout, or somehow feature in a special way. These photos I pull out, and put into one of 4 broad categories: People I love; All about Us (immediate family); Places we go (mostly trips); and Things We Do (things we do like work, parties, birthdays, graduations, but also stuff in our lives, like attacking birds, Sham Wow! adventures, gardening, recipes & food, Christmas trees, macro shots, etc.)
And these photos go into one of 4 category drawers, with tab dividers:
What I really like about the category drawers is that it frees me up from HAVING to conceptualize the photos in chronological order! These drawers are like staging grounds for eventual scrapbook pages, and I might do a page that features one of my children and their traveling adventures. . . and I can pull photos from the section that has photos of them (in the All About Us drawer, behind their name), across time periods, and perhaps from the Places we Go drawer as well.
Next, I create scrapbook pages . . . (and now I feel like I can create one from any time period I want, or around any theme I feel inspired to play with). . . without feeling compelled to continue some chronological "must scrap the next holiday" obligation. And I'm only using photos that really appealed strongly to me. . . . that call my name and make me think about them and the time when Scott. . . . . . . . . .
The photos go into scrapbook binders like you now see on this bottom shelf. There's a binder for each category: Places We Go, People We Love, All About Us, and Things (so there's actually a place for those very important, but random events, like Doug Cavorting and Gamboling--although they could find it's way into the "All About Us" album as well). The scrapbook binders are also 3 ring binders, so I can easily re--arrange pages as they unpredictably fill in (unlike the post binders). As one fills up, I'll start another binder for that category. If a section grows greatly, I can create a binder of it's own for that theme (Bonnie may end up with a binder featuring her, in all her cuteness, including some of her book reviews.)
OK, I know I've rambled on and on, but this has been so very helpful to me, using this system, that I thought I'd share it with anyone who's interested!