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Organize photos
Simple routine tasks make photos easier to sort. / Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you have drawers overflowing with photographs, images cluttering your computerís desktop and random pictures stored on your smartphone, getting control of your precious memories ó or simply locating them ó can seem like mission impossible. Try this step-by-step plan to get organized and save time searching for pics:

Start a routine.

"To keep organizing photos from becoming an overwhelming project, set aside 15 minutes a month to grab all of your devices and sweep pictures onto your computer," says Melissa Lin, director of merchandising at Mixbook, an online photobook site. Other options for uploading images include SmugMug, Picasa, Flickr or Photobucket.

Weed out bloopers.

To save time sorting through photographs later on, immediately delete or toss blurry or unflattering or duplicate shots, Lin says.

File vs. frame.

Sort and then file prints in storage boxes to keep everything neat, says Nan Pritchard, a buyer at Exposures, a picture-organizing company. "Display photos you want to leaf through or that could be conversation-starters in acid-free albums or frames."

Choose your album.

A three-ring album with removable pages allows for the greatest flexibility; double-weight pages last longer for frequently used albums, Pritchard says. "Memo albums ó with space for jotting captions ó cover personalization, and spine patches identify whatís inside."

Group and label.

Photos will be pre-organized if you upload monthly, "but creating folders is key for finding them fast," Lin says. Label each folder by event (Florida 2010), and then create subfolders (Orlando, Dade). Group prints into storage boxes using tab dividers for subfolders.

Store safely.

Avoid storing print photos in basements or attics, Pritchard says. "CDs and DVDs offer a compact way to store and back up your digital photo files, and corrosion-protection pocket pages can expand the longevity of your discs from 40 to 120 years," she adds. Companies such as iMemories can convert photos into discs for you.

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