Computer, pictures, camera

Today's phones come equipped with great camera, enabling us to easily capture so many beautiful moments of life.

But then our phones or computers fill up and we’re frozen, unable to take more pictures until we figure out how to free up some space. We’re stuck trying to figure out a system to organize and store our photos.

My friends and I all seem to do it a little differently.

Some rely on a cloud to hold their memories. Others use an app to print the photos and then simply delete the photos from their phone.

But no matter what the method, no one seems completely pleased with the way they organize and store their photos. We’re all left with this general sense that there’s some magical solution just beyond our fingertips. If we can just figure it out, then finally we will be able to relax. We’ll be freed from this “cloud” of unorganized pictures hanging over our head. But the solution eludes us.

Over the years, as I flounder to uncover the perfect solution, my system has changed.

When my kids were babies, I would “burn” the pictures onto CDs. It took hours to drag and drop the photos. Then I had to wait for them to copy. I just prayed I formatted the disk right so it wasn’t all in vain.

Then I discovered a wonderful invention called an external hard drive. I could plug it into the USB drive of my computer and backup my pictures in one simple place. No more storing thousands of CDs in our house. It was a nice, compact little device.

I did my best to organize the pictures on the hard drive, trying several different ideas over the years.

When the boys were little, I organized the pictures into special events. I figured that way, if we wanted to go back and look at their first birthday party photos, for example, it would be easy to find the pictures from that special event.

But it got cumbersome to divide the pictures into special events, and I didn’t have a good way to sort the pictures that happened outside those momentous events. So I started dividing the pictures by month. I figured at least that would get us in the ballpark if we went looking for one particular event.

But with the new way pictures are displayed on Apple phones, we seem to enjoy old photos differently now. Instead of hunting for certain events, we are are more likely to scroll back through all our pictures and watch our adventures unfold over the year. The scrolling is the fun part as we discover things we forgot.

Even my 12-year-old will go back and look at the pictures just for fun. But kids don’t seem to look for special events either. They scan and scroll like you would on a social media feed.

So I’ve started just downloading pictures in big hunks by entire years or broad seasons like “summer 2019.”

Even with our pictures on hard drives and organized in this way, I was still nervous. What would happen if there was a natural disaster or a fire that took our house?

So I came up with a solution that seemed to be a good middle ground, and I splurged on an 8-terabyte external hard drive, which was still less than $200. I copied every single digital picture I’d ever taken from all the little external hard drives I had around the house to this one gigantic hard drive. Then I went to our local bank and took out a safety deposit box (for just $25 a year), so they will hopefully be safe from harm.

The pictures on my phone are now set to automatically back up to the cloud in case I lose or break my phone. Once a year, I plan to get that 8-terabyte external hard drive from the bank and add the pictures from that year to it. Then I’ll take it back to the bank.

In case that external hard drive would ever break — and because I am slightly insane and definitely OCD — I’ll also probably back up all the pictures for the year to a hard drive I keep at home.

It’s not the perfect system. As technology improves and storage options get better and more affordable, I have no doubt my system will change once again.

But for now it works.


Jenni DeWitt is married and has two sons, the youngest of whom battled childhood leukemia — and won. Jenni writes weekly for She is the author of “Forty Days” and “Why Won’t God Talk to Me?” You can read more about Jenni here.

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