The past year-plus, we’ve all had unexpected downtime and bouts of restlessness. One useful trend emerging from the upheaval has been the urge to organize and clean. It’s been therapeutic to purge closets and spiff up home offices. But our vote for the most rewarding cleansing project goes to decluttering your photos.

Over the years of your photo-taking life, your pictures can quickly pile up into the tens of thousands. Since you’ll want to organize and preserve the most meaningful memories, not clogging your collection is important. And with 1.4 trillion photos expected to be taken in 2021, everyone’s photo feed definitely includes some duds. 

Here are three steps to become a curator of your photos, and create a collection that’s an artful labor of love.

Step 1: Decide which types of photos matter most

In an unorganized photo collection “your really special photos are in the midst of screenshots, selfies, food photos, and other photos that don’t matter,” said Cathi Nelson, CEO of The Photo Managers.

Mylio All Photos view with screenshots

Before you start organizing, take a few moments to outline your photo priorities. “Ask yourself, why do I take photos? What are the ones I want to share in the future?”, Nelson said. Your answer will determine which types of photos you want to prioritize and organize, she added.

Step 2: Get into a routine to sort through recent photos

As with any life-improving task, there’s a proactive and reactive approach to photo organization. Proactive photo-takers review pictures shortly after taking them. They “favorite” or otherwise organize the best shots and delete blurry, bad, or duplicate photos. Then there’s the rest of us. But it’s never too late to start taking control of your photo mess.

“You don’t need to organize your entire photo collection all at once; that would be really daunting,” Nelson said. “It’s most important to ensure that the really meaningful photos — your daughter’s first steps, your high school graduation, your brother’s wedding — don’t get completely lost in the mix of random photos.”

organized computer desk

“Having a photo maintenance plan in place is critical,” Nelson said. “Decide your criteria for deleting (or de-prioritizing) photos. You can also create a favorites folder or tag photos you really want to keep.”

How to keep your good intentions on track? Create a recurring event in your online calendar. Once a month or every quarter, it’ll remind you of your goal to go through recent photos to clear out what you don’t need and flag or further organize your best images. After your initial organizational push, this will be a quick maintenance session.

Step 3: Customize your photo organization system in Mylio

Default photo apps like Google Photos and Apple Photos are simple to use but they offer limited ways to bring order to your photo feed. Essentially, you can “like” or “heart” favorite photos and create Albums. In contrast, the free Mylio app provides multiple ways to customize your own organization system. That’s on top of photo editing and seamless sync and backup of your entire photo library across your devices: phone, computer, external hard drive, etc.

mylio-folders-view

Rating photos is the ideal starting point to declutter your photos. There are three ways to rate photos in Mylio: stars (1 to 5), color labels, and the flag. The flag is most comparable to like or favorite: an easy way to mark specific photos. Stars and color labels help you create a more nuanced system where you can quickly access both individual photos and groups of photos.

Next step: Use star ratings

Here’s a simple star-rating system example that you can use or adapt.

  • 5 stars = Show. Your best pictures. These are standouts you want in slideshows, to print and display. Keep the bar high here: Out of 1,000 photos, you might have 50 5-star winners in your organized collection.
  • 4 stars = Next Best. These are strong photos, 5-star also-rans. From 1,000, aim for about 100 in this category.
  • 3 stars = Keep. Most of your photos will live here. These photos definitely have merit but they’re not ones you’ll regularly view, share, or show. a good target is about 700 per 1,000 images.
  • 2 stars = Weak. These photos aren’t very good or special but might be one of only a few photos you have of a person or place. You might have 150 within each 1,000 photos in your tidied-up photo library.
  • 1 star = Delete. Pictures of your thumb, exact duplicates, blurry photos. Since storage options are relatively inexpensive these days, you may not want to actually delete them. But you can use a filter to ensure you rarely see them. When you’re ready to delete, just use the filter bar to see all 1-star photos (or search “rating:1”), select all, and delete. Any deletions will automatically sync across all your Mylio-linked devices.
Screenshot of Mylio photo organization app showing 1-star ratings on images to delete to declutter photos

Next step: Add color labels

Unlike stars, colors aren’t associated with quality rankings. Mylio’s color labels are perfect to indicate types of photo content. For instance, you can choose blue for family, yellow for work, green for travel, purple for food.

Even better, stars and color labels play well together. After you rate a batch of photos — say from a trip or event — you can filter in Mylio for 5 stars and blue. You’ll instantly have the makings of a fantastic family photo album, an Album in Mylio. or export a slideshow.

You could also choose to use the red label like the 1-star rating, to denote photos to delete. As you scan through a batch of pictures, you can assign the red label to several photos. Then filter (or search “label:Red”), select all, and delete.

Screenshot of Mylio photo organization app showing Red labels on images to delete to declutter photos

With practice, you’ll soon graduate to “speed rating” in Mylio. Simply use shift+click to select a range of photos, or command+click to pick individual photos. Then apply any rating, color label, or flag to all the images at once. This also works for additional Mylio organization tools like keywords, face tags, titles, and captions.

Get the top 7 pro photo organization tips from our in-house expert.

Decluttering your photo collection brings joy

Organizing your photos takes time, even with tools that make it easy to batch-tag or drag and drop multiple photos into your folder system. But by bringing your best and most meaningful photos to the forefront — quite literally in Mylio’s Calendar view — you’re more likely to view, enjoy, and share them. 

“You have to curate because if you don’t, the photos will become meaningless,” Nelson said. “The most photographed generation in history is at the most risk of losing their visual heritage because they won’t be able to find all those photos due to the volume challenges of digital data. Yet everyone really cares about their photo memories.” 

Now is the best time to start decluttering your ever-expanding photo library. To give it a try, download Mylio now.