EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the latest installment of The Single Life, a monthly column written specifically for singles.

Labor Day has come and gone, which means summer is finally over. (The calendar says fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23, but that’s just a technicality in my book.) So how was your summer? Did you take a lot of photos? What have you done with them?

If your answer is “I’ve categorized each photo and placed it into a scrapbook for future generations to enjoy,” then you can just click on another article—what I have to offer is way below your scary level of organization. But if your answer is, “I dunno” or “Wait, I’m supposed to do something?” or “They’re on my phone, duh” then you just might want to keep reading.

Organize? Why Bother?

Let’s say you have an irreplaceable photo on your phone where you can pull it up anywhere, anytime. Awesome. What happens if you leave your phone in an airplane seat pocket or it winds up in a toilet or any other common worst-case scenario? Photos on your computer’s hard drive may be safe . . . or they could be compromised by a virus. Your photos may be on Facebook or some other online holding tank; what if that site gets hacked, shut down by a hostile takeover, or destroyed in a zombie apocalypse? Printed photos aren’t subject to hacking, of course, but hurricanes, fires, hostile exes armed with a pair of scissors, or other natural disasters can erase them just as completely.

That’s just the security side of the equation; there’s also the convenience factor to consider. What if you want to print out or email a photo or add it to your next brilliant blog post? Do you know where it is or is it hidden among hundreds of similarly-named files?

You (pardon the pun) get the picture. A little organization will help keep your photos secure and accessible. It’s really not as difficult as you might think.

Step 1:  Weeding

You do not have to keep every photo you take. Let me say that again for the hoarders in the group: you do NOT have to keep every photo. Whether your pictures are digital or physical, step one is to clear out the clutter.

Here’s how: Grab a batch (or open a folder) and take a quick pass through with a critical eye. Blurry? Toss it. Head cut off? Toss it. Fingers in the photo? Toss it. Extremely unflattering? Be kind and toss it. Fourteen images almost exactly alike? Pick your favorite and toss the rest. It’s OK, really it is. I hereby give you permission to go for quality, not quantity. Now that you have a smaller pile to work with, it’s time to organize.

Step 2: Organizing

Old School: Hard Copy Photos

If you’ve got a mountain of pictures, you may want to attack them in stages. Clear off a space (table, floor, whatever works for you) and dive in. There are any number of tools you can use, from archival-quality albums and storage containers to shoeboxes and envelopes. What you choose depends on your budget and personal preference.

If you have an elephant-sized pile of photos, tackle it one bite at a time. Start with sorting them into categories (year, vacations, family, friends, whatever works for you) and storing each category in its own container, marking the container as you go. If time allows, take a photo marking pen or pencil and scribble the year, location, maybe a name or two on the back of each photo. If not, store your pen/pencil with your photo stash, so if you take a picture out of its container, you can mark it then.