Like, if I'm at a used book store, I habitually look if there's a bin of old cheap National Geographic or other travel magazines and leaf through them to see whether any have cool photographs, if I see an interesting picture on the internet I will safe it, and so on.
Obviously after a time this results in an organizational problem if you ever want to find anything again. So I'm wondering how others deal with this.
It's not so bad with the books, I just have a shelf with books I got for their pictures, like for example collections of photographs from the 1920s, 30s and so on, books of animals, places, people, cars, design... It's harder for the magazines because things like National Geographic aren't topic specific, so I never know whether I decided to keep some issue for pictures of some place or some animal, or even whether it was in the title article. Which makes finding things again a bit harder.
Digital stuff is the least problematic in some respects, because I have created a bunch of folders labeled by topic for photos (reference for buildings & cityscapes, landscapes, actions, clothing, animals, plants, objects, symbols, textures,... with some having subfolders) and some other folders for art by other people, and yet another set of folders for fandom character reference, so it's not hard to find which folders to browse. The main problem is that I don't always know where I got some image from, because it's so much easier to just save a picture than to save it and add something to its meta-info field. That isn't a big problem if I just use it as inspiration or reference some parts of it, but if say a landscape photo was to serve as main reference for a drawn background I might want to acknowledge that, yet often by the time I use something I have no idea where it came from anymore.
Photos I've taken myself before having a digital camera are more of a mess, because those are mostly in big boxes, and most are kind of boring holiday photos with some cool landscapes and animals scattered inbetween. But the worst are the boxes of, well I guess "junk" fits, i.e. stuff I've kept for because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Much of that is also paper, like exhibition catalogs, flyers that looked interesting, clippings from newspapers or magazines, posters, but there's also stuff like feathers with a nice pattern, stones, tins, even some bit of metal that rusted in an interesting way, and so on. I mean, I try to keep the non-paper junk down to one box or so, because I really don't need to go down the road of people who end up smothered by their packrat piles collapsing on them, but well, I'm not a very tidy person to begin with, so it's an uphill battle. I guess what I really need would be del.icio.us tagging for RL objects and/or a physical search engine, but I fear that level of virtual home and computer merging is still a way off into the future.
So, how do you deal with organizing your reference and inspirational collection so that is actually useful for you rather than a pile of messy clutter? Do you have some kind of system? Or just really good spatial memory?
Though I don't draw professionally or even all that often, I still have a habit of collecting interesting visual things for reference or inspiration. Even with libraries and these days internet image searches it is not easy to find the exact kind of interesting picture you need when you need it, or sometimes you don't even know what exactly it would be you need to realize some vague idea. Or at least it is like that for me, so if I come across something that is visually stunning, unusual, interesting, seems like a good inspiration, or a possible reference for something I might draw some day I keep it.