In My Experience, organizing analog 35 mm negatives was no problem. Each roll had a number (starting from one) with date, film type & frame # -- as 362/'95/TriX, #4, which would be roll #362, 1995, triX film, frame#4, said "code" being written in pencil on the back of each/any print, and contact sheet, while the negs themselves were stored in archival boxes with the "code" in big print, in (approximately) numerical order -- so wherever any particular print ended up (in a mat, in a frame, in a box of scraps,loose in a mess, even in a "collection") the neg could be quickly located.
The problems began when I switched to digital camera. (Fortunately, my camera energy never extended to larger format, which clearly requires higher indexing skills.) But now, with some help, I've learned (at least theoretically) to upload each memory card to a program that tells the date of each shot... so if there are, say 150 images on a card, what I (pretty much manage to) do is "title" each neg with date taken and a couple of words of subject, such as "Bleecker Street Coat, Jan 25 '06." These go in folders, not as well organized as I hope they will be when I get smarter, & theoretically backed on CDs, but so far -- ta da!! when I ask Sherlock it finds the file... (tho sometimes it takes a few tries).
I refuse to dwell on the memory card with a year's photos that I lost... I had to leave the camera behind during a 3-day trip to distant city for a wedding (obligatory -- trust me on that) &, not wanting to leave it in hotel room, left it home, removing the memory card, which I tucked into a nearby space because we HAVE been broken into & I figured let them have the camera, but not the photos. Needless to add, I spent 100 hours searching for the memory card -- during more than a year. Never found it. (Tho when I don't care any more it may turn up.) But, on the bright side, since I carry the beat-up dumb old obsolete canon with me everywhere, I've made a fair # of new photos, some I like a lot even, to lose memory of the old. And, tho I'm enjoying making digital "work prints" of many, haven't even begun the "alternative" prints.
Eg., today on the way to dentist uptown (no cavities, tra la !!), passing a very green "statue of Liberty" next to a red something or other in front of a souvenir store on Broadway, I grabbed the shot, then returned camera to the crumbs and loose coins in my beat up, taped up, faded, stained "camera bag," aka "pocket book."
I had to go above 14th Street, but that at least improved the day.
Oops -- I hadn't meant to go on like this & I have an actual question... I'll start fresh on that.
Meanwhile, I do agree with Christina that...
I also find it interesting to note that upon viewing old contact sheets, I may find that images I ignored at the time are far more interesting to me now than the ones I originally chose. It's fascinating to see how some aspects of our work changes over time and other aspects seem to remain the same.