This project took a lot longer than I thought it would. I thought that decluttering books was a walk down memory lane, but decluttering photos was a definite look back to my early childhood into adulthood. Overwhelming, but also a sweet time to remember good times and good friendships.
The Simple Things
I am the last of three girls in my family. As all third children can probably understand, I have very few infant or toddler photos. As a parent of three boys, I completely understand how and why that happens – especially if they are close in age. This fact explains why I cherish any photos of when I was a baby or toddler with my family.
It was simple for me to put all my older family photos in an envelope with plans to have them scanned into digital format. It feels very precious to have those photos from a time when photos were not as easy to take and develop as they are now.
One of the first things I did was take out all of the photos from old photo albums that were bulky and decided whether I wanted to keep them and if yes, then which ones.
A couple of the photo albums I just threw out without taking the photos out of them. One was from a short-term summer mission trip in San Francisco. I have fond memories of that summer, but realize that I did not need to keep the photos in order to remember that time.
I went through the photos and put them in different envelopes based on trips or times in my life: childhood, junior high, high school, college, wedding, pre-kids, etc…I discarded all the doubles and all of the fuzzy photos that I have kept for some reason.
I included my junior high and high school yearbooks (yes – 6 years of yearbooks!) in the laundry basket of before photos. I thought it was going to be difficult to part with the yearbooks, but it was actually not a difficult decision to let go of them. I took photos of pages I wanted to remember, and the books themselves will go in the trash.
Before I went through the yearbooks, some advice I received suggested just keeping the senior year yearbook and getting rid of the rest. That seemed like a great compromise. However, as I went through the senior yearbook, I did not have the need to keep it. High school graduation was 25 years ago for me so there is definite distance between that time and the present. I have fond memories from high school, but I realized that the fond memories aren’t stirred by the yearbooks. The yearbooks actually reminded me of times I felt inadequate, awkward, or lonely.
I realized that I did not include my children’s baby photo albums in the “before” laundry basket. I kept those, but just went through them to see if there were duplicates that could be thrown away. Those are now in the kids rooms so they can look at them when they have the urge. They love to look at each other’s books and comment how “cute” they were as babies.
Living in the Present
One thing I am constantly asking myself during decluttering is “do I need this now” versus saving it “just in case” or “for the future.” It is an exercise in living in the present moment. Decluttering our photos has also been an exercise in living in the present. Looking back at childhood photos and yearbooks can create a rosier image of the past than it was while actually being experienced.
High school and college have shaped the person that I am today, but it is not a time that I want to be reliving constantly. I am trying to approach my photos from that perspective. Do I need 20 photos of the same friends, or can I pick out just a few that capture the spirit of the time?
Now that I have managed to reduce the pile significantly, I am planning on:
- Going through them one more time to see if I want to reduce them any further.
- Going through the few photo disks that were in the boxes to see what photos are on them. That will help me determine which ones need to be scanned.
- Finding a service to make digital copies of the photos and a few VHS tapes we need converted to DVD.
- Making a few basic scrapbook pages out of some of the extended family trip photos. My sister gave me a beautiful scrapbook when my first son was born – it hasn’t been touched by me since!
- I’m also considering getting a digital photo frame so we can actually see the photos I have decided to keep!
Have you edited photos? I would love to hear your process. Anyone have a digital photo frame they love?
Connie Gomez says
GREAT POST! Loved your tips and awesome insight into what emotions go into this type of projects! I really need to start decluttering A lot of different areas in my house! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading and commenting Connie! I hope you can find encouragement to start and keep at it here. I’ll be right there with you!
I’m doing photos and mementoes at the moment too. I’m scanning any photos of me as a kid, but getting rid of things that are not memorable, as you have done. One of the decisions I have to make is about 10 framed certificates for piano and singing exams. I don’t want them but my mum paid for them to be framed (no idea why as we never hung them in our house growing up). I think I’ll ask my mum if she wants to keep them
Do you find scanning yourself is time consuming? We have a scanner but I thought it would be too time consuming to do it ourselves. The hardest part in the decision to throw the yearbooks out is that my parents paid for them and it was expensive for them to buy them for me. But I have to tell myself that that was 25 years ago…it’s okay to let them go.
As Marie Kondo suggests, I will be decluttering the photos and mementos last, but it’s interesting to start thinking about what I might do with these items. I think I feel like these kinds of items are important to keep for their documentary value, whether I want them or not, as if someone will be creating a Ken Burns-esque documentary about our times in the future. I’m running into some memorabilia as I’m decluttering the paper in our house, and I’m discovering that it’s somehow so much easier for me to let go of objects than photos or any kind of personal writing (journals, letters, notes from high school friends). Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I’m finished getting rid of everything else.
I was surprised in some ways how easy it was for me to discard some sets of photos. I took pictures of different pages of the yearbooks and other photos. I’ve started the book susannah!
MARTE SIMPSON says
You are miles ahead of me! Plus my photos are 3000 miles away. In the house overloaded with a lot of the moving boxes from 5-1/2 years ago!
BUT I love your reasoning and serious de cluttering ! What a brave person you are! Good thinking and especially the now! Today! The Present!
Now to do same with the 6122 on my camera roll of my phone.
Thanks Marte! I’m impressed your phone can hold so many photos!
I love the idea of photographing meaningful yearbook pages and getting rid of the rest. I recently moved and get rid of so much stuff. Reading posts like this inspire me to stay organized. The less stuff I have laying around the happier I am.
Me too Mandy!
You got rid of whole albums??? Shock and horror!!
Aren’t you gonna get arrested for that??
? so far so good. No photo album police have come a calling