Category: organizing tips  /  Created: 10/19/2017 14:04:14

There are certain times during the year when we find ourselves feeling especially energized. This often happens around a birthday (turning a new age!), the coming of spring, or New Years.

We encourage our clients to take advantage of this mojo by tackling a project! Energy waxes and wanes, which is all the more reason to accomplish something when you feel primed and ready to do so. Today we’re talking about a project that many of us  avoid because we believe it will be time-consuming and we don’t know where to begin. Notice your initial emotional response when I ask this question:

How is your photo collection?

Many of us hear that question and groan. Photos are tough – they can bring such joy when we look at them and remember, but they can also take up so much space, both physical and mental. Some of them may also bring bittersweet feelings or even feelings of grief. Acknowledging your feelings is important, and it is helpful to be aware whether fear of unpleasant feelings is causing you to procrastinate with photos or any other area you wish to transform.

There are two types of photos: physical and digital. And with each comes unique challenges. Let’s break it down:

Physical photos

Do you have boxes (and boxes!) of photos in your basement or attic? You’re in good company – so do I! The trouble with physical photos is how much space they take to store. Though they support us emotionally when we bring them out and enjoy them, 99% of the time they lie unused in a dark corner.

Digital photos

Digital photos present almost no physical storage challenge, though they can make us run out of storage space on our digital devices. The trouble with digital photos is the mental and emotional clutter they bring us. How many times have you scrolled through your phone, trying to find that one great picture, and gotten bogged down by a ton of random images?

Because digital photos are so easy to take and to store, they accumulate without us even noticing. Some people simply transfer their digital photos to a hard drive, but for others, having such a huge quantity of digital images is a mental drag on their energy.

Step-by-step photo collection overhaul

So what can you do? Thankfully, anything is doable when you break it down into small steps. Whether your photos are physical, digital*, or both, this set of steps will help you to finally get a handle on your photo collection.

  1. Eliminate duplicates: for physical photos, this takes a quick, top-level sort. For digital photos, try a service like this one.
  2. Cull: let’s face it, not all pictures are created equal. Some are blurry, unflattering, or poorly exposed. The cull step requires being ruthlessly honest about quality. Who wants to look at a bad photo? Let it go!
  3. Curate: pretend you’re a curator at a museum. Of all the photos from each vacation, holiday, school year, and more, which are the best representations of that time? Keep these photos as mementos, and let the others go.
  4. Organize by year/time: by this time, you have MUCH fewer photos. Now it comes time to organize your photos for easy retrieval. One of the easiest ways to organize at the top level is by year.
  5. Organize by event/occasion: at the secondary level, consider organizing your photos by event, occasion, or month. For more on top and secondary level sorting, click here!
  6. Organize by subject/location: alternately, you may want to sort the secondary level by subject or location.
  7. Display: the best thing about photos is that they allow us to remember joyful times. For your happiest pictures, consider giving them a place of honor in your home. For variety, you could change out these photos seasonally. This will bring joy to your home and give you fodder for telling stories to guests!
  8. Store: the photos that are not displayed must be stored. Remember, stored photos are the ones that rarely see the light of day. This fact may make you rethink if you need these photos at all! If you do, consider the easiest way for you to store and access them. Options may include photo-sized boxes, folders on your hard drive, albums, or anything else you think of. There are no wrong ways to store!
  9. Share: a great way to use your photos (instead of leaving them in storage) is to share photos with friends and loved ones. Next time family or close friends visit, make a “trip down memory lane” part of the festivities! If you want, you can offer to let people keep the photos they love most.
  10. Rinse and repeat! One of the golden rules of decluttering is to do it again and again. When we declutter regularly, we often find ourselves more willing to let things go. This has the ripple effect of releasing pent up energy and creating space for new things to flourish. The same is true of photos. The more often you cull, curate, organize, and display, the more you will feel connected to your joyful memories and ready to free yourself from the less joyful ones.

One final tip: Look at your calendar and find (or create) an event that will give you a hard and fast deadline for processing some of your photos. I recently celebrated a big birthday and used my birthday celebration as a deadline for culling, scanning, sorting and naming photos of me from my past.

Have you decluttered and organized your photos before? How did it go? Share in the comments!

(Image by Nirzar Pangarkar)

*With digital photos, we always recommend backing up your photos first. That way, if something goes wrong and you delete pictures you meant to keep, you have another copy! Once you’ve successfully decluttered your digital photos, you can delete the backup copy.