Declutter- What To Do With All The Old Family Photos?

pile of old black and white photos

People have a seemingly impossible time getting rid of old photos of family and friends and photo albums. I include myself in this category! When I was down to the last box of old framed pictures of family members I never even knew, I decided to at least get rid of the old cumbersome wood frames. This left me with about 8 – 8 x 10 photos. I added these 8 pictures in the one container of pictures I have. This is very manageable.

Keep or discard?

These mounds of photos hold a wealth of memories and sentimental value, but they can also contribute to physical clutter and disorganization. Using some practical steps we can declutter these loose photos, print photos, photo boxes. Going though boxes of photos will free up a lot of space, and show you what is worth keeping.

It is also the prefect time to either discard bad photos, blurry pictures, photos of people you don’t even recognize, or pass on to friends and family all the duplicate photos. This will leave you feeling a sense of order, at least it did me.

Family memories

Before we delve into the process of decluttering, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional attachment we have to these photographs. Each image captures a moment frozen in time, a slice of our personal history that carries with it a flood of emotions and memories. It’s this emotional weight that makes letting go of these items a difficult task.

By striking a balance between preserving memories and maintaining an organized living space, we can create a harmonious environment that nurtures our well-being.

The benefits of decluttering

Decluttering is not just about tidying up physical spaces; it also has profound effects on our mental and emotional well-being. Studies have shown that an organized environment reduces stress, improves focus and productivity, and enhances overall happiness.

By decluttering our homes, we create a fresh start and make room for positive energy and new experiences to flow into our lives. It’s a transformative process that can extend beyond the physical realm.

Setting clear intentions

Before you begin the decluttering process, take a moment to set your clear intentions. Ask yourself why you want to declutter and what you hope to achieve. Perhaps you seek a more peaceful living space and a greater sense of clarity. Maybe you feel like connecting with the memories that truly matter.

Make a clear and concise goal and your goal will create a roadmap. This will ensure that each decision aligns with your ultimate goals. I write my goal out because when I get distracted I can easily lose sight of my intentions.

Photo decluttering 

Sorting and categorize

Start by gathering all the photographs, boxes of old family photos, and photo albums in one central location. A dining room table may work for you. Create a designated space where you can spread out and sort through the memories. Begin by sorting the photographs into broad categories, such as family, friends, special occasions, or specific time periods. This initial sorting process allows you to see the scope of your collection. I love the feeling of being organized.

Assessing significance and letting go

As you handle each photograph, take a moment to assess its significance to you. Consider the emotional connection, the memories it evokes. Have a laugh at the awkward pictures and maybe a cry when looking at pictures of people you cherish. This can be a nice way to honor folks no longer with you.

It’s natural to want to keep every photograph. The reality is that not all images hold the same level of importance. Let go of duplicates, blurry or low-quality images, or those that no longer resonate with who you are today. Be selective. It’s the memories and emotions associated with the photographs that truly matter, not the physical items themselves.

Preserving and digitizing:

For those old photographs that hold deep sentimental value but may not be displayed or accessed frequently, consider digitizing them and using digital storage systems. You can do this yourself or pay someone to do this for you.

There are lots of tools available to us today to get the job done. By deciding you want to make digital storage solutions yourself you also make a really good excuse to buy a cool new high-quality flatbed scanner.

Alternately you could use your smartphone to capture clear digital copies of the photographs. 

One way to make a digital library is to organize each digital copy into folders on your computer. Or you could use cloud storage services to ensure their safekeeping.

I use an external hard drive and a cloud service. For me it depends on whether or not the images are business related, personal and the degree of importance I place upon the picture. Using an external hard drive is a great way to save storage space. Using a cloud service provides easy accessibility from anywhere I am.

Organize your collection of photographs in a way that works best for you. Be sure to preserve the ability to share memories with loved ones, and safeguards against loss or damage.

Displaying and showcasing

Now that you have curated a collection of photographs that truly represent your most cherished memories, consider ways to display and showcase them in your home. Frame a few select images and create a gallery wall that becomes a focal point in a living room or hallway. 

Rotate these displays periodically to keep them fresh and engaging. Consider creating photo books or albums that tell the story of specific events or periods in your life. Pictures can be displayed on coffee tables or bookshelves. You and your guests will be prompted to reminisce and share the joy of those captured moments.

By intentionally integrating your cherished photographs into your living space, you create a visual celebration of your personal family history.

Printing Images

All printing services are not equal! You know this because you have seen the difference in image quality when you print a photo yourself or send the picture out to a print shop. I use different services for different needs. For a high quality photo or a picture I am gifting I definitely use a high quality local print shop. For a picture of your holiday greeting card a big chain print company may do. The cost is usually less.

image of a fancy silver pic frame and bright purple/magenta velvet high heel shoe on one side of frame and same color flower on other side.

Picture Frames

Don’t forget too we have tons of choices today to compliment our favorite pictures. Going to independently owned local frame shops and looking at all the choices is a fun excursion for me! I bring my image with me and coordinate my picture to a cool frame.

I view Frame shops the same way I love browsing in a great local tile store. These businesses are like mini art museums to me because the quality of craftsmanship is very good and the designs are not run of the mill and can be quite unique.

What are you waiting for!

Decluttering the boxes of old family and friends photographs can be a transformative process that not only clears physical space but also uplifts your mental and emotional well-being. By sorting, assessing, and preserving these treasures, you can curate a collection of memories that truly matter and let go of the excess.

As you embark on this journey set clear intentions, writing is always best, be selective in what you keep, and find creative ways to display and enjoy your curated photographs. Embrace the fresh start and newfound clarity that decluttering brings, allowing your living space to reflect the joy and positivity of your cherished memories.

Decluttering is a personal journey, and it’s important to approach it with patience and compassion for yourself. Take your time, honor the memories, and celebrate the progress you make along the way.

Happy decluttering! May your home be filled with cherished memories and positive energy!

pic of author

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutterer and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed! We will have a few laughs too!

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