They Don’t Have to Live There Any More
I discovered scrapbooking in 1994. I learned that photos didn’t have to live in the developing envelopes, stuffed in drawers and boxes for all eternity. My daughter was four, so I had all those early-years photographs. (Although much of her baby and toddlerhood were caught only on videotape.) But I also had 15 years of photos from our relationship (pre- and post-marriage) prior to my daughter’s birth.
I jumped right into scrapbooking, cutting photos into crazy shapes and plastering stickers and papers onto every page. Each page or spread of pages had a title and the story written down. I did what I could at home, but mostly I attended scrapbooking workshops, known as “crops,” at my consultant’s home.
Once she hosted an all-night crop. Several people came, but only I stayed the entire night. I had a blast, and I got so much done! Around 5 am she excused herself to lie down for a few moments. She was pregnant and exhausted and didn’t wake up to continue working like she had planned. So around 6:30 am I packed up all my stuff and left her house without saying goodbye.
The Problem With My Disorganized Photos
I was disturbed. Not with her, but with myself. As I had worked in my scrapbook album for 1985, I came across a picture from 1983. But I had already completed my 1983 album. And it’s difficult to add a photo to a completed scrapbook page. And who wants to add a new page in the middle of the album with only one photo (and then there’s the blank backside to think about).
This was not the first time. Every time I prepared to go to a crop I would dig through the boxes where all my photo envelopes lived. I would look at the dates on the envelopes to choose what to take, and I usually managed to gather up all that I needed for a whatever project I was planning. But sometimes I would run across a photo that should have gone into an earlier album. Either someone else had given that photo to me, or it had been taken out of its envelope and then just tossed back into the box later. Or the envelope’s date was wrong because the film canister had hung around a too long in the bottom of my purse or a drawer, but at least I could create whole pages with that batch.
Something Had to Change
I drove home and crawled into bed next to my husband. By the time I woke up around 12:30 pm, he had taken my daughter off somewhere to have daddy/daughter time while letting me sleep.
I decided once and for all to end this problem. After a quick meal, I dragged all the boxes of photos into the living room and I took every envelope and loose photo out. I then sorted them into piles by year—there were piles on the couch, on the coffee table, and on the floor. Of course, I ran across more photos that belonged in completed scrapbooks, but I just kept going, knowing I could deal with it later.
My husband and daughter returned home around 6:30 with leftover pizza, and I still wasn’t done. My back was hurting from sitting on the couch and leaning over the coffee table, but I was determined to finish the project before I went to bed.
And I did. I got almost 20 years of photos organized in date order that day. I arranged them all, sans envelopes, in shoeboxes, then put the shoeboxes into the larger cardboard boxes.
My back hurt, but I was thrilled and relieved. My husband didn’t seem as excited about it as I was, but that was OK. He liked the scrapbook albums I made, and that was enough for me. Going forward my chances of finding missed photos were much smaller. I planned to keep adding developed photos in chronological order as I got each roll of film back from the store (and I did).
I didn’t even consider what to do about the videotapes of Robyn’s childhood, nor my slides from the 1970s that were packed away and hadn’t been seen in years. It seemed a small matter.
It’s More Complicated to Organize Your Photos Today
Today our collections are even more diverse. Not only may our collections include printed photos, home movies and slides, we also have digital photos, and they may be on SD cards, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, or on old or current phones and computers. Organizing it all has become more complicated, even for photo organizers like me.
And yet, at some level, we believe it’s something important we should get done. It may nag at us like a hungry puppy, or it may lie silently in the background like a scared bunny, hoping we won’t notice it if it doesn’t move. There are lots of reasons you aren’t organizing your photos.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- It will take too much time—I’m too busy to deal with it
- It will take too much space—I’ll have piles of stuff everywhere and forever
- I don’t know where to begin
- I don’t know what to do about the slides, videos, movies, mementos…
- I’m technologically challenged
- Not only do I have all my photo memories, but my parents’ as well – too many photos!
- I dread looking at painful photos—divorce, death, loss
- My kids aren’t interested, or at least they don’t act like they are
And yet… they are valuable. They mean something. You didn’t invest in all that film and camera equipment over the years because you thought you would pack it up in boxes in the closet for the rest of your life. You didn’t stop to think when you started snapping digital (and started receiving them in email) how you would manage them. And you wonder what will happen to them when you move to a smaller place or are no longer can deal with them….
6 Reasons You Should Organize Your Photos
So really, you should organize your photos. It’s a good thing to do. And here’s why:
1. They will take up less space in your home.
Right now they are in boxes and bags, in closets and spare rooms, in albums and scrapbooks, on multiple devices, and even stuffed in drawers. One curated collection will make it easier to manage and even downsize, should that time come. You’ll get rid of duplicates and bad photos, so even if you decide to keep the printed versions, it will be a smaller collection. And if you decide you want photo books so that you can hold your memories in your hands, they will take up less space than traditional albums or scrapbooks.
2. You’ll be able to find any photo you need, quickly and easily.
When there’s a special event such as a wedding, a graduation, or (heaven forbid) a memorial service, pictures can add a special something for the event attendees. You’ve even stopped trying to find the right photos to bring, even though you know you have them. Now it will be so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
3. They’ll be safe should your home suffer from fire, flood, earthquake, or other disaster.
You may want to keep printed photos, photo albums, or scrapbooks made with love. Everything will be digitally backed up off-site so you can restore anything that is lost or damaged in a disaster. What a relief!
4. You will preserve them for future generations.
Your kids may say they don’t want your photos now, but I believe they are not rejecting the memories themselves as much as they are the boxes of stuff. Because they haven’t seen the photos in so long, or even ever, they may have lost that connection to them. But things will happen in their lives at some point that will make them glad they have access to them in the future. I believe you can trust in that.
5. Photos inspire others and strengthen connections
When I was a child, we took two trips from California, where we lived, to Ohio, where my mother grew up. On those two trips I remember poring over the photo albums—white ink on black paper—of my mother’s childhood on the farm. The clothing, the equipment, and the implements of daily rural life in the 1930s and 40s fascinated me. They were so foreign to my experience.
In 2002 my family moved from California to New Mexico. Between prepping the old house to sell and moving into the new house, my completed scrapbooks were boxed up for almost a year. When we unpacked them, my then 13-year-old daughter spent hours each day, for a period of several weeks, not only going through the photos and stories of her own childhood but also of the years of our marriage before she was born. Our life together before her birth fascinated her. She couldn’t believe we camped so much and had so many parties!
Dr. Clay Routledge is a behavioral scientist, author and professor who specializes in the science of nostalgia and the incredible impact it can have on human happiness and connectedness. He partnered with Creative Memories to discuss the important work each was doing. Together, they wrote, “To be truly socially connected, people need to have strong and enduring relationships in which they feel valued or needed by others. Albums filled with cherished memories and reminders of great times with friends and family can provide a direct boost to positive mood, self-esteem, feelings of belongingness and a sense of meaning in life….
“Nostalgia is all good; it has been found to promote the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to a fulfilling social life. Specifically, when people enjoy nostalgia, they not only feel more connected, loved and supported, they feel more socially confident, are more optimistic about their future social life, are more motivated to resolve relationship problems, are more driven to pursue relationship goals, and are more generous and kind to others.”
Dr. Deborah Gilboa is a parenting expert, Family Physician, international speaker, author, media expert and mom of four boys. She says that “organizing and displaying photographs connects children to our families, our values and our life goals for them.” Dr. Gilboa also states that photos teach responsibility, show respect and build resiliency in children.
So do it for them—for your children, your grandchildren and beyond. It’s important that you do, even if they don’t yet realize the value.
6. It will make you feel amazing!
You’ll feel lighter and freer. One client told me “This is, by far, the best money I have ever spent.” It is life changing when we deal with clutter, and when that clutter is not junk, but meaningful memories, the impact is so much greater.
So I invite you to tackle the challenge. Get those photos out of boxes and drawers, out of developing envelopes, off various devices. They really don’t have to live there anymore.
I have two options for you:
The first one is that you can download the free guide, “Insider’s Guide to Photo Organizing.”. This will also add you to my email list where I share my best tips and tricks for taming your photo chaos.
The second option is to book a free call with me. You can tell me all about your photos and memories so I can hear what you want and need. Then I can tell you how I work so you can decide if that works for you.
Tell me in the comments below if your photo collection is like the nagging, hungry puppy, or the scared, silent bunny. And if you have a better metaphor, I would love to read it!
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