Picture This

I’ve fast-forwarded somewhat so you can see some of my actual decluttering!

Before we got a digital camera (or two, actually), we had those old-fashion 35mm types that took photos that had to be stored somewhere other than the computer. As a result of a husband who loves to take pictures and who is rather good at it, I am the proud owner of four photo boxes, an American Girl doll box, two bags, and one large 12″ square photo box full of photos. I know they are not supposed to be stored in the basement, so they are in the coat closet of my house. Remember, we have a small house, and the closet space is very limited, and this is the best place I can think of to store these photos.

Two days ago I decided it was time to attack the photos and see if there were one or two that could be discarded. Oh, I should mention that I am not a Creative Memories afficionado, and even if I were, it would take me at least 27 years to get all these photos cropped and arranged. So, they remain, in boxes. At some point along the way, I did try to bring some organization to them and used little ziploc bags to put photos into groups. But, alas, they remained a very large, very burdensome, treasure.

As I began to look through the photos, I realized that my photographer husband has always believed that one needs to take at least 2-10 shots of something in order to get one good copy. And I also realized that I myself bought into that “get duplicates” thing. So, here’s a nice shot of baby sleeping on her handmade blanket. Oh, and here’s a duplicate of that one. No, it’s not a duplicate, just one very similar. And, here’s another similar one, and another, and another, another, and ok, this one for sure is a duplicate. And I asked myself: WHO of us, even the one pictured, wants or needs to look at 12 extremely similar photos of this precious little baby sleeping? Especially because we have several other sets of her sleeping as well. So, I culled out most of them, leaving myself with one or two of these particular shots of her sleeping. It’s not like she had colic or something and pictures of her sleeping were as hard to come by as hen’s teeth. She slept fine.

So, I began the process. Pulled out duplicates, removed really blurry photos, took out photos that were dark, and removed some of those “proofs” from the multi-shot sleeping sessions. At the end of the day, I had removed 7 pounds of photos. Here’s the photo:

I was feeling very proud at this point. 7 pounds of photos! Woohoo! I had cleared out 1 1/2 of the photo boxes and was feeling strong and confident, ready to attack the American Girl doll box the next day. Which I did. By the end of the process, I had cleared out enough photos to be able to actually get rid of the American Girl doll box!

I put the pictures into grocery bags and then into the trash. The trash even got taken out. Then I started worrying. What if I’m sorry I threw them away? It’s not like a pair of shoes that I can go and just get another one of. When these are gone, they are truly gone. I thought maybe I had better do some journaling about this before they were gone and I decided I still wanted them for some reason.

What reason could I possibly have for wanting them? I wasn’t sure, but I have learned in this decluttering process to listen to myself when I am feeling unsure about something. As I wrote, I realized that I had always had this idea of making a photo album for each of my five children and I realized that if I threw away all the duplicates, I couldn’t make pretty much identical albums for each child. But, wait! Do I WANT to make identical photo albums for each child? Wouldn’t it be more fun to make them similar albums? That is, albums with photos from all their childhoods, but different photos? That seems like it would be much more fun. Upon further reflection, I thought beyond making them for the kids and decided on a theme for my eventual photo albums: Life in _________. Each album would cover a time period when we lived in a certain town/state/country, or maybe just cover a certain time period, like college/graduate school, or our own childhoods, “Life in my Family of Origin.”

I decided at that point to get the photos back out of the trash and keep them long enough to go through them again with my new plan in mind. I feel so much better about this idea, and I am confident I will still get rid of many of the original photos I first discarded, but I am not getting rid of them anymore without some sort of plan. And with photos, I think that having a plan is probably a really good idea.

I’ve always known that getting rid of photos is for me an extremely difficult process. Is it difficult for you? I daresay there are lots of people who have even more boxes than I do who can hardly face the thought of going through them.

My thought about photos is that they don’t need any special colored papers underneath them or little stickers that tie them together with a theme. What I want when I look at photos is to read about the picture — where was this? Why did the photographer take it? Is there a story? That to me is what makes the photo special, especially years down the road when the viewer is wondering what, where, when, why, who, and how?

Picture this! I have a plan!

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