by Susan Caplan McCarthy
As you gather and then sort through your photos, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of images. At some point, you’ll likely ask yourself, “Why did I take pictures of this? And why did I keep them?”
Photos Help Prompt Our Memories
When you hold or look at a single photo of an event or person, chances are you recall memories far more detailed than what you can see in the picture. While it’s clear that your memories reside in you and not in the photo (or in any item), sometimes it’s a picture that gets you saying, “I forgot about that day/dress/taco truck at the beach/guy on the boat.”
If the photo summons negative memories, question why you feel you need to keep this photo. Because, you don’t.
Photos Record Facts
Photos state, “you were there.” They remind you how you wore your hair in third grade or what you and your date really looked like for the prom (unflavored by your memories). Photos remind you of what your vacation cabin in Maine looked like.
They show you what you looked like on the first day or school, how you used to smile (or not) when you lost your front teeth, and just when your younger brother grew taller than you (without arguing about it at Thanksgiving dinner).
They also record things like damage to your home or the renovation process.
Photos Tell a Story
Whether you group photos into one or several albums by theme, event, or year, you are telling a story with your images. And, it’s not just the story told in an individual image but in all the photos you group together.
While telling a story, you’re summoning memories, highlighting emotions, and using facts. You’re telling your story, your child’s, your family’s.
Bringing It All Together
Creating a story, or even pulling together a series of anecdotes, is, I think, one of the reasons that you hold onto photos. Photos focus on moments and then stitch those moments together.
When deciding whether to include a photograph in an album, consider what it says about the story of your or your family’s life.
Another factor that can tell you what you feel about a photo? That you are willing to take the time or spend the money to back up that image three times (hard drive, external hard drive, flash drive, cloud storage, print, online storage). If you want to preserve an image, you know it’s important to you.
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.