by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Let me begin by saying that sorting through photos – physical and digital – will take far more time than you think it will. That small shoebox? Hundreds of photos. And you have more than one shoebox of photos. Not to mention the digital files.
Decluttering photos is probably not the way to start your decluttering journey. Leave sorting through photos after you’ve organized your closet, the kitchen, the family room, the garage. By the time you get to photos you should feel comfortable judging what’s important to you.
Remember, in the moment, snapping a picture may have felt important or helpful. But, if the image languishes in a photo envelope or on your phone or computer, never viewed, it’s time to question if it adds value to your life.
Start by Gathering Photos Together
The first thing to do – even before opening a photo album – is to gather all your physical photos to one location (you can keep framed photos on the walls for the moment).
This means –
This stage is for gathering your photos and bringing them to one place (or, two, physical and digital). Avoid looking at the photos.
Get a Few Supplies
You’ll also need small boxes or trays (cardboard or plastic) so you can sort your photos but also so you can shift these photos out of the way if you aren’t sorting all the photos in a single day and you won’t be able to return to the task the next day.
When you sit down to go through the photos, you’ll start by sorting them into groups. Label each box or tray with the event, year or category of the photos in each group so that you keep everything separated. (More on this in a future article.)
If you have a lot of photos glued into old albums, you’ll want an adhesive remover like Un-Du that can be used to separate photographs from album pages.
Have an archival-quality writing utensil that will allow you to write identification information on the back of photos without harming the prints.
Create a Pleasant Environment for Sorting Photos
If you can manage it, you might want to play a favorite television series in the background – you know the one, you can have it on and cue into your favorite parts without devoting a lot of attention to it. (And, I’m thinking comedy over a drama.) If you can handle listening to a podcast, great.
If these things would be distractions, skip them. If they make the experience of sorting through thousands of images a bit more pleasant and doable, then they will help you work through the task.
Finally, schedule in time to sort the photos, say, an hour every evening. The next article as part of A Year of Decluttering’s October Theme: Photos, will discuss sorting photos.
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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.