I get emails almost every day from my readers letting me know what their pain points are. And decluttering photos is one of the most popular topics.
I’m guessing if you’re here you have the same problem. You might have boxes and boxes of photos just lying around your house, in the back of a closet or up in the attic. Or albums stocked high on book shelves. And, every once in a while, you’ll go through them and try to declutter.
But it’s really difficult to know what to keep and what to get rid of, right?
Photos are like little time capsules. They capture moments in our lives that we may never be able to experience again. However, photos can also take up a lot of space, both physical and digital.
So how do you know what to keep and what to let go?
Here are some tips on decluttering photos that will help you hold onto the memories that matter the most.
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Table of Contents
Why should we declutter our photos
Just like with material possessions, we tend to hang onto photos long after they’ve served their purpose. We hold onto them because they remind us of a happy moment, a time when we were in better shape, younger, or because someone important to us is in the photo.
The problem is that photos can take up a lot of physical space, and digital space.
There are a few reasons why we might want to start photo decluttering.
For one, it can help us to let go of negative memories or associations. If looking at a certain photo brings up bad memories, getting rid of it can help us to move on.
When we declutter our photos, we are forced to make decisions about what is truly important to us, and as a result, we can end up with a more focused and meaningful photo collection of the best memories.
Additionally, decluttering our photos can also help to create a sense of order and peace in our lives.
And it’s not just physical photos we should declutter.
Digital photos cause digital clutter on your phone or computer and can take up valuable storage space, making it difficult to download new apps or store new photos. It can also slow your device down.
Read also: Life after decluttering: What happens next?
So how do you know what photos to keep and what to get rid of?
How to declutter photos
Before you start decluttering photos, be sure to pull out absolutely every box and album you have. You might actually be surprised by how many photos you have.
When it comes to decluttering photos, the most important thing is to be ruthless. It’s ok to get rid of photos that you don’t need or that hold bad memories. No guilt should be attached to the process.
If you’re not sure whether to keep a photo or not, ask yourself if it truly brings you joy and whether you’ll look at this photo again. If the answer is no, then it’s time to say goodbye.
Once you have all of your photos in one place, it’s time to start going through them. To do this, I suggest making multiple bundles:
Note: much of the following can be done for decluttering both physical and digital photos
1) Photos to declutter
Bundle number 1 will be all the photos we are ready to declutter. These will include:
Duplicate photos: Have you ever taken a photo of a sunset and then taken the exact same photo just a quarter of a millimeter to the left? And a portrait one as well as a landscape one? We’ve all been there. If you have duplicate photos, choose your favourite one and get rid of the rest.
Blurry pictures: We’ve all taken a photo that we thought was in focus, only to realise later that it’s just a big blur. Let’s be honest, we’re not remembering these blurry pictures or pulling them out of the boxes every so often to look at. So they can go too!
Test photos: My dad used to put the film in the old cameras and take 3 or 4 ‘test shots’ before actually taking a real photo. When we’d get the photos back after developing them, there’d be photos of the kitchen counter or his feet! If you have ‘test shots’ like these, they can be decluttered.
Unidentified people: We meet a lot of people in our lives and we can’t remember everyone we ever took a photo of. If you have pictures of people you don’t even know, it’s time to let them go.
Old photos of yourself that you don’t like: We’ve all taken photos of ourselves that we look back on and cringe. I’m talking about the awkward middle school years, the phase where we thought a certain hairstyle or outfit was cool (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). If there are photos of yourself that you don’t like, it’s time to say goodbye.
Photos that hold bad memories: If there are photos that remind you of a bad time in your life, or of a person who has hurt you, it’s ok to get rid of them. You don’t need to keep these around as reminders.
Photos you want to pass to someone else: If there are photos you don’t want to necessarily keep but think other family members or friends might like to have, you can pass them on.
2) Photos to keep but not display
This bundle will include photos that you want to keep but that you don’t necessarily want on display in frames or even in photo albums.
When you’ve got this bundle together, you can arrange to scan them to your computer or the cloud and then throw the originals out.
3) Photos to keep and display
This is the bundle of photos we want to keep and that we want to be able to look at and enjoy on a daily basis. These are our favourite photos that we will put in frames or albums, or that we will keep on our phones or computers – easily accessible.
I like to keep two photo albums that I regularly look at and add to: one for family photos and one for travel photos. I also have a few photo frames with some of my favourite pictures in them.
How to store physical photos
After you’ve gone through all of your photos and decided which ones to keep, it’s time to start thinking about how to store them.
If you’re keeping physical photos, I would recommend getting some photo boxes and some acid-free photo corners. This will ensure that your printed photos don’t get damaged and that they will last a long time.
Label the outside of each box with the name of the event or time period the photos are from. For example, you could have a box labelled ‘Europe trip 2002’ or ‘Cousins’.
For photo books, I absolutely love magnetic photo albums as you can stick photos of any size or shape in them and they’re not going to fall out. If you’re going the photo books route, again, label the outside of each album so you know what’s inside.
How to store digital photos
We’re living in a digital age and more and more of us are taking photos with our phones or cameras.
The great thing about digital photos is that we can take as many as we want because there’s so much space to do so. But this also means that our photo collection can become very large, very quickly.
Digital photos are so easy to store – you just need to make sure you have a good backup system in place.
I don’t keep very many photos on my phone or computer. Instead I either store them to Dropbox or to an external device.
Dropbox: I love Dropbox because I can access my photos from anywhere and I know they’re backed up. I also like that I can share photos with family and friends easily. It’s easy to create folders and label them so you can search for photos later.
External hard drive: An external hard drive is another great option for storing digital photos. I like to keep all of my raw files on my external hard drive so I have them backed up and I don’t have to worry about losing them.
Decluttering photos: What next?
Once you’ve finished the decluttering process, it’s important to not let your photos get out of control again.
A good way to do this is to set up a system for storing new photos as you take them. Whether you choose to store them digitally or physically, make sure you have a place for them and that you’re regularly backing them up.
Every time I go to an event or come back from a trip I go through the photos I took on my phone and camera. I delete pictures I don’t need, print photos I want to frame and move the rest over to either Dropbox or an external device.
If you’re printing off new photos, maybe you’re ready to let some older ones go. This will help you keep your photo collection manageable and ensure that you’re only ever looking at photos you love.
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As you can see, there are a few key factors to consider when deciding which photos to keep and which to let go. By taking the time to sort through your photos with these factors in mind, you can declutter your collection keep the best memories.
For more decluttering tips, read the following articles:
- Why you Shouldn’t Sell Your Stuff After Decluttering
- A Minimalist List Of Things To Get Rid Of
- Why Is Decluttering So Hard: 9 Reasons You Can’t Clear The Clutter
- How to Declutter Your Garage in 4 Simple Steps
Do you have any tips for decluttering photos? Let me know in the comments!