For many of us, a lifetime of collecting photographs becomes a problem when itís time to downsize or to move into assisted living. Photographs chart the history of oneís life. They remind us of the people and the places that we loved. Old pictures hold so many memories but like anything else, they can add stressful clutter to our life.
When organizing a large collection of old photos, try to remember that you only need one copy of the same picture. Keeping six extra copies of little Johnnyís 3rd grade picture isnít necessary, especially in this new digital age. Some inexpensive, plastic shoebox size organizers are handy sorters for duplicates. Label the plastic boxes with the names of your children or other relatives who may have an interest in the extra copies. Even if you think no one will want them, give them that choice. Plan to throw them out if there are no takers.
Purchase a good-quality archival storage box for the pictures you plan to keep after you are done sorting and weeding. Using dividers, plan for chronological storage of your loose pictures. If you donít know the dates or even the years, donít let yourself get stuck. Close is good enough. Thatís one of the nice things about storage in boxes over albums. Pictures can be moved around if theyíre in the wrong place.
Work at a large table with your plastic organizers and a trash can nearby. Go through your pictures one by one. On the table, lay out the keepers in stacks by decades or major events and toss any extras in one of the give-away organizers or in the trash. Christmas pictures are often hard to date so you could stack them together for now. By keeping groups of pictures together by general dates or events, it will be easier to continue the sorting process. At the end of the day or at the end of the project, store your stacks of keepers in the archival storage box.
When your collection of loose photographs has been weeded out and sorted into manageable stacks and stored in an archival box, itís time for tackling the next step Ė the photo albums. If your old albums are faded, not archival quality or if theyíre just plain falling apart, take out the pictures and sort them into the chronological box along with the others. Boxes take up less space than picture albums and later if you want to spend time writing names and maybe a date on the pictures, boxes of loose photos are easier to work with. If you have a few albums that you love just as they are, leave them be.
The fun part about de-cluttering your pictures is the memories you get to enjoy during the process. Donít think of it as a chore because it doesnít need to be. With a good work area, organizing pictures can be a fun household task. If you want to share your nicely organized photos, send them out to be professionally scanned onto a computer disk and make some extra copies for relatives. You never know who might develop an interest in the family history. With digital pictures, itís easy to share.