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How To Declutter Photographs

Photographs can be difficult to declutter. They’re sentimental and distracting. They remind us of fun times in our lives but can also take up a lot of physical and digital space.

They can fill dozens of boxes in an attic, not to be seen again for another 20 years. They can take up a massive amount of storage on your phone or computer, affecting the speed of the devices.

If you are early on in your decluttering journey, STOP. Due to photos being so emotionally taxing to declutter, I suggest leaving them till one of your last categories. As you simplify and declutter other areas of your life, you’ll find it easier to make decisions about your possessions.

Photos are memories, so often we tend to keep them all. However, not every one needs to be saved. Some of them hold negative memories of times or people. Some are too blurry to make out or are almost identical to another.

While I can’t tell you which photographs to keep or not, I can give you some guidance. Use the following questions to help you decide whether a photo needs saving.

  • Is it a duplicate, or almost identical to another?
  • Is it blurry?
  • Is it over/under exposed?
  • Do you know who that is?
  • Do you want to have an image of that person?
  • How does this photo make you feel?
  • Does this image still interest me?

Is it a duplicate, or almost identical to another?

This one is easy. You only need one of these photographs. Keep the best, and let go of the rest.

Is it blurry?

If you can’t really tell what it’s a picture of, do you even need it?

Is it over/under exposed?

If the image is too bright and washed out, or too dark and dim, you’ll probably find it difficult to know what it’s an image of. If you can’t look at them and enjoy them, you can discard them.

Do you know who that is?

It’s pretty safe to say that if you don’t know the person in the picture, then you don’t need the picture. However, I would suggest checking with family members in case this is a person they know before discarding.

Do you want to have an image of that person?

Maybe it’s an ex-partner, an old friend you haven’t wanted to speak to in years, or someone else. If you don’t want to have a photograph of that person, you don’t have to!

I think the only exception to this might be if the photo could be valuable to someone else. For example, you may not want the picture of your ex, but the children you share may want it when they’re old enough. If that’s the case, store these in a separate folder or box from the other photos. That way they’re accessible when needed, but you don’t have to look at them every time you want to have a look through old photos. However, I would suggest checking with family members in case this is a person they know before discarding.

How does this photo make you feel?

Does it make you sad, angry, embarrassed, awkward, or any other negative feeling? If so, then consider if you would want to keep it and feel that every single time you look at it. Or if you’d prefer to never look at it again.

Does this image still interest you?

Photographs of landscapes, wildlife, street art, vehicles and so many other objects make it into our collections. Only a select few should stay there though. If you’re no longer interested in that picture you took of the bees in the lavender bush, get rid of it. If you took a photo of something to refer to later, and you no longer need it, out it goes.


Only deal with one pile at a time

This can be a huge category that can get emotional and overwhelming very quickly. So take your time. One box, one pile, or one small stack at a time. Babysteps still get you where you need to go.

Set a timer

Let’s say you have an hour to declutter your photographs. Set a timer for 45 minutes to be sifting through the photos, and then spend 15 minutes tidying up after yourself. Not only can setting a timer increase your productivity and reduce distraction but giving yourself time to set things right afterwards will prevent that “a tornado flew around my room” feeling. The best part is that you can set the timer for whatever suits you, just be sure to give yourself time to clear up after.

Don’t start your decluttering journey with photographs

Photographs are emotional, they’re sentimental, they’re distracting and there are an awful lot of them. They are one of the most difficult, and longest, categories to declutter, so it’s best to get the hang of it in easier categories first.

Store photographs however makes sense to you

Some people like to organise their stored photographs by year, person, event or occasion. Use whatever system works for you.

Backup your digital photos

Back them up before you start decluttering, in case you make a mistake. Also, back them up regularly, maybe once a month.

How To Declutter Photographs

Step One

Gather all the photos together in one place. For physical photos, this could be a corner of a room, a table, a spare bedroom or an office, maybe. For digital photos, create a folder named “ALL PHOTOS”. Go into every other folder on your device and drag all of those photos into your new folder.

Step Two

Decide how you’re going to organise your photographs. By year, location, event, occasion or something else? For example, you may want everything from a particular year stored together or all holiday photographs. Maybe all birthdays. Most people do store their photographs chronologically, but these are yours and you can keep them however you like.

Step Three

One at a time, determine if you’re going to keep a photograph, and then where you’re going to put it. So if you want to keep a picture from the holiday last year, you would put it in the appropriate pile. Then move on to the next one. Your main goal here is to stay focused and not get distracted. Just pick it up, decide whether to keep it, put it where it goes, and move on to the next.

Step Four

Store your photographs.

For physical photos, I would recommend purchasing some photo books or albums. You’ll want to ensure your printed photos are protected from damage so they can last. Throwing them all in a box does not protect them.

For digital photos, you just need to ensure you have a backup by using a storage platform, like Onedrive or Dropbox, or an external device.

Step Five

Nothing will stay decluttered and organised unless you keep on top of it. Next time you have photographs printed, or maybe once a month for digital photos, go through the questions again to decide whether you want to keep them. Then put them into their designated storage space. The saying is true, “If you keep on top of it, it won’t get that bad again.”

And you’re done

Have you decluttered and organised your photos? How did it go? Leave a comment and let me know!

If you feel like you need some help in getting your home or office decluttered and organised, don’t hesitate to contact us – we’re happy to help!

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