Updated: May 22
Advice from someone who's floated in the boat of overflowing photos.
I've been a professional organizer for about 8 years and almost every woman I've worked with has a goal of organizing photos so they can be shared.
With closets and garages and cupboards and rooms full of "stuff," having space and time for this can seem like a distant dream, but my Mum and I are living proof that photo organizing dreams can come true!
Yes, it takes diligence and persistence.
Yes, it can take support and caffeine.
No, I don't recommend diving into that box of photos today - unless you've done what I recommend below.
I've helped many people organize entire homes, including myself and my Mum. Along the way I always say:
Don't let yourself get sucked into photos, letters and other memorabilia until you get through everything else.
This can easily happen if we dive into photos to early on in our decluttering process.
When is the best time to organize photos?
When everything else is organized.
Marie Kondo recommends going through sentimental items (photos and memorabilia) only after getting everything else done and I (mostly) agree.
Some of the big reasons for waiting:
More space to spread out
More mental space to focus
More time to really get into it and finish the job
But the biggest reason for waiting?
Photos are more challenging than socks, spoons, shirts and towels.
Clutter clearing is like mental weight lifting. If we went from no weight lifting straight to the heaviest weights, we might blow out our backs and hurt ourselves.
If we have a house full of clutter and go straight to organizing photos, we can blow our organizing efforts and hurt our decluttering progress.
This train of events can easily happen with photos!
I recommend putting ALL memorabilia together in containers and going through them after going through EVERYTHING else.
Photos as a Carrot
I host a monthly Organizing Day in which everyone chooses projects to work on. We have group calls before and after working on our projects and I'm available by phone and text in between for support.
On a recent call, one woman said, "Making photo books is my carrot!"
She spent the day going through papers and felt discouraged because she really wanted to be going through photos and making albums for her kids and grandkids, but she doesn't have space with all the clutter around.
To keep herself motivated, she kept reminding herself how clearing papers means she's clearing space and time to make albums
(Organizing Days are amazing! Join them here, or reach out to me with questions)
I always have my own project to work on and that day my project was organizing digital photos from a recent trip to Hawaii with my Mum and a friend.
Because I had this focused time to organize the trip photos, I made photo books for my Mum, myself and my friend just a week after we returned - it was like magic!
I mean, with photos like this, how can I not make a photo book?!
But I've spent years organizing my home, working through piles and closets and cupboards and every space in the house.
I could only focus on photos like this after getting through everything else.
When helping to clear and organize rooms and spaces, I always have at least one box for memorabilia. Everything sentimental gets put in it without getting into the stories behind them - that's for another day. Photos, college sweatshirts, baby clothes, cheerleading outfits, journals...
If there are a lot of items in one category, they get their own container. I often see this with these categories:
T-shirts that are never worn but hold good memories
While decluttering and organizing everything else, all the memorabilia items go into their box(es) to come back to when we have the space, time, focus, practice, plan and determination to finish what we begin.
Then, when we're ready, ALL our memorabilia items are together and it's MUCH easier to get through them all.
***Make sure to clearly mark memorabilia containers so you know what they are later!
Singing Girlscout Songs with Mum
You know how long it took my Mum to get to her photos? About five years, two moves...and, really, an entire lifetime.
Once we organized aaallllll her other things, we had about 8 boxes of all kinds of memorabilia - Grandpa's sweatshirt, Grandma's photo books, my Dad's wallet, photos of her trip to France, baby photos of everyone in our family (and of people we don't know)...
We had organized her entire house and had all those boxes in one place. We had space to spread out and take over a big table and half a room to focus.
It was SO FUN to find her Girl Scout song books and belt out songs like Camptown Races and Yankee Doodle together!
If you're thinking, I'll never get to my photos!...
Keep going, clear the cupboards, make space in closets, take trips to Goodwill, post things on Buy Nothing...
Make space, put all those memories together, keep clearing, keep on keeping on.
"Little by little, bit by bit, and sometimes in big chunks," is my favorite saying when it comes to clearing.
Persistence WILL pay off!
And you WILL get to those photos if you truly desire to!
Are you ready to find more happiness and freedom in your home, office, art space, life and mind?
Do you feel called to connect with me?
Please remember that I'm here for you! Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.
There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.
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