It’s easy to forget the importance of photos and family stories when they are stashed away in a box somewhere. Yet they have the power to strengthen families.
When I first learned that photos didn’t have to live in the developing envelopes, stuffed in drawers and boxes for all eternity, it was because I had discovered scrapbooking. My daughter was four, so I had all those early-years photos (although much of her baby and toddlerhood were caught only on videotape). But I also had 15 years of photos from our courtship and early marriage prior to our daughter’s birth in 1990.
I jumped right into scrapbooking. I understood the importance of photos and family stories and wanted to get them back in my life as well as in front of my daughter. I titled the pages and wrote down every story behind each set of photos. I did what I could at home, but mostly I attended scrapbooking workshops, known as “crops,” at my consultant’s home. At one crop, as I worked in my scrapbook album for 1985, I came across a picture from 1983. But I had already completed my 1983 album.
This was not the first time this happened. Every time I prepared to go to a crop I would dig through the boxes where all my photo envelopes lived. I would look at the dates on the envelopes to choose what to take, and I usually managed to gather up all that I needed for a whatever project I was planning.
But sometimes I would run across a photo that should have gone into an earlier album. Either someone else had given that photo to me, or it had been taken out of its envelope and then just tossed back into the box later. Or the envelope’s date was wrong because the film canister had hung around too long in the bottom of my purse or a drawer.
I decided once and for all to put an end to this problem. One afternoon I dragged all the boxes of photos into the living room and I took every envelope and loose photo out. I then sorted them into piles by year—there were piles on the couch, on the coffee table, and on the floor. Of course, I ran across more photos that belonged in already completed scrapbooks, but I just kept going, knowing I could deal with them later.
I organized almost 20 years of photos that day. I arranged them all, sans envelopes, in labeled shoeboxes, then put the shoeboxes into the larger labeled cardboard boxes. I didn’t even consider what to do about the videotapes of my daughter’s childhood, nor my slides from the 1970s that were packed away and hadn’t been seen in years.
IT’S MORE COMPLICATED TO Manage YOUR PHOTO Memories TODAY
Today our collections are even more diverse. Not only may your collection include printed photos, home movies and slides, you may also have digital photos, and they may be on SD cards, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, or on old or current phones and computers. Organizing it all has become more complicated, even for professional photo managers.
And yet, at some level, we believe it’s something important we should get done. It may nag at us like a hungry puppy, or it may lie silently in the background like a scared bunny, hoping we won’t notice it if it doesn’t move. There are lots of reasons you aren’t managing your photo memory collection. Do any of these sound familiar?
- It will take too much time—I’m too busy to deal with it
- It will take too much space—I’ll have piles of stuff everywhere and forever
- I don’t know where to begin
- I don’t know what to do about the slides, videos, movies, mementos…
- I’m technologically challenged
- Not only do I have all my photo memories, but my parents’ as well – too many photos!
- I dread looking at painful photos—divorce, death, loss
- My kids aren’t interested, or at least they don’t act like they are – so why bother?
And yet… the importance of photos and memories is palpable. They mean something. You didn’t invest in all that film, camera equipment and developing costs over the years because you thought you would pack everything up in boxes in the closet for the rest of your life. You didn’t stop to think when you started snapping digital (and started receiving them in email and on Facebook) how you would manage them. And what will happen to them when you move to a smaller place or are no longer able to deal with them yourself….
6 Reasons You Should Organize Your Photos
Organizing your photos can be a daunting project. It helps to remember the value of what you captured and why you did so to begin with. There are many benefits to tackling your photo chaos now:
1. It will take up less space in your home.
Getting all your photo memories merged into one curated collection will make it easier to manage and even downsize, should that time come. You’ll get rid of duplicates and bad photos, so even if you decide to keep the printed versions, it will be a smaller collection. And if you decide you want photo books so that you can hold them in your hands, they will take up less space than traditional albums or scrapbooks.
2. You’ll be able to find any photo you need, quickly and easily.
When there’s a special event such as a wedding, a graduation, or (heaven forbid) a memorial service, pictures can add a special something for the event attendees. You’ve even stopped trying to find the right photos to bring, even though you know you have them. Now it will be so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
3. They’ll be safe should your home suffer from fire, flood, earthquake, or other disaster.
Even if you keep printed photos, photo albums, or scrapbooks made with love, everything will be digitally backed up off-site so you can restore anything that has been lost or damaged. What a relief!
4. You will preserve them for future generations.
Your kids may say they don’t want your photos now, but I believe they are not rejecting the memories themselves as much as they are the boxes of stuff. Because they haven’t seen the photos in so long, or even ever, they may not have a connection to them for now, but things will happen in their lives at some point that will make them glad they have access to them in the future. In fact, research shows that when people are focused on career and family, nostalgia wanes. But when the nest is empty and the road ahead appears shorter than the road behind, nostalgia rises, and photo memories become even more important.
5. Photos inspire others and strengthen connections.
Dr. Clay Routledge is a behavioral scientist, author and professor who specializes in the science of nostalgia and the incredible impact it can have on human happiness and connectedness. He partnered with Creative Memories to discuss the important work each was doing. Together, they wrote, “To be truly socially connected, people need to have strong and enduring relationships in which they feel valued or needed by others. Albums filled with cherished memories and reminders of great times with friends and family can provide a direct boost to positive mood, self-esteem, feelings of belongingness and a sense of meaning in life….
“Nostalgia is all good; it has been found to promote the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to a fulfilling social life. Specifically, when people enjoy nostalgia, they not only feel more connected, loved and supported, they feel more socially confident, are more optimistic about their future social life, are more motivated to resolve relationship problems, are more driven to pursue relationship goals, and are more generous and kind to others.”
Dr. Deborah Gilboa is a parenting expert, Family Physician, international speaker, author, media expert and mom of four boys. She says that “organizing and displaying photographs connects children to our families, our values and our life goals for them.” Dr. Gilboa also states that photos teach responsibility, show respect and build resiliency in children.
So do it for them—for your children, your grandchildren and beyond. It’s important that you do, even if they don’t yet realize the importance of photos and memories.
6. It will make you feel amazing!
A great burden will be lifted from your shoulders. One client told me, “This is, by far, the best money I have ever spent.” It is life changing when we deal with clutter, and when that clutter is not meaningless, but something to be cherished, the impact is so much greater.
I invite you to tackle the challenge—get those photos out of boxes and drawers, out of developing envelopes, off of various devices. They really don’t have to live there anymore. In future articles I will cover steps you can take to get that photo chaos under control so that you can have that peace of mind, too.
Are you feeling the importance of photos and family stories? Join the Family Photo Keeper community, where you’ll get all the photo and memory management help you need. You’ll receive my weekly newsletter and as a bonus, I’ll send you the my free “Getting Started Checklist.” I never share your information and you can unsubscribe at any time.