Today’s post is all about decluttering photos and how to make the process easier. Including both physical photos, as well as digital photos.
Photos are a great way to capture special moments and remember the past. But they can accumulate quickly and often end up feeling overwhelming. Especially in the age of digital photos, given how easy it is to take pictures.
If you have a huge collection of photos to sort through and declutter, today’s post is for you!
I’m sharing a step-by-step process to help you declutter photos quickly, easily and with less stress.
Don’t start by decluttering photos
Before we get to the steps to declutter photos, I have one disclaimer to share.
Decluttering photos is often one of the more difficult decluttering projects you can tackle. Photos are often quite sentimental and can hold a lot of emotions and memories. This can make them more challenging to declutter.
Plus, there are often feelings that you should keep certain photos. Or that you should organize them and store them in a certain way. This can put a lot of pressure on you and make the process more challenging too.
With that said, I don’t recommend tackling decluttering photos as one of your first decluttering projects. Work on some other decluttering projects and give yourself a few decluttering wins first.
Decluttering gets easier the more you do it. You build your decluttering muscles so you can decide what to keep and what to get rid of more easily the more you declutter.
And decluttering photos is a time when you need to feel more confident in your decluttering skills, so you can make the more challenging decluttering decisions.
If you come across photos as you declutter other spaces, simply gather all the photos together so you have them all in one spot. Focus on building your decluttering skills and come back to decluttering photos when you feel confident in your decluttering abilities.
7 steps for decluttering photos
With that said, when you’re ready to start decluttering photos, here are 7 steps to make the process easier!
1. Clarify your goals
The first step when decluttering photos is clarifying for yourself exactly what you want to achieve.
Do you want to preserve history? Is your goal to protect your photos and keep them safe from damage? Do you want to reduce the amount of photos you have so they feel less overwhelming? Do you want to make it easier to look at and enjoy your photos?
Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Or a combination of all of these goals!
The point is, decide what you want to achieve, then use that to guide your decisions as you declutter. Guiding not only your decluttering decisions and what you decide to keep and get rid of. But also, what you do with the photos you’re keeping after decluttering.
2. Gather all your photos together
The next step is gathering all of your photos together in one place.
In order to effectively declutter and organize your photos, you need to have them all in one place. Take some time to gather all the photos you have together in one place.
3. Start with the easiest decluttering decisions
The best way to start a big decluttering project is with the easiest decluttering decisions. And in the case of decluttering photos, that means starting by weeding out the garbage.
Garbage photos are more common than you think!
They can be things like blurry, blown out or out-of-focus pictures. It can also be duplicate photos when you have multiple of the same shot or shots with only slight differences between them. Garbage photos also include photos of people you don’t know, can’t remember who they are or just don’t need photos of. As well as scenery photos you don’t need or want to keep.
It’s easy to take more photos in the moment than you actually need or want later. Start by weeding out the photos you clearly don’t need or want to keep.
4. Group like with like
As you’re sorting through your photos to find the garbage, start organizing your photos as you go.
The best way to do this is by deciding how you want to group your photos, then putting like with like.
You can organize by year or by date, by event, by person or whatever other way works for you. Decide how you want to organize your photos, then start grouping like photos together.
5. Declutter within your categories
After you have sorted through your photos, got rid of the garbage and put like with like, it’s time to start decluttering within the categories you created.
Start whittling down what you’re keeping in each category.
For example, maybe after grouping all the photos from a specific event together, you see you have more duplicates than you realize. Keep your favourites and the best shots and get rid of the extras.
Or you might realize you have more photos of a specific event or time period than you really need. And again, can keep your favourites and let go of the rest.
There might be photos you can pass on to someone else who would love or appreciate them more than you.
There also might be photos that hold negative memories for you that you no longer want to keep.
It’s easier to sort and declutter after you’ve organized your photos into categories because you can see exactly what you have within each category.
6. Organize what’s left
After doing your second round of decluttering you’ll be left with the photos you want to keep. Now it’s time to decide what you’re going to do with them.
There are plenty of options. The key is deciding what works best for your goals, space and time available.
Scanning and digitizing is one option. This is the most space-saving, but the most time-consuming option. But it also protects your photos and ensures you’ll have access to them regardless of what happens to the physical copies.
The next option is putting the photos in albums. This option is less space-saving and also takes quite a bit of time. However, it makes it easy to look at and enjoy the photos you’re keeping.
Another option is to keep the photos in photo boxes. This is the least time-consuming option and doesn’t require as much space as albums. However, it can be more difficult to look at your photos with this storage method.
Let good enough be good enough
There is no right or wrong option to choose. It depends on what works best for you and how much time you are willing to invest.
You might want to do a combination of all of these methods. Maybe scanning and digitizing the most important photos, keeping some in albums and putting the rest in photo boxes.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Decide what works for you. And also remember that done is better than perfect.
Ideally, you might like to scan and digitize every photo. But realistically, getting them decluttered and in photo boxes is good enough and more realistic for the time you have available.
After getting your photos decluttered and organized, the next step is maintaining your system moving forward.
Get in the habit of sorting through and organizing your photos regularly so they don’t get out of control or overwhelm you again.
I like to sort through my photos weekly as part of my Sunday evening prep for the week. I sort through the photos on my phone, delete what I no longer need and back up the photos I’m keeping.
It makes it easy to stay on top of photos moving forward and keeps my system functioning well!
Decluttering digital photos
The same 7 steps above apply to both digital photos and physical photos.
When you’re decluttering digital photos, start by gathering them all together in one place. Then make the easiest decluttering decisions by sorting out the garbage. As you do that, organize your photos into folders that make sense for whatever category system you’re using.
Sort within each category folder to further declutter and weed out what you don’t need. Then decide how you’ll organize and where you’ll store the photos you’re keeping. An external hard drive or cloud storage are great options to keep digital photos secure and accessible.
Once you have your system set up, get in the habit of maintaining it by sorting and adding new photos to it regularly.
Tips to make decluttering photos easier
Now that you know the steps to declutter your photos, here are a few tips to make the process easier and less stressful.
Slow and steady
Decluttering photos often takes quite a bit of time. It can also be an emotional and sometimes exhausting process.
Instead of overwhelming yourself or stressing yourself out trying to do it all at once, break the work down so it feels easier.
Maybe aim to do a little bit of decluttering every day for 5 – 10 minutes at a time until you’re done.
Progress, not perfection
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to declutter and organize your photos perfectly. Aim to make your system better than it was before. Decide how much time and energy you’re willing to commit to decluttering your photos and let that guide your actions.
Ideally, you might want to digitize all your photos, but that might not be realistic for you right now. Do what you can and be ok accepting “better than it was before” as good enough for now!
Don’t overthink your decluttering decisions
When you have a lot of decluttering decisions to make, making quick decisions is the way to go.
Don’t overthink your decluttering decisions. Go with your gut instinct about whether to keep a photo or not. Aim to make quick decisions so you can make progress quicker and easier.
Don’t overthink how you organize
And speaking of overthinking, don’t overthink your organizational system either.
If digitizing feels overwhelming, don’t do it just yet. Instead, focus on decluttering and getting organized right now.
Maybe in the future, you’ll have the time and capacity to digitize your photos and you’ll be glad you decluttered and organized now so there’s less to deal with and it’s better organized.
Or maybe you’ll never get to the point where you digitize older photos. And that’s ok. Do the best you can with the time and resources you have right now. Aim for making your system better than it was before and know you’re making progress.
Give yourself space limits
A great way to be more ruthless as you’re decluttering photos is by giving yourself space limits. Space limits help push you to decide what deserves a spot in your space and what you can live without.
For example, maybe decide how many photo albums you’d like to have, then whittle your collection of photos down to fit. Or decide how many photo boxes you’d like to have. Or how much space in your closet or storage room you’re willing to dedicate to photo storage.
You can also decide how much digital space you’re willing to dedicate to photo storage. Whether that’s an external hard drive or cloud storage. Give yourself a set amount of space and declutter so you fit within that limit.
I hope these steps and tips will help make it easier to declutter your photos.
I know it can be an overwhelming project to tackle, but if you have a system to follow and work away a little bit at a time, decluttering your photos can happen!
Is decluttering photos something you want to tackle? Do these steps help make the process easier? Leave a comment below and let me know!