Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Sentimental clutter and memorabilia - Part 1

This song has been going round in my head while I've been writing this post, so I thought I pop it up here to get you in the mood!

Photos, children's artwork, greetings cards, trophies and other ephemera are tricky things to deal with, and back in March I decided to start to tackle a couple of spots in our house where these things were building up. Before I did, I researched what my favourite organising bloggers were saying about sentimental clutter. Here's what Katrina at The Organised Housewife has to say, and I particularly love Small Notebook's post on treasured things! Having read that, I gave myself some little 'rules':

  • I am not aiming to have a museum dedicated to my life (or my children's lives) - I just need a small collection of special objects that hold particular importance to me (whatever other people think I should keep).
  • I need to set limits and boundaries for these things - our house is for us to live in now and not a museum of our past, so they can only take up the space I assign for them.
  • I need to make sure that I leave just enough room for the future, and that means I need to regularly look at and reassess what I've kept.

I began with our photos - by far the biggest job, and we're not even particularly keen photographers. We were both born and raised before the digital age, and our children were born in the early to mid-90s, when film cameras were still used. We still took lots of photos of our children as babies, hoping for one really good shot, but the difference was that instead of deleting the bad photos, the whole film would be developed, which, for us at least, resulted in a lot of photos of basically the same child in the same pose. Having invested the time and money in the film and developing, we seemed to have decided to keep all the photos!

These are our photo albums - a mixture of those self-adhesive ones, and the slip-in kind. We also have a lot of theme park ride photos (both boys are mad for roller coasters!). They are kept at the top of our linen cupboard - please excuse the horrible wallpaper inside the cupboard!

You can see there is no more room for expansion, and the self-adhesive albums need to go - they're bad for your photos and take up too much room.

This is a photograph of Paris, taken in 1979 and kept in a self-adhesive photo album. I can confirm that Paris wasn't that colour! I have older photographs (from the 50s and 60s) that have been kept in proper albums and have kept their colour. Some of the photos couldn't even be removed from the albums as they were firmly stuck. If you have precious photos stored in this way, I would urge you to have a look and see if you can remove them and care for them more safely.

I bought some new, matching slip-in photo albums (but I did also re-use the slip-in albums I already had) and began the marathon task of sorting through all the photos, getting rid of duplicates, fuzzy, blurry shots and unflattering photos of anyone. Oh, and photos of people I didn't know - if I couldn't name/place them, out it went!

It. Took. Ages. And Ages. I was doing it in bursts of about an hour or so every day, but it still took far longer than I'd anticipated! I also found it really emotional. We've all lost people in our lives, or maybe had a major, life-changing event (for us it was the birth of our first son, who has a disability, which for me dissected my life into Before and After) and seeing the photos of those people or times had me sobbing on several occasions. So if you're planning this sort of organising project, make sure you're feeling strong! And have time.

The ride photos were relocated in a box in my younger son's cupboard, and I was left with tidier shelves and some room for growth. My plan is to have photo books printed for each year from now on, and not to use bulky albums.

I'd love to know your system for organising your photos.

Happy decluttering!

Lemons xx


  1. We have a bookcase in our living room. One shelf is entirely devoted to family scrapbooks. Two others are devoted to archival quality boxes for each of our grown children--but just as you say, the quality of the photo isn't always there and I could probably pare down considerably.

    1. It's a big job Terri - I hadn't realised how long it would take! If you have the room then it's probably not a problem.