Is your home drowning in old photos
Take a survey of your home, and consider all the spots where you have old photos.
Perhaps you’ll find baby pictures in albums in the living room, vacation snaps in tattered envelopes tucked into a bookshelf, milestone moments in old frames, and older relatives’ fading photos in dusty boxes in the basement or attic.
“They’re memories and treasures for us, but they take up a lot of space, and over the years they keep growing,” says Stephanie Sisco, home editor for Real Simple magazine. “When you decide you want to organize these photos, you’re doing yourself a favour, as well as the people who will inherit those from you.”
You can organize your photos and preserve your personal history either digitally, in photo-safe boxes or both ways. And if you discard the originals after going digital, you’ll free up storage space around the house, which is always a good thing.
“It’s one of the most challenging projects that people undertake in their organizational lives because, unless you’re starting from a really organized place, it’s difficult to even know where to begin,” Sisco said.
Prints are the most common photographic item that people have — and have many of — in their homes.
Sisco recommends spending an hour a day going through them. Organize the prints by decade, and then narrow them further by year, or by person or special event like a wedding.
Sisco advises tossing photos that are blurry, unflattering or duplicates. “You don’t have to feel this obligation to keep them just because they were printed,” she said.
Over time, remember that sunlight and humidity can cause photos to deteriorate. “If they’re exposed to sunlight, each layer of colour eventually fades off,” said Toni Greetis, lab manager at Phototronics, an independent camera shop in Winnetka, Illinois.
Having all images on a disk or thumb drive makes it convenient to find and share images in person and online.
“You can take it with you to Grandma’s house rather than carrying eight boxes filled with photo albums,” Greetis said. “And there’s less risk of damage to a small thumb drive than there is to photo albums or boxes of photos in your basement or attic.”
She recommends getting a duplicate of the drive or disk and keeping it somewhere secure, like in a safety deposit box or fireproof safe.
If you keep the original photo prints, Sisco recommends storing them in clearly marked, archival storage boxes. Greetis recommends placing those acid-free boxes inside a Rubbermaid container to keep out moisture. Store them somewhere dry, dark and cool, like a closet.
Despite the hundreds of photos in basements and attics, albums and boxes, Greetis knows one thing for certain.
“Very few people look at actual photographs these days,” she said. “Everything’s digital.”