Week 4 | 52 Weeks to Downsize and Minimalize | Photo Edit

There are valuable memories worth saving, and a lot of bad shots taking up valuable space. Paper photos quickly become clutter stuffed into boxes and drawers if not organized into albums. Digital photos (and video) take up space on computers and smart phones, and make devices run slower unless you back them up externally and delete them from your device. Minimalize paper and digital photo clutter in your home and on your computer by taking these steps.

With the passing of time, you develop a fresh perspective of what photos look good and do not, and what you want and don’t want to keep. This week’s focus is to 1) purge unwanted photos, and 2) take steps to organize the keepers.


  • Start at the beginning. Look through the photos from the beginning of the digital history on your smart phone or computer, or grab a handful of loose photos and start sorting through them (handle carefully or wear clean gloves to avoid getting dirt and fingerprints on them).
  • Purge and delete. Here is a list of photos worth downsizing:
    • blurry shots
    • bad composition
    • dark lighting
    • duplicates (multiple shots of the same pose or facial expression)
    • scenic pictures of which you no longer recall the location
    • photos of people, places, or things you no longer care to remember
  • Downsize first, organizing next. If you have a lot of digital photos to go through, focus on purging first, then put detailed labeling into albums and individual photos later, or else you may become overwhelmed. Deal with paper photos similarly, placing the keepers in stacks according to a general date or event. If you plan to scan them, purge and organize first, digitize later.
  • Mark favorites. Many digital photo storage programs (such as iPhoto) have an option to “star” or mark favorites. Do this as you go (and as you take photos in the future) so that you can find them faster at a later date. You can also mark favorites to print or email. If marking paper photos, use a post-it note or separate envelope to sort and label favorites.
  • Store photos safely now and forever.
    • Create one main folder labeled “Photos” on your smart phone or computer (the Mothership). This is where all your photo albums/sub-categories are kept. Your phone or computer may already come installed with a photo organizing application or program. Take advantage of it! From here it will be easy to organize, label, find, and back up photos.
    • Create new albums as you take new photos, or file new photos in existing albums. Albums I have in my phone and computer are “Friends” “Family” “Fig and Newton” (my dogs) “Home & Garden” “Bella Organizing” (work-related), and various labels according to the event.
    • Use acid free photo boxes or photo albums for paper photos. If an acidic product comes into contact with photos or paper, the acid can migrate and cause permanent damage and decay to your valuables more quickly than they would naturally. This is why it is important to use good quality Acid Free and archival materials for the preservation of treasured memories.
    • Use an SD card or thumb drive to transfer smaller batches of photos to safer digital storage. I don’t suggest saving photos using these small devices, as they can easily become too many storage places, and get lost. Use SD cards and thumb drives to transfer photos from one device or computer to another quickly, with the goal of getting photos to the Mothership for safekeeping.
    • Two moms are better than one. Send a copy of the photos on your computer to a larger, heavy-duty external hard drive. From the external hard drive, a third copy can be transferred to online/cloud storage (optional.)
    • Scan and save paper photos digitally on a cd that you can then upload to your computer, an external hard drive, and/or online (cloud) storage. Read Consumer Report for reviews of the latest desktop photo scanning machines. Mail away options are available for large batches of photos, some of which are listed here. Always read reviews and use local companies (don’t take a chance that your special memories will make it through customs in order to get a better deal from a foreign company.)

No storage system is 100% foolproof. Keep organized copies of your digital photos in 2-3 places AND paper back-ups of your most precious ones.

Photo Display Tips – see and use what you have

  • make a collage of framed photo memories on a wall or store in a digital photo frame that rotates and displays hundreds of photos at a time
  • Save favorite photos as phone or computer wall paper
  • Link photos of people to their information in your phone’s contact list
  • Companies like Costco offer less expensive and high quality transfer of home movies and slides to DVD, printing, mounting, photo repair, and album creation services.
  • Read 27 unique display ideas for paper and digital photos from Buzzfeed.

Bella_Organizing_Best_Professional_Organizers_San_Francisco_Oakland_Berkeley_silicon_valley_montereyIsabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing, interior redesign, and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email info@bellaorganizing.com for more information. Gift certificates are available.

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