Is Downsizing Photographs Even an Option?

by | Sep 6, 2015 | Minimalism, Wellbeing | 6 comments

Is downsizing photographs an optionTo clarify, I’m not talking about 3000+ happy snaps you took while on holiday in Thailand. Because let’s face it, at least 2997 of those are of your feet with the sea in the distance, the many cocktails you quaffed, and of course, every meal you ate while there (even the shit ones).

Downsizing Holiday Snaps

For those kinds of photographs I have a simple solution. Choose one where you’re near a well-known landmark (to prove you were actually there) and delete the rest. Your hard drive will thank you for it. (As will your friends if you’re that person who hauls out your laptop or phone after dinner.)

But What About Old Family Photographs

I have a pile of family photographs I’ve been holding onto ever since I moved my parents into an old age home a few years ago. If I look at them once a year it’s a lot, so I’m starting the question my reasons for hanging onto them. The folks have both since shuffled off, so I guess that’s part of the quandary for me.

Originally the pile was quite a bit bigger, but I gave a lot to my cousins and aunts. Now I’m left with this smallish pile and I’m not sure what to do. You see the reason I never look at them is because it makes me sad. Or at least, it did until yesterday when something rather interesting happened.

My Dad’s cousin called a couple of weeks ago to say hi. We speak maybe two or three times a year. We weren’t close when my folks were still alive, but now they’re gone I think it’s nice for both of us, a way to keep family memories alive.

Share the Love

While we were chatting it occurred to me that Aunty Lena would likely get a lot more value out of these of photographs than I am. Especially as most of them were taken when my parents were much younger, long before my brother and I were even a consideration.

To me they’re simply pictures of two people before I knew them. It’s obviously novel to see my parents in such a happy and carefree light, but for Aunty Lena they’d be a lot more tangible than that. She might even recall the exact moment one of the photographs was taken. And even if she doesn’t, they’ll still have context.

I offered to send her some more of them and I could immediately hear in her voice how much the gesture pleased her. She’s in her eighties now, so I’m guessing she’s reflecting on the past a little more than I am.

Good Times and Bad Times

Yesterday I finally hauled the photographs out and started sorting them into piles (yes, I’ve been procrastinating). Okay, so remember I said something interesting happened while going through them? Well this time, instead of feeling sad, I felt happy. It was genuinely a pleasant experience.

I realized then that I’d given so much energy and focus to the bad times we’d shared that I’d completely blocked out the good times. And if the pictures are anything to go by, our family had loads of them.

As I sorted the photographs into piles: one for Dad, one for Mom and one of us as a family, I decided that if I’m sharing with Aunty Lena then I should also share with my Mom’s sister. Aunty Margaret is also in her eighties and though she’s more practical than reflective I have no doubt she’ll appreciate them just as much.

The Final Step

I’ve been struggling with the idea of letting go for a few years now and initially yesterday’s happy trip down memory lane only served to compound that. But the more I mull it over, the more I’ve come to realize that all I needed was the reminder that we were happy. Maybe not all of the time, but so what? I mean even the Brady Bunch had their challenges, right?

I don’t need old photographs to remind me of what was. What was is exactly that, it’s in the past. I’m here now and ultimately that’s all that really matters. The old memories are wonderful and I’ll always have them in my heart, but it’s time to make some new ones.

So today I’m packing up the bulk of the pics and tomorrow and I’ll send them off to my aunts. It feels good knowing that they’ll soon be enjoying their own trips down memory lane. 😉



  1. Debi

    What a wonderful and thoughtful gesture… one I’m sure will be precious for your Aunts. Just a thought for you if it’s not too late… scan ones that may be special to you so you can keep them in digital format for yourself, for when you feel like looking at them instead of just remembering them. This is a project on my to-do list as I’m preparing to move. Actually I’m learning a lot from YOU and using many of your tips as I aspire to have less stuff and this is the perfect time to weed though it all. I’m finding your posts helpful and I keep coming back to them as I go through the difficult process of letting things go 🙂 Cheers Ang. You’re the berries!!

    • Ang

      Hey Debi, that’s great advice. I did actually scan quite a few some time ago, but I think I’ll go through them again and make sure there aren’t any others I might want to hold onto. I’m chuffed to hear you’re using my tips to downsize, good luck on that journey! You’re only going to feel better for it. 😉

  2. Lies

    O, I can almost picture your aunts going through their precious treasure. Just like my granny, the photograph box never is far away 😉 I do agree with Debi on maybe scanning a few of them though. Maybe the past will become more important to you too one day? But then again, it’s all so very personal…
    So with your lovely stories and your tips in mind, I started decluttering last week. It’s a bumpy road but I’m getting there 🙂 And it feels liberating!

    • Ang

      Hey Lies. I think you’re right, I think my aunts are going to be really excited when they receive their envelopes. Yip, Like I said to Debi, she has a great point so I’ll be going through the pics again before sending them off. Wow, that’s great you’ve started decluttering. It’s such a rewarding experience and I guarantee you’ll feel much lighter for it. 😉

  3. Angela

    if you have any left over and after you’ve scan’d the few you’d like to keep, take them to the antique stores. Collage artists and the like love those sort of photographs, more because they’re seen as vintage.

    • Ang

      Hey Peanut…I didn’t know that, but now I think about it I guess they would appeal to collage artists. I think I’ll rather give them to my aunts though, because I know how much they’ll enjoy them. 😉


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