Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: photos

Digital Declutter: Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

According to the April 2012 edition of National Geographic, Americans were projected to take 105 billion digital photos this year. That’s 322 per person and I’m pretty sure I take WAY more than that.

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

I have no idea how my mother ever got a single good photo of my sister and I without a digital camera. She’s got albums filled with decent shots of us smiling into the camera, but when I take pictures, I usually take 20 and settle for the one where my five-year-old isn’t frowning and my two-year-old is still in the frame.

Alison is Silly

I used to save every shot, download them, and keep most of them – even if they were bad photos. Now we have a million photos taking up a lot of space on various drives and if I have to find a particularly good shot? Forget about it.

Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

Tip #1: Delete Photos As You Go

Knowing that someday I will need to do a full digital declutter of our photo folders, I’ve started to pre-declutter. After taking a few photos, I immediately go back and delete the bad ones. I save only one photo – the best photo – of each pose.

If I’m really on top of things, I save only one photo from an entire event. Photos are great for bringing back memories, but those memories can just as easily be triggered by one photo as they can with 20.

Keep only the best shots. Only download keepers.

Tip #2: Mark Favorites

Another key part of keeping photo folders clean is picking out the very best photos as you download them. This is a tip from Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids. He suggests using a photo-organizing program like the Mac OS X Photos software in which you can tag or favorite photos. That way, when you need to go back and find a good photo you have a quick list of the very best ones.

Keep a short list of your very favorite photos.

Tip #3: Photo Blogging

In a slight twist to favoriting photos, I keep a private family blog. My best photos go on the blog along with some commentary. At the end of the year, I turn the blog into a book, which serves as a photo album for the year. When I need to go back and find a great photo, I start with the blog.

Our Private Family Blog

Our Private Family Blog

I love this technique because distant relatives can keep track of what we’re doing throughout the year and I don’t have to spend a bunch of time scrapbooking. The blog serves both purposes. You can do something similar by starting a free blog on Blogger or WordPress and turning your blog into a book at Blog2Print or Blurb.

Blog only your favorite photos.

Note: There are many, many other sites you can use to write a blog and print a book. I recommend doing your research before starting. I have used Blogger and Blog2Print in the past, but every year there are new options that warrant evaluation.

Do you have any tips for choosing your best photos? Comment and share!

Kids’ Art (Weekend Project)

I officially have a problem. I can’t bring myself to get rid of my kids’ art. When my oldest daughter first learned to hold a crayon, I saved page after page of her art, mostly consisting of a few lines, possibly in two different colors jutting haphazardly across a page. I put everything in a folder and kept it. A year later, I looked back and realized how ridiculous this was. By then, she was drawing small figures and the hundreds (literally) of pages of her early drawings just didn’t seem that special anymore. I wonder if I would feel differently if I’d saved one special drawing instead.

Post-photos art pile

My Mound of Kid Art

My daughter finished her first year of preschool last year and, again, I saved every art project that was sent home. Maybe it was because she’d had an incredibly talented teacher who did amazing, creative projects, but the real reason was probably that I was a bit sentimental and indecisive. I couldn’t bring myself to make any choices on which masterpieces I should keep or pitch.

How to Declutter Kids’ Art

In came some amazing advice from an audio book I read quite a while ago called It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. He points out sentimental objects are hard to throw away because of the memories they evoke. It’s the memory you want to keep, not the object, so take a picture.

Years later I read about a mom who used ArtKive to take pictures of all of her kids’ art projects and created a photo book. Then she threw away the projects. It’s brilliant, saves space, and keeps the memories.

Have a Goal

So, this weekend I took pictures of everything and set aside a small pile of art to keep. My goal was to save just five pieces of art. It was surprisingly easy to recognize my favorites. They were cute and represented an important stage in my daughter’s development or, in the case of the bear drawing, the good laugh we had when we realized we might be sharing a little too much information about how nature works (she’s the daughter of a Park Ranger, so there’s a little pride behind that).


I set out to create a book, but realized that was unnecessary. I’ll save the photos on a thumb drive instead. Knowing they’re preserved allowed me to pitch, without regret, the physical copies and create a new empty spot on my craft table.

When & How to Purge

Waiting until the end of the year gave me a chance to review everything at once. If you have space out of sight to keep a growing pile of art, I’d recommend this method again. However, a better way to approach the problem throughout the year is to keep your five favorite pieces at all times. Each time a new piece shows up, compare it to your favorite five and if it’s not better, throw it out (perhaps after temporarily displaying it for a specific period of time). If it surpasses the existing five, replace one of them with the new piece.

Other Ideas

There are a lot of other ideas for using and getting rid of your kids’ art. Check out this article by Sherri Reed or read about it in Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids.

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