When we think about decluttering stuff, the last thing that comes to our minds are photos. Yet photos build up to the thousands, especially since the introduction of smartphones.
We click, snap and tap every moment and expression, now we not only have to keep up with physical prints but a forever growing digital hoard.
Let’s be honest, phone cameras are now so good and we take so many photos that we have too many to enjoy.
We see a beautiful sunset and the first thing that comes to our minds is not to enjoy it in the moment, but to snap the perfect image that we can enjoy years down the line, or can get the most likes on social media.
We receive a glorious plateful of food, and our first instinct is not to eat it, but to snap a photo for Instagram.
When we act like this, the moment we remember is not one of basking in the sunset, or of enjoying a meal, but of capturing the perfect photo, and obsessively checking our social media accounts for approval and validation.
And when every moment is experienced behind a screen or a lens, it becomes almost impossible to discern which photos are the most important.
It’s like losing a precious stone on a beach: it was special to you but you’ll never be able to pick it out again among the rest and won’t even be motivated to try.
I had the exact same issue, which is why I’m currently in the midst of sorting out years of digital and physical photos. And with there being decades of memories and sights, it’s no easy task.
What spurred me on to tackle this monstrous task was the sheer joy I experienced of choosing photos to go in my wedding album. The photographer took over nine hundred shots, but every single one was a joy to reminisce over.
I realised I was experiencing none of that joy with my home collection of photos; many of them were random and meaningless. The precious ones were lost in a sea of memories transformed into gigabytes.
Since that realisation, I’ve spent hours deleting meaningless photos taken on the spur of the moment: landscapes I no longer recognise, ten of the same photos from slightly different angles, photos that were downloaded from the internet, photos sent to me through Whatsapp, random images of animals and plants, blurry smiles, self-indulgent selfies, and meals I was in awe of.
Despite all the hours spent deleting countless moments of the past, I’ve barely made a dent in my collection. But believe me when I say it’s a great motivator that a good few months worth of shots are now worthy of photo frame treatment.
More and more bytes are being freed, more memory to dedicate to the best and most meaningful moments. Byte by bte, stories are emerging.
Deleting and disposing of so many photos has also been frighteningly sobering as to how many moments I’ve wasted snapping instead of experiencing.
Since the start of the project, I’ve spent less time pulling out my camera and far more observing with my eyes. If something is truly awe-inspiring, I write descriptions instead, and sometimes use it for inspiration.
If you’re considering minimising your photo collection, go ahead. It’s freeing. It’s cathartic. It’s revealing. Just remember to minimise your snapping, and maximise your moments, instead.