As a long-time convert to a clutter-free lifestyle, I have long embraced the notion that one should have only that which is useful and beautiful (to them) in their physical surroundings. No holding on to tchotchkes you scarcely like and rarely dust just because they once belonged to Aunt Gertrude. The memories are in YOU, not your STUFF. Let it go.
On the other hand if nothing makes you happier than your Elvis on black velvet then by all means, have at it baby!
Still, I had to face the fact that I had been living a clutter-free lie when the following evidence came to light:
Boxes and boxes of what is irrefutably clutter (albeit it cute clutter – did you get a look at the face on that Care Bear Troika doll?) There are four more like him Inside him: clever. Also: useless. Wondergirl outgrew those Care Bear nesting dolls, er, bears, about three years ago.
Obviously, despite my embrace of the clutter-free mantra, the clutter hides, stealth like in the closets and corners, refusing to budge until dragged forcibly into the light. Thus I packed up baskets, bins, boxes, and bags of “stuff” to send packing.
The house felt lighter immediately.
There was a method to my madness. Believe it or not it was photo organization. I take about 10,000 photos per year (Think I’m exaggerating for effect? I’m not). My motto has long been “if it’s not in the scrapbook, it didn’t happen.” While I’ve tried to tone down my belief that Every Single Breath We Take Must Be Photographed the truth is I like photographs. A lot. Possibly too much.
I had photos on digital media (computer, EHD, CDs), I had photos in albums. I had photos in scrapbooks. I had photos in albums. I had photos in random envelopes. This was less a “system” and more a slow, inexorable slide toward total photo domination – and chaos.
An awesome online challenge (File under: how the interwebs changed my life. For reals) led me to mend my wicked ways. I sat down with virtually EVERY album, box, bag, or bin we owned, collected all the photos from same and dedicated a weekend to making sense of it all. It was hard. I won’t lie. My back ached. My eyes watered. Still I soldiered on. I found so much to make it all worthwhile. My wedding photos, for one (there are three. We eloped).
Finally, I came out the other end on Monday morning to find that in my frenzy of organization I had achieved this:
Please ignore hideous paneling. That’s inside a third floor closet (courtesy of previous owners) and I just can’t work myself up to CARE. Also ignore street-vendor caricature of Yours Truly c. 1991. What matters is that loose photos and photo albums, negatives, cds, and important cards, notes and letters are all carefully saved (my BFF and Grandma got their own boxes because they send cards and letters and they ROCK. Hard). Scrapbooks are labeled (it ain’t pretty, but it works!) No longer will I have to stare at a shelf of scrapbooks doing the math in my head to figure out which giant volume might hold my son’s preschool graduation. Photo Books (love these!) are gathered together as well.
All of this together makes me very, very
*Sign reads: "You know you're an artist when your children think they're being followed by Paparazzi." True my friends, so true.
Edited to add: I've had questions concerning hiding my bushel under a basket, or in this case, photos in a closet. The truth is that while photo albums and boxes can look lovely in open, bookshelf, storage, the truth is they are safer in a nice, dark, climate controlled environment. This means that photos like to be the same temperature you are. No extreme heat or cold please. Dark storage (aka a closet) also prevents fading from light and may cut down on dust (dependent on your housekeeping skills). When it comes to long-term archived storage of photographs, you might want to keep the family photos IN the closet and under wraps if you can.