How to Declutter and Let Go of Photos!

June 19, 2017

So, you’ve decided to declutter your printed and digital photos but struggle to let go because photos are so precious and sentimental? Let me share a few things I’ve learned since I’ve started to specialise in photo organising.


Declutter photos


I think we all agree that photos belong to the sentimental things we own … the category,  which is the hardest of all to deal with. There are a few strategies one can apply when dealing with sentimental clutter (watch this video to learn more about it). One of the common tips is to take a photo of the item you want to let go. Obviously, this doesn’t work with photos …

What can help us to declutter our photos then? I suggest the following approach:


Create a Vision

Think about what you are going to do with the photos you will keep. Maybe albums? Frame some? Create gifts? Leave a nice photo legacy to your loved ones? There are many options and it helps to be very clear about the purpose of a photo or of the whole collection … apart from of course bringing back memories and documenting events.


Gather all your photos

Yes, this seems like a big task and it usually is. Hence, when working with printed photos, make sure you put the piles in a place where you can let them sit for a few days if not longer. Doing it all in one go will make it easier to make decisions. You will look at many photos and you will remember whether you’ve looked at similar ones an hour or a day before. If you wait too long, you’ll have forgotten about it again.


Sort like with like

Make piles by year when you work with your printed photos (or any other category you like, e.g. by event). This has the advantage that you can immediately see how many photos you have.


Declutter you photos!

There is a great way to sort your photos, developed by Cathi Nelson, the funder of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organisers). It’s called the ABCS of photo organizing.

A = Album. These photos belong into an album. They are the most precious and treasured ones. Your absolute favourites. Prints in this group should be digitised as a backup.

B = Box. B-photos are also kept but not necessarily in an album. You can keep them in an archival box and it is recommend backing them up by digitising them.

C = Can. These pictures can go – that’s what it’s all about today. How do we decide whether a picture falls into the C-category?

Here are some further criteria and questions you can ask yourself when you struggle to let go of a photo:

  • Is it a good shot in terms of the quality or is it blurry? Over or under exposed? 
  • Is the photo too damaged?
  • Do you know who is in the photo?
  • Do you want to be reminded of the person/s in the photo?
  • Is it a duplicate?
  • Are there similar photos? Keep the best only!
  • Does the photo tell an important story? If yes, it belongs to the S-photos.
  • Do you like this photo? Does it make you smile?
  • Would you use this photo in one way or other in the future?
  • Think of future generations … would they want and keep this photo?

S = Story. Photos that tell a story are not necessarily great photos but they always tell an important story which means we keep them. They can be put with the A-photos.


How to let go of your unwanted photos

Unlike other items, photos are not really the type of possessions to donate to a charity or to sell. The easiest way is to simply throw them in the rubbish bin. Unfortunately, they cannot be recycled. If you are concerned about identity theft you can shred them before they go in the bin.


Backup your photos

Now that you have decided which photos you want to keep it goes without saying that you should back them up (if you haven’t done so yet). Digitise prints and backup your digital photos.

Once you have decluttered and saved your photos you can do many things with them (remember your vision?). Frame your favourites and display them, create photo albums or books, make photo gifts, collages, slideshows, look at them via Apple TV or the like. There are endless options to finally look at your photos and enjoy them.



One more tip which should help you to maintain your photo collection more easily and to prevent you from future overwhelm: Let go of the inclination to constantly take photos in the first place! Once you’ve been through the process of going through your whole photo collection I am sure this will be much easier than it might sound right now.





  1. Declutter Challenge Week 30: Curating Memories (Part 1) – Allsorts Organising - […] Chantal’s full blog post can be found here. […]

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