What You Need to Do to Conquer Photo Clutter

The last time millions of people were asked to stay home, WWI was nearing its conclusion and Americans enjoyed pastimes like silent movies and radio. Today, as millions of people find themselves sheltering in place, how lucky to have television, the internet, streaming media, smartphones, and endless high- and low-tech hobbies to stay occupied. There’s plenty to do, even with restaurants, shops, libraries, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions closed in many communities! 

In challenging times, it helps to see the silver lining – and speaking of silver, gelatin silver may be the process used to print many of the old black and white photos you have laying around. You know, the stacks of old family photos you’ve been meaning to organize for the last decade or so. And you likely also have old color snapshots and slides gathering dust in shoeboxes that you’ve been meaning to scan. We’re guessing you also have thousands of digital photos that need culling and organizing. While digital images don’t cause physical clutter, they can create a storage nightmare on devices. Now is as good a time as any to catch up on projects – and experts say staying productive can help quell restlessness and alleviate stress during stressful times

A Step-by-Step Guide to Decluttering

The best way to organize photos is to cull them first, then decide what to do with the keepers. Start by creating simple steps or rules you know you’ll follow when sorting through your old photos. The first one harkens back to those second set of free prints and the fact you never shared them, despite having the best intentions! 


  • Discard all duplicates unless you’re absolutely certain someone else wants them. This also includes photos that are nearly identical – select the best one from the group and throw out the rest.


  • Throw out blurry, unflattering, and poorly exposed photos, or those taken for temporary purposes. 


  • Organize photos in a timeline (by date) for easy retrieval. You can also organize photos by events or subject/location. For example, if you visited NYC four times during a period of 10 years, you would label them NYC with the date of your visit and store them chronologically.


  • Many people associate photos with meaningful moments in their lives. Undeniably, photos represent cherished memories, experiences, people, and feelings. But that doesn’t mean you should keep every photo you ever took and cling to the past! The one exception would be vintage photos of your ancestors. Even so, you should resist the temptation to keep all of them, unless you only own a handful. 

Decide What Photos to Digitize and Scan

Now that you’ve organized and culled your collection of prints, you should consider getting them scanned because photos are subject to deterioration. In fact, you may have noticed when culling your photos that many were faded or the color had changed. If you still have the negatives, they can be digitized or you can get the hard copy prints scanned.

Consider Using a Scanning Service

Perhaps you’ve already spent an inordinate amount of time culling and organizing your photos. Instead of spending far more time scanning them, make the process easy by getting photos professionally scanned. At ScanCafe, we’ve made the entire process as pain-free as possible because we understand how important it is to digitize treasured memories. You don’t need to worry about organizing them if you haven’t done so. And our Pay for What You Keep perk means you get to review your scans before we settle your bill. You can delete up to 20% of your scans if you don’t want them – no questions asked! 

How to Organize and Store Old Photos

You’ve scanned your best prints professionally – that’s a big step on organization! Now you should decide which prints are worth keeping and if any are nice enough to display after a photo restoration project. Tips for organizing photos include archival albums or scrapbooks, photo boxes, and frames – just don’t revert to storing them in shoeboxes or those awful albums with sticky acidic pages!

Clutter-clearing guru Marie Kondo says that truly precious memories never vanish even if you discard things associated with them! And the best news is that Kondo has been quoted as saying that sorting photos is the happiest tidying job ever – especially if you do it as a family.

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