To Toss or to Store?

Image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay

To Toss or to Store?

Ok.  You’ve bitten the bullet and decided to organize your pictures.  You’re going to digitize your entire collection.  You’ve also decided that you’ll create a few photo books with some of the best or most important pictures with images of memorable people and events.

Now what are you going to do with the originals? Should you save all of them?  Just some of them?  Toss all of them?

This is a struggle I see many of my clients grapple with.  There is certainly an emotional attachment – not necessarily to the actual photos, but to the memories the images hold.  So, I encourage my clients to think about how they would answer the following questions:

  1.  If the images are on slides– do you have a means to view the slides?  In other words, do you have a projector that still works?  In many cases the answer to this question is “No”.  Even when the answer is “yes” – the follow-on question is: Would you pull out the projector and the screen to view the slides?  I encourage my clients to toss the slides, as they are difficult to view, and degrade over time.
  • If the images are on negatives, the question actually becomes more difficult.  Negatives don’t take up a lot of space so it’s hard to justify tossing them based on saving space.  On the other hand, negatives cannot be viewed as they are – they need to be developed or scanned to make them viewable.  On yet another hand, there may be better ways of scanning or developing in the future, in which case they may be worth keeping.  In my experience, I encourage clients to toss the 35 mm negatives (lower left in picture) and store the older ones.
  • Older pictures, such as those from the late 1800’s to the middle of the 1900’s are an easier decision.  In the 1800’s and early 1900’s photos were a really big deal.  People used to get dressed up to get their pictures taken in a formal setting.  I suggest storing these pictures.
  • Once cameras became prolific and many, many pictures were taken, I find that there are many near-duplicates.  My suggestion is to curate carefully then store the truly meaningful pictures and toss the rest.  
  • Photo albums and scrap books can also be digitized.  I plan to digitize all of my photo albums.  My kids can toss the actual albums when I pass away – or I might need to do that if I end up in a very small senior living condition.
  • Digital pictures actually represent the biggest issue – mostly because there are just so many of them!  My suggestion is to curate the digital pictures periodically – maybe once a month or once a quarter or once a year.  But make an appointment with yourself to get this done!

If you’ve chosen to store some or all of the originals, you need to consider the various storage options.  I will discuss storage options in next month’s blog.

If you need any help thinking through what to do with your photo collection, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

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