Keepsakes represent the general category we use for any sentimental items that we’re just not ready to let go of yet. I have identified five factors that make keepsakes tough to organize. I am going to address these five factors using a keepsake of mine as an example, my father’s school photo album.

1 – Take Up Space

First, keepsakes can take up a lot of space. Start by sorting all the things you are keeping for sentimental reasons into one place. This will help you see just how much space they are eating up.

My parents spread out their keepsakes throughout their basement and filled up an entire closet with them. After they had both passed, sorting out their keepsakes took a long time, but I distilled them down to 5 boxes. I know. It’s still a lot!

If I’m really being accurate, I should add all the photos, all the slides, and all of my keepsakes. To truly evaluate the keepsake space invasion in our home, I should include my wife’s keepsakes, but that’s not a hill I want to die on. Check out my previous blog “When You Hate Clutter But Your Loved One Doesn’t” to see what I’m talking about.

Still, there’s enough evidence to see that I am devoting too much space to my clutter from the past. But what exactly do I do when I start opening these boxes? Of course, the obvious solution these days is that I should try to scan wherever possible. That should reduce the volume of my father’s school photos to zero space, but it’s still tough. Why is that?

2 – Hard To Justify

One of the things that slows us down is the thought of being responsible for carrying a legacy to future generations. In my case, this should be really easy since I don’t have children and neither does my only brother. However, I hesitated and thought about my cousins. Maybe they’d want these photos.

I had the pleasure of seeing all my cousins a couple weeks back after 25 years. They are all drowning in photos of their parents and my father. And most of their kids never met him. None of them need this collection any more than I do.

So, of course this is a little different if you do have children. But at least ask the question of whether this carefully curated volume of school photos should take up residence in your children’s future. Only you can answer that. The carefully curated part of this question leads me to the next factor.

3 – Well Curated

I find that it is harder to let go of an item when it has been carefully curated, even with checkbook registers! My Grandmother went to the trouble of choosing this kind of goofy album and carefully adding my dad’s school photos year after year. How could I consider discarding that effort?

It’s so important to consider the timing. When your child brings home a piece of artwork from school, it is so special in that moment. However, over time, it becomes a collection of other special moments that have passed. More of them don’t make them more special. More of them does put you in a position where you can determine what is most special.

Always compare those special moments from the past, with the special moments you are living today, because today is what matters the most. Yes, you need to honor the past, but don’t let it weigh down the value of the moment.

Those of us who grew up with print photos may miss them, but I must say this about digital photos. Digital photos are much easier to share. As I see it, share-ability is what makes photos so special. You can have print photos perfectly curated in a binder, but what good are they if no one ever sees them? What are you waiting for?

When you scan print photos, you get them into a shareable format. When you share them in the here-and-now you bring your memories to life. They don’t weigh on you.

4 – Never A Priority

Given all the priorities you have with work and family every day, when does keepsakes ever rise to the top of your priority list? While there might be some urgency with organizing kid’s keepsakes as they grow, what about editing sentimental items from parents who’ve passed on? When are you likely to get that done? Never!

So, here’s what I do. On my calendar, next to my parent’s birthdays, death days and anniversary, I write “edit keepsakes.” To honor my past, this is how I actively do it. I edit out the less important parts and enjoy the most important parts. This helps me remember them fondly, while freeing up some physical space in my here and now.

5 – Time To Process

You may not start to process your keepsakes because you fear it will take too long. So set a limit and set a timer. Don’t think you’re going to devote a whole morning to it, let alone a whole day, because that just makes it easier to skip.

Devote a half hour. The ticking of the clock makes you more aware. Also, be aware of how long each step takes. For example, how long does it take to scan each photo? Can you save time by scanning more than one at a time?

I’ll be honest, I still can’t think of a reason why anyone would want to see my dad’s old school photos. At least, as scanned photos, they’re not eating up physical space. They’re right here if I want them, and now the whole album can be discarded and I’m OK with that.

Now I expect some of you are saying “how can you discard precious old photos?!” While others are saying “what took you so long?” So, I certainly don’t expect anyone else to make the same choices that I did. However, I do think the questions from these 5 factors will make organizing tough keepsakes easier.

Do you consider organizing keepsakes tough? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic, so please share!