Getting Rid of Old Photos: Confessions of a Packrat


Logic has to end somewhere.  Sure it all worked in theory.  Representing the years from our marriage in 1992 and our purchase of a nice digital camera in 2005 we somehow stopped creating nice photo albums–perhaps the same reason we took all those pictures–two kids.  It’s not often you hear parents of a four and two year old say, “Wow, they’re finally asleep.  Let’s scrapbook!”

But we kept snapping those pictures and getting the film developed.  We’d pick up the envelopes and negatives, look through them, mail a few off to relatives and put the envelope promptly in a box.

The box soon spawned another box–a bigger banker’s box. And they both sat patiently in our basement storage room for another eight years while the electronic cousins of these boxes filled up with photos on my computer’s hard drive.  Everytime I was dragging out the Christmas decorations, those two basement boxes would stare at me hopefully.  “Do something!” they pleaded.

I have the NFL playoffs to thank for a solution.  I hauled out the first box, put four tin-foil catering trays in front of me–one for each kid, one for our pre-kid days and another for miscellaneous family stuff.  But the most important container was the paper grocery bag beside me–the trash.  My wife asked not to be a part of my heartless decisions as I stuck to to these questions:

1.  Is it the topic already covered by another photo?

2.  Is it so-so quality?

3.  Would anyone notice if it’s gone?

Any “yes” answers for the first two or “no” for the third and into the grocery bag the snapshot went.  By the time the Super Bowl arrived I had four manageable small boxes that I’m in the process of systematically scanning–and fifty pounds of throw-aways in four paper bags.

That was nearly two months ago.  The four bags sat at the bottom of our basement stairs, refusing to budge.  (Envision trying to put a cat into a bathtub.)  Until today.  My son and I carried them to the garage, but I made the mistake, like Lot’s wife, of one final look into the bag.  There were my teenagers, going to kindergarten, being born, at a Daddy-Daughter dance–all jumbled together like a kaleidoscope.

I know they all received a “yes” vote from my three questions.  I know that each one’s subject matter is well on its way to being scanned and stashed away like a paranoid squirrel into four different digital holes: Snapfish, flash-drives, DVDs–and yes, even framed and put on a wall someday!

So they’re in the garage now.  I was ready to move them to the curb Tuesday night when my wife reminded me that recycling may not be an option–and once again, she was right.  A quick search on Google revealed dire warnings of land-fills and the many chemicals that the prints contain.  Many suggested donating the photos to scrap-booking clubs or school art projects.  But that seems a bit weird, even for callous old me.

We’ll see.  At least they’re out of the basement.  Maybe I’ll let my grandchildren handle this one in forty years or so.


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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

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