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Downsizing? Here’s What to Do with Family Photos & Home Movies

By Alyssa Ball

Downsizing makes sense as our loved ones get older. Finding a smaller home or reducing clutter can make it safe and easy for them to keep living independently. One of the easiest ways to reduce clutter and free up space is to digitize aging film reels, videotapes, and family photos. These often reside in bulky boxes or bins and can deteriorate if not properly preserved.

EverPresent is devoted to saving family memories, and our certified organizers tackle this question every day. Here’s our advice.

Get a Feel for the Whole Collection before You Dive In

Every stash of photos and videos is as unique as the moments they capture. There are a few things to consider before planning a move or purging clutter:

The size and weight of a collection

A shoe box of loose photos is easy to lift and takes up minimal space. Some folks, though, have several bins full of photo albums and slide carousels. These archives often won’t fit in a smaller home and could be too heavy for some seniors to handle alone.

The condition of photos and videos

Items in storage are vulnerable to dust, mold, and deterioration. Aside from the health risks, damaged pictures and films don’t look great—and they’re even less fun to handle. The memories are priceless, but are the physical items worth holding on to?

The time you’ll need to sort it all

It can take days or even weeks to go through boxes of memories and decide what to do with them. Professionals like senior move managers and photo organizers can make house calls to help you organize and consolidate your collection.

Now that you have a better sense of what you’re dealing with, let’s explore what you can do with it.

Best Practices for Sorting & Storing Home Movies & Photos

We strongly suggest organizing and consolidating your loved one’s aging media before you get rid of anything. Having a system in place will keep these memories properly preserved until you decide what you want to do with them. Here’s how: 

Sort into categories and bag them

Seniors have captured decades of memories in their movies and photographs. Sorting everything by decade into labeled bags or containers (1960s, 1970s, etc.) is a helpful way to restore some order to large collections. You could sort each decade even further and make categories for different years, places, events, or family members. Then when you digitize, you can maintain that organization in your digital archive. 

Be a detective

You likely won’t be able to date each item or recognize every person and place yourself. Find clues like handwritten notes on the white borders or backsides of photos or captions next to the pictures in scrapbooks and albums. Don’t forget to ask for help—your loved ones will be more than happy to take you down memory lane! And reminiscing can be good for seniors.

Transfer to more compact containers

Traditional storage options aren’t practical or safe. Lots of vintage scrapbooks are too fragile to handle, and slide carousels are obsolete without a working projector. You can transfer these photos, slides, and other formats into stackable containers designed to store photos and save space. 

IMPORTANT: Don’t remove any photos from scrapbooks with handwritten captions just yet. Read on to find out why! 

Digitizing Family Photos & Film Saves Space & Memories

Photo scanning and video transfer services like EverPresent’s can condense your family’s massive media collection into a flash drive the size of your thumb. Each priceless memory becomes a digital file that’s easy to view on computers and mobile devices. You might not even need or want to keep the originals once they’ve been digitized.

Be aware, though, that digitizing can also be a sensitive subject with older generations. Not all seniors are comfortable using new technology, and they might even be less keen on replacing tangible stacks of family photos with a tiny flash drive or DVD. In this case, you can consolidate stacks of old photo albums into one keepsake photo album so your loved one can still page through old memories whenever they would like. 

If everyone’s on the same page and ready to digitize, there are a few things to remember:

  • The digital folders that hold your files can use the same labels and hierarchy that you chose to group the physical photos.
  • Captions written on or next to photos in albums can be scanned along with the images, copied into the digital file names, or hidden in a file’s metadata.
  • You can transform your digital photos and videos into presentations like slideshows and highlight reels for your loved one to enjoy. As well as keepsake photo albums.
  • You could digitize these items yourself with the right gear and some technical know-how. But if computer skills or hours of work sound like deal-breakers for you, consider a professional digitizing service. 

What Are You Waiting For?

Downsizing old photos and videos can be an emotional struggle, but it’s based on practical goals like getting rid of unwanted clutter and preserving family stories. If it’s time to clean house, we’re hoping these insights give you the confidence you’ll need to manage this important project. 

How will you tackle your own loved one’s photo and home movie collection? Share your ideas with a comment below!

Alyssa Ball Blog Author

Tags: Family

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