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  • Emily Tse

Photo Series Part 1: Organizing Everest & The Art of Procrastination

A small lego character stands before a tall pile of photo albums stacked vertically.
Pirate Lego Emily stands before her Mount Everest: The Family Photo Collection

Here’s the title of the post I was hoping to write: The Life Changing Hack That Helped Me Organize 4,000 photos in a day! Or hey, while we’re wishing for stuff: How I Won the Lotto Max, Earned a Nobel Peace Prize and Organized My Photos in One Day! Unfortunately that’s not exactly how it all went down but I think I’ve still learned a few things to help you tackle your organizational Everest. You know you have one. It’s the project that needs to be done, that would feel SOOOO good to complete, but is so daunting that you find every conceivable excuse not to start. It might be the “guest room” so full of junk that you’re considering cutting your losses and setting it on fire. Or maybe the playroom that is so out of control that your toddler brings their own packed lunch with them in case they can’t find their way out by sundown.

I have had a million opportunities to organize my family photo collection and yet, it just hasn't happened. I get why it’s easy to avoid doing something you don’t enjoy. But I LIVE for this stuff, so why couldn't I start? If I hadn’t yet found the time, then when? If you're currently reading this while your Everest is mocking you from the next room, try asking yourself the two questions I needed to unpack to get things rolling.

1) Why have you been putting it off?

The answer for me (which I arrived at after procrasti-cleaning my baseboards with a q-tip) was that I was scared of doing it wrong. I was afraid of being the monster ripping apart a lovingly assembled collection of memories and throwing any of them in the trash. I was excited to reminisce over fond memories of loved ones, but terrified of the heaviness I might feel seeing the faces of people I loved so much that were no longer with me. Once I articulated what I was worried about, I could actually think it through. I could make the rules, and I was finally ready to start. If you’ve been putting off your project because you’ve just had a major life change or you’re dealing with some other emotionally/physically demanding obstacle, it’s ok to decide that now is not the right time. Set a reminder on your phone a few months away and check in with yourself then.

2) What WOULD make it possible for you to approach this project?

In order to set myself up to be successful, I needed to give myself permission to do things my way. I wasn't going to behave like a heartless robot and carelessly throw all my photos in the trash. In fact I loved them so much that it broke my heart to have them stuffed into boxes in the basement because there were too many to store in my living room. No one could force me to toss a single photograph if I didn’t want to. I reframed the task from "which photos do I need to get rid of?" to "which photos are actually special and deserve the space to be seen?" What do you need to give to yourself to make it possible to start? Forgiveness? Permission? Compassion? Start there.

Motivation acquired! Tallyho! Now what?

In my fantasy blog, this would be the part where I tell you how I rolled up my sleeves, opened the window, whistled a tune, and danced around as the local woodland creatures assembled my photos into a curated masterpiece. Instead, I started unpacking the piles of albums and swiftly transitioned into what I’d like to call the Five Stages of Photo Organizing Regret.

Stage 1: Denial - I think I’ve been blowing this out of proportion, there can’t be that many photos. I mean honestly, I think they fit in a single box... or five. I’m sure it's those bulky album covers making them look so big. Historians, museums and archives across the world have conquered more than this! This will be but a simple weekend project!

Stage 2: Anger - Is this album an actual clown car? They just keep appearing, this is impossible. Why didn’t I tackle this sooner? If I'd had the good sense to sort one photo per day for the past 11 years then I would be done by now.

Stage 3: Unrealistic Problem Solving - If I just do 10 minutes a day it won’t be so bad. I can have a perfectly organized collection to enjoy when the project is done, on my 130th birthday. I could just glue all the binders together to make some kind of bespoke, artisanal end tables! This is fine.

Stage 4: Melodramatic Bewilderment - There are just too many and my brain is tired and I should just bid farewell to all my friends and family because this is my life now and I’m sleepy and I want this project to be done and I’m sleepy.

Stage 5: Acceptance - These beautiful photos deserve to be enjoyed, this will be a marathon but it's do-able. I must prevail! I can’t disappoint my dad…er…readers.

Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon for Part 2, where I will actually do the thing, share what worked, and begrudgingly share the steps I did completely backwards. If you like what you're reading, please like, comment, or share my blog with others. If you're working up the motivation to tackle your own organizing Everest, I'd love to hear about it!

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