Everything but the Photos

Often when people are faced with the threat of losing everything they own they get really clear about their priorities. And many of them say that the only things they’d really miss would be the sentimental things like their photos.

graduating from Whitman was so exciting

graduating from Whitman was so exciting

I consider myself a sentimental person and I love my photos because they remind me of fun times. So I’ve always understood this sentiment. The stuff is Just Stuff, but the photos, they’re something special. However, I had an experience Friday that made me realize that as I’ve become less attached to things, I’ve also become less attached to photos.

Lately I’ve been Getting Smart About Phones and Planning Around Obsolescence. I had an appointment yesterday to consolidate my old iPhoto library (on an external hard drive) and my new iPhoto library (on my laptop) so that I could free up some space on my computer. So Friday morning I got out my external hard drive and took a look through the old photos. A few of them made me grin: my sisters and I wearing mud masks and making funny faces, my graduation from college, exuberant present unwrapping during Christmases past, etc.

silliness with my sisters

silliness with my sisters

But as I scanned the photos I realized that most of them don’t mean anything to me anymore. I had photos of people whose names I no longer remember. I had photos from a school project that I’ve long since forgotten about. I had photos that were blurry, too dark, or overexposed. I had photos of a backpacking trip that triggered unpleasant memories. (My friends broke up on day two and got back together on day four, which meant the four of us had two very uncomfortable days on the trail!)

As I biked off to the Apple Genius Bar I thought, “Well, it’s going to be a lot of work to sort through all of these photos, but at least now I know I can get rid of most of these.”

When I arrived I explained that I was trying to consolidate all my photos so I could purge the old ones and free up space for my work and new photos. We plugged in my external hard drive and it wouldn’t mount. Period. It was completely dead. Which meant that I’d just lost several years worth of photos. The moment of panic arrived. And then it quickly left.


such a gorgeous hike, but such bad memories attached to it!

I realized that I’d just looked through my photos that morning (which was more attention than I’d paid them in years) and I’d already figured out that I didn’t want most of them anyhow. I was hit by a wave of relief and I briefly explained my journey towards the Little Life. The tech seemed relieved, too. I’m sure he’s used to people breaking down when several years worth of photos evaporate.

We transferred the photo library from my laptop to a new external hard drive. (And it turns out that I actually do have all the photos I thought I’d lost because I’d already transferred them from my external hard drive to my laptop.) Now that I can, I probably will take the time to sort my photos and keep the ones I do still want. But hopefully I can do it relatively quickly because I’ll keep in mind that if even I don’t want to look through all of them no one else would either!

who are these people?

I only know one of these people and I have no idea what the event was!

Nevertheless, I’ve been marveling at how differently I handled the experience of losing my photos than I would have a few years ago. I suppose part of it is that many of my photos are out there in other places. I’ve shared them with friends or uploaded them to Facebook. But even so, it just wasn’t that big a deal anymore. I’ve come to terms with the fact that keeping track of my photos is not entirely within my control nor is it entirely my responsibility. Technology will continue to fail. Natural disasters will continue to happen. Boxes will continue to get lost in moves.

I know that for some people losing photos truly would be devastating and I can relate to that. But I’m glad that it wasn’t devastating for me. I’m glad that in my minimalist journey I’ve become less vulnerable to these losses. I don’t want to live in the past via my photos. I want my photos to be a tool for memory keeping but not a burden. I’m grateful that I know how to take new photos and make new memories.

Now, off to the Street Fair. With my camera, of course!

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8 Responses to Everything but the Photos

  1. Diane says:

    This is a great post and truly illustrates why I’ve never bothered to digitize my photos. It seems such an ongoing nuisance to keep up with this process over the years, as tech changes. When the photo albums are just right. I guess if there is ever a fire, I loose all my photos, but it seems that even with a proper back-up it’s still plenty possible to lose all the digital photos.

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Diane,

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on photos! I’d never thought about it that way. There are lots of ways to lose photos, no matter how we handle them. But I think I’d rather digitize because I find I don’t appreciate photos stored in boxes. If they’re digital I’m much more likely to see them!

  2. Betsy says:

    This post was perfectly timed for me. My favorite line is: “I want my photos to be a tool for memory keeping but not a burden.” It’s a great perspective to keep in mind as I sort through boxes and boxes of memories to decide what we really need to keep, what we can scan, and what we can pitch. Thanks!

    • Little Life says:

      Dear Betsy,

      I’m so glad this post resonated with you and that the timing was right. Best wishes on the photo sorting! Enjoy your trip down memory lane!

  3. michelle says:

    Just the other night, my partner was having me upload his photos from his iphone into iPhoto on my laptop. Everything seemed to transfer fine. When asked if we wanted to delete the now uploaded photos from his phone, I said yes. The program froze while deleting them. When we reopened it, the new photos weren’t there. *gulp*

    He had 2 yrs of photos on it and they just disappeared. There was panic, but he was taking it pretty well. He was disappointed, but ok. While I was frantically looking for them, he started to see some show up on the monitor. We had apparently done an upload a while ago and had forgot. Most of his photos were already on the laptop.

    It was a nice lesson in what if. We both realized that the memories were still there even though the memory triggers had vanished.

    • Little Life says:

      Dear Michelle,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s strange, isn’t it, realizing that both, it’s devastating to lose the pictures and that they’re just a tool for our memories?


  4. Levi says:

    Put em on dropbox!

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