Like many of you, I just finished binge-watching “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix.
I should probably say that I am a HUGE fan of Ms. Kondo. Her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” is one of my foundational books for home organizing. I really admire the way she gently leads you through organizing your home. The Konmari method of organization focuses on starting with the easiest (emotionally) category, clothing, and working your way toward the most difficult, sentimental, which are items like family photos. This is something that as an organizer I have seen work again and again.
I also love the way she focuses on keeping the items that make you happy “spark joy” as opposed to telling you how much/what to keep. If you LOVE your giant book collection KEEP IT! If you’re just keeping books around your house to “look smart” perhaps reconsider if they are fulfilling their job.
As a photo organizer, I need to say that Ms. Kondo is wrong about photos. It hurts to say it but her advice on storing your family photos is wrong. In Tidying up, she advises a couple to store their photos in an album as opposed to boxes.
The album featured in the show is a magnetic photo album (the kind with sticky pages) This type of photo album is a terrible way to store photographs. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve seen damaged (color loss, tearing) by being stored in this type of album. I know they are inexpensive and give you the illusion of preserving your photos but in the long-term, they are damaging your photos. Ms. Kondo recommends albums over boxes as an easy way to view your photos and in that she is kind of right. Albums can be easier than photo boxes if you fail to properly edit your photos before storing them.
Always remember to follow the ABCS of photo organizing.
The key to making photo viewing easy with box storage is to be mindful of how many photos you are storing in each box. A photo box (acid-free of course) that can hold 1000 should probably have about 500-700 photos in it max. You want your photos to breathe and have a little personal space. Not to be squished together, making it hard to take them out. If you do decide that you must use a photo album, PLEASE make sure it is an acid-free photo album.
I know this critique may seem somewhat nit-picky of what is undoubtedly a great organizing method. However, the influence of Ms. Kondo is so huge that it’s important to clarify that photos cannot be organized like socks.
Yes, you should love the photos that you save but it’s hard to say that you should only keep the photos that “spark joy.” For me personally, not every photo brings joy. There are many of my photos that make my heart ache, that even bring tears. This doesn’t mean that I should let go of the photograph. It means that I’ve lived a life of love and loss. That I’ve known true joy.
I hope if your plans involve using the Konmari method to tidy up your home you will give your photos some extra thought about what joy means to you and take the steps to preserve your photos.