What to Do When Your Collection has Become a Burden

As I peered up at the tubs of photo albums, this phrase ran through my mind. 

“When everything is important, nothing is important.” – Peter walsh

We have been storing photo albums and loose pics on a high shelf in our storage room for years.  They have been been traveling in their box as we moved from house to house- rarely touched or opened.  Some albums hold memories from childhood.  Some capture the behind-the-scenes of our wedding.  Others document the growth of our family.  All seem to hold nostalgia. 

At one time the albums were displayed and occasionally thumbed through, but as the years passed, the space was needed for items of greater necessity and the albums were gathered up in tubs & moved to the basement. 

And now as I look at these tubs & boxes of photos, I start to ask myself some questions:

  • Are these albums a blessing or a burden?
  • What will happen to these photos in 10 or 30 years? 50 years? 
  • What story will all of these pictures tell?

As I think about these photos all tucked away & forgotten, I can feel a sadness.  I know this collection is too big to reasonably enjoy.  They aren’t organized to tell a story that will make sense in 50 years when the next generation is stuck with them.  They aren’t labeled and many aren’t even the best of the best. 

And while thinking of all of that can bring up some sadness, disappointment, and overwhelm,  I also sense a feeling of exhilaration.  Paring down this collection to a size that is easy to manage & enjoy with our family, feels refreshing!  It feels worth the effort & exciting to create something that could tell the story of our life.  A collection that wouldn’t take up as much physical space, but would hold a more prominent place in our home because of it’s ease & simplicity.

Next Steps…

If you have a collection that has become a burden, then these tips might ease the overwhelm & decrease the weight of it.

Be a curator.  In the case of photos, I will pick the ones that truly mean something & have people in them.  With collectibles or other special items, you can do the same – pick the ones that really make you smile or touch your heart.

Shift perspective.  It can be hard to let go of things that have been with us for a long time; things that were acquired with love, took energy to collect and create, or seem to hold special memories.  But paring down doesn’t mean losing the memory and doesn’t discount all that went into gathering this collection.  Shift your perspective to gratitude for the enjoyment you received as you created this collection & lightness in knowing that the memory isn’t held in the item, it is held inside of you.  

Capture the stories in words.  As I sort & pare down the photos I know there will be a lot of reminiscing.  This is a great time to dictate, journal, or jot notes about the stories that surround the items & the memories attached to them.  Find the simplest method to make this happen – maybe with sticky notes, a notebook labeled “special memories,” or by dictating the story into a smartphone.  These stories can offer your loved ones an understanding of how these items or experiences made you YOU.

Share your collection.  As I dig into the collection, there will some photos of family or friends that might be worth passing on or sharing in a fun way.  I imagine taking a pic of a photo & texting it to brighten someone’s day.   Or start asking yourself if there someone in your circle that would appreciate your collection as much as you did?   If there is a  family member that took an interest, has a similar collection, or enjoys reminiscing as much as you, then share some of the joy.  (Remember to ask before you pass on physical items.) 

Use a service to lighten the load.  To pare down our photo albums, I am looking to a few services that have the tools readily available to support my goals.  Look for professionals, apps, software, or products that were created to manage your specific collection.  Then let these services decrease the overwhelm & enable your vision to become a reality in less time & with fewer headaches.

Let the decisions come when you are ready.  I know that as I begin to sort through my collection of albums there will be some photos that I won’t be able to part with quite yet.  I’m giving myself permission to take time with those tougher decisions.  When you are feel unsure or need more time around a decision, let it be okay.  Label & store those items for now.  AND then set a date on your calendar to check in and determine if your feelings have changed & you are ready to send them on.

Have you reached the tipping point?

As with anything you decide to collect- photos, nicknacks, hats, shoes, china- there comes a tipping point.  A point where you ask yourself how much is enough?  The tipping point between having just enough to use & manage in your space vs. it all becoming too much to handle.  A point where you can enjoy each item & their presence vs. collecting such an abundance of things that you begin to forget what you have. 

If you can notice & catch yourself as you near that tipping point, then the collection can be a blessing.  You will slow down the collecting, decide you have enough and enjoy what you have, or become very picky when faced with the idea of adding to the collection. 

But if you aren’t conscious as you collect, it can quickly become a burden.  Spilling over.  Taking up too much space & feeling hard to manage.  At this point, decisions can feel overwhelming.

If you have a collection that has passed the tipping point & you long to pare down & preserve it in a way that’s meaningful, then be in touch.  Together we can create a plan that fits your collection & intention.


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