• Sarah Lynas

How my photo-stash became a rollercoaster for the weekend...

If you've been following my #spaceandclaritychallenge on Instagram you'll know that my challenge was to sort through my photos. When I first designed the challenge this was exactly the kind of space I had in mind... crowded, chaotic and approached only with dread and a stiff G&T.

Of course my dream photo stash contains only gorgeous photos reminding me of special moments. No un-needed screenshots. Not eight perfection-seeking versions of the same scene. And not one single 'hilarious' meme sent by my teenage son and auto-saved by WhatsApp.

My space and clarity challenge was all about working through a particular area of your home, office or computer, to create the space and time you need to see what was hiding there.

(I sent the challenge out by email as well as posting it daily on Instagram. If you missed it you can catch up here and it's not too late to share your challenge with the hashtag #spaceandclaritychallenge)

Here's how it went for me, day by day...

Day One: what space did I chose and how do I want it to feel once I'm finished?

Photos. I've always loved taking pictures and I do get very attached to them. I feel they have such power to transport you back in space and time, and I tell you what, my son is growing so fast that some days I just want to root myself (and him!) in those glossy memories and not let go. I confess, it's a daily practice for me to relinquish my sunny mom-toddler grip and allow teenage-hood to pull him into its dark, grumbly cave. And so I knew sorting through those little rectangles of past was going to be a tough, but necessary, challenge for me. From 2005-2018 (my digital cache) I had 6,139 pictures.

However, once finished, I was hoping for a space that felt uplifting, and reflective, where I could easily find what I was looking for. I wanted to love every photo I keep. And I wanted to find a simple and non-Apple storage solution.

Day Two - why did I choose this area and when will I get on with it?

This is my why. Moments of joy.

This pic right here is my ‘why’. It’s so simple. I absolutely adore this human. And I love to capture a handful of these moments every year to look back over. Of course, holding onto every single moment would leave me no space for today’s moments, or tomorrow’s... the very best balance for me is living here and now, and being able to look back over a very few super special photos that make me smile (ok, plus the occasional teary moment). Part of this declutter will be finding a place to store the keepers. All recommendations welcome? I’m planned to start on last weekend but I knew it would take a while, and a lot of energy so might continue during the week

Day Three - how did it feel to clear the space?

Tucked up in my cosy study

Tucked away peacefully in my study for the afternoon, I'm not sure I expected such a rollercoaster!

There were many pictures it was easy to delete straight away, pausing only to wonder why I'd kept them at all I clicked these into the bin gleefully, and I noticed too that the further away they were the easier it became... interesting, and worth noting... perhaps I should deliberately leave some time between snapping and sorting?

And there were many pictures I still love and definitely want to keep. So far, so simple.

It was the in between ones that foxed me. Some photos triggered a deep sadness; that I'll never again spend a day on the beach bodyboarding with my eight year old (now that he's thirteen and growing I miss that little boy). That I'll never again talk with my first husband or enjoy one of his fabulous chillis (I never did write down the infamous recipe). And many were hard to let go of because of fear. Fear that I would forget that day, or that trip, or that moment just because I delete the picture. Fear that I'm throwing away little pieces of my favourite people and won't get them back. Fear that I'll regret never seeing that image again. But the noticing then made it possible to have a conversation with myself... You know, the sort of questions a good friend would ask... 'You have a fabulous picture from that holiday to trigger your memories, what extra will you gain from keeping the other 38 photos from that week, ones you don't love, are out of focus, framed badly, unflattering or downright boring?'... this was definitely the key to letting go.

Familiarity too, seemed to be a block to letting go. Even with photos that were really nothing special, but I'm so used to seeing them that it seems impossible to think about not seeing them again. I find this often with physical objects; is this just me?

Overall I noticed how much energy it took, this rollercoaster of emotions. Be kind to yourself, if you're also working on this kind of declutter, won't you?

Day Four - how does the space feel compared to day one? what clarity did I gain and what other spaces would I like to clear?

Holiday moments with my boy!

It's still a place of two halves; I got as far as 2016 so still have two years to go. But I'm so pleased with what I have done; with over 1k pix deleted the file feels roomier somehow and more approachable. And, even whilst knowing it's so worthwhile, I'm still daunted by the next round if I'm honest.

The clarity I gained was soooo very clear to me very quickly...

We don’t do this so much anymore. We’ve become so immersed in building the house and managing the land and working for ourselves that we just don’t take the time out that we used to. Time for a break from the routine, a different view, some new food and shared memories to bring home. We love our corner of the Ribble Valley but we’ve allowed it to become a trap. This year we’ll be creating some time and space for adventures!

Also very clear; I let the pictures pile up too quickly so that they become unwieldy from the start. OK, sure I might take 10 pictures to get the right one but I can clear them at the end of the week, surely? Along with the screenshots and photo-bombing incidents (did I tell you about the 400+ selfies taken on my 'borrowed' phone at a very unflattering angle and left in my photo stream by a certain young man, on more than one occasion?) A habit of little-and-often will be the key to keeping this space the way I want it.

I noticed too that almost all the photos I've kept are of people. Not of landscapes, clouds, flowers or streams. Therefore most of the photos I've deleted are of landscapes, clouds, flowers or streams... something to think about as I try to capture every scenic moment I walk past...

Next for me will be finishing the pix, of course! And then my computer files....

I will be looking at simple ways to store pix and I'd love your suggestions please!

And, of course, I'd love to hear how you get on if you take on my #spaceandclaritychallenge so please do drop me a line or share using my hashtag.

P.S. If you find the idea of decluttering too daunting to go it alone, I offer a declutter day where I'm right there with you, providing you with in-the-moment support to get the job done. I’ll stand by you every step of the way, cheering, challenging and brewing up as needed. These days can be tough but are always hugely rewarding. Get in touch to find out more.

#reclaimingyourspace #declutter #spacecoaching #spaceandclaritychallenge #photodeclutter #photosorting