I got to relive this day recently. I got to feel the joy, once again, of spending time with jellyfish, otters, and octopses. My mood was showing as this shark’s jaw on display reeled me in.

They say you experience the same emotions when you think about something as when it actually happens because dopamine and such kick in again. It makes me think about about all the times I’ve laughed or cried whenever I thought about something important from the past.

It’s January and I just finished my annual photo ritual — picking out key snapshots from the past year to mount in a physical album. You know, the kind you put in your lap with actual pages to turn. The result was forty five photos that briefly told the story of my 2016. [sorry, but exploring under the house was among them, eeewww]

I had an epiphany three years ago as I stared at the hundreds of photos stored on the computer. I had merrily downloaded pictures from the camera, tucking them safely away in iPhoto for 10 years. It hit me hard that I had only looked at them a couple of times since. This might seem ridiculous to some, but then and there I made the somewhat anal decision to continue keeping up with physical albums. The amazing part of this is that I stuck to it, as if some teacher somewhere had assigned it for a passing grade. I always was an obedient student.

Getting a Handle on My Photos

The project meant looking through 1833 photos to decide which ones to print, which ones to ax. An overwhelming job, but I whittled away. And after this was done, all I had to do was add one year at a time. It was the kind of job you love…. only when it’s over. Like that first physical therapy after surgery, or a deep massage to soften the knots you accumulated during the week. Only-when-it’s-over.

Whenever I ask people what they do with all their photos, they usually stare at me for a second, then shrug and say “nothing”. As if they never really thought about it before. They shoot and store, shoot and store.

I know that physical albums are cumbersome. A lifetime of memories is heavy and takes up space. However, what good are 3,000 photos on the phone or computer or zip drive when you don’t take the time to look back occasionally? And at a time when everybody snaps pictures of everything–all the time–3,000 is probably nothing. And what about technology? Twenty years from now zip drives will probably be history.

Accumulating MORE paper is the opposite of what I’ve been trying to do, which is to simplify my life in every way possible. But personal satisfaction and that of my children in years to come will be worth it. Leafing through good times from the past has always helped lift a sagging mood, and it’s been handy having those emergency measures standing by. There’s just something delicious about holding an album in your lap and turning the pages of your life.

SECRET: Organize your photos so you can at least find them to enjoy again. Create albums to sort your current pictures. Now that basic albums are set up, you have a place to put all the photos you want to keep from the past. Taking it slow, one year at a time, makes the job easier. Always delete duplicates and meaningless photos first. Everyone has these!

Caption: Screaming from inside the mouth of a shark jaw bone, Oregon Aquarium.
focus word: photos