Boondocking / Dry Camping, How To's and Why Not's, Life ~ Thoughts ~ Writings, Our Life Before Full-Time RVing, RV Organization, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons

What To Do With Photos When Downsizing


What Do You Do With All Those Photos?

In the last 6 + years of traveling, one of the biggest questions we get has been about stuff and how to downsize. Some of the most sentimental things are photographs. What do you do with hundreds, maybe even tens of thousands of photos, negatives, and old family heirloom photos? This is something very possibly our children will never have to experience. With everything digital now, everything is kept on small storage devices from the beginning. But before digital, I had film, negatives, tintype, and slides. 

I (Stacy) was raised by my grandparents. So there was a generation gap there. I was left with thousands of old photos, slides, and pictures. A lot of people I’d never met. But never the less part of my past. Then I got married, had 2 beautiful daughters, traveled for 20 years on active duty military, and took thousands of pictures on film. Meaning I had thousands of negatives. 

Here are some helpful tips on what worked for us!

Should You Get Rid of Your Pictures? 

Yes and no! Going through pictures took me a solid 4 months. I devoted many weekends to sitting down and dividing pictures into two piles. Keep, and throw away.

What is this?

Yes, I threw some away. There were pictures I had no idea even what it was, let alone what it was supposed to be when I took them. I remember thinking Why did I keep this? Pictures of my thumb in the way or what looked like a TV in the background at a weird angle (possibly the camera sitting on my lap was accidentally clicked). I would get them developed, put them into a box, and that’s where they stayed. How many of you can relate?

After weeks of going through picture by picture, I then had one big pile of keepers. I then started this process all over again. Five photos of the same thing weren’t needed. I carefully picked out the best one (maybe two) and again my pile got smaller. 

Storing the Pictures You’re Keeping

So now what? Do you have a big pile of pictures to carry in an RV or store in a small space? So after you read the above sentence, you’re probably thinking, I have very few pictures now, right? Wrong! First off, I love photography, and second, I’m a mom, and third I’m a “daughter” who was left hundreds and hundreds of family photos. So what did I do? I packed them all in a box and shipped them to Scan Cafe to be scanned. Yes, this can be done yourself, but how many hours and hours do you really want to spend scanning one photo at a time? Both Justin and I worked full time, had our last daughter still at home very active in school sports, plus we were still trying to go through and sell 99% of our household items and the bottom line was we simply did not have time to do this ourselves. I do not have an affiliate with, nor am I paid from Scan Cafe. I’m just a pleased customer. I know there are several companies out there that do similar scanning but after quite a bit of research, I loved the fact that every old, faded photo was corrected and color fixed for free! About 6 weeks after I mailed my first box of negatives and pictures, I received a link to view them online. I then went through them all one more time and picked the ones I wanted to be saved in high quality on discs and sent back to me. They even returned all the original pictures and negatives. 

So what’s the point if you still have all those pictures and negatives?

What’s the Point?

There really was a point! I’m now organized, and I’ll bet I threw away hundreds of photos that were similar to the ones above, of something I couldn’t even recognize. I don’t know why we keep some of the things we do. But I personally could not throw these originals away. We threw away, donated, and sold 99% of our stuff. Pictures were not in the deal! Ha, But I sure had a whole lot less, and now I have them saved digitally as well. That was a pretty big accomplishment in my book! Someday, down the line, I will leave these to my girls and my grandkids, and I’ll let them figure it out. I won’t be leaving them a huge house of “stuff” to go through, just a few boxes of pictures that I hope bring a smile to their face. But with them all organized and now on discs saved digitally, I felt I could now carry these discs with me in my fire-safe box. 100 years of pictures saved on discs that I can fit in my fire safe box? WOW! 

What did I actually do with all those originals I did keep?

What Did I Do With All Those Originals I Kept?

I organized them yet one more time into sizes and bought some of these very durable, sturdy, plastic photo storage boxes. (Please do yourself a favor and don’t buy the typical paper/cardboard boxes I see out there to store these precious photos!) These photo storage containers hold so many photos!! I bought six of them. Yes, six! In one of them, I took out all the dividers and put all the larger pictures inside. These boxes are acid-free, and though I don’t know if they claim to be completely airtight, I do believe they are pretty safe in these. These also come in a pack of three (here) if you’re ordering them in bulk.

Pictures were definitely the hardest thing for me to let go of. Once you decide you’re going to start this process, take it slow! I know for our over-scheduled weekends, I would pull out one box of pictures early on Saturday morning when everyone else was still in bed, and I’d go through pictures while drinking my coffee. Those were precious times for me! I smiled, cried, and laughed. I remembered things I had forgotten. Think in terms of one box at a time, and it will get done. I promise!

How Much Did This Cost Me?

First let me say that before I decided to send my items out to be scanned, I weighed all the options. I looked at scanners, negative scanners, at least five different companies online, and ultimately this was the best option for me. I also started this process very early in the timeline of downsizing. So I had time. I could do this on weekends when it was raining/snowing or early in the mornings when no other plans were happening. Below is a screenshot of what my costs were. You may have more photos. You may have less. I did mine in 3 different stages with Scan Cafe. Also, remember these were prices a few years ago (dates on screenshot).

I’d love you to share your ideas for preserving your photos!

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How To's and Why Not's, Life ~ Thoughts ~ Writings, Our Life Before Full-Time RVing, RV Organization, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons

What To Do With Sentimental Items When Downsizing

You got rid of what?

When we were downsizing to live and travel full-time in our RV, we got so many questions on this topic. What do you do with Grandma’s punch bowl from the 1940s? Or the old pictures that were passed down? Well, I’m going to tell you what we did. There is no right or wrong answer here. I’m going to share what worked for us, and maybe you’ll get some ideas of your own out of our suggestions. 

I (Stacy) am an only child, raised by my grandparents. So, there was a generation gap there, and I also was left all the stuff when they passed away. Can I just say I’m glad, as a society, we’ve graduated from the doily stage? Ha! I think my grandma had everything in the house on top of a doily. So what did I do with everything in that vast, 4 bedrooms, 2-car garage house? My memories aren’t in “stuff”. If you’re keeping the stuff because it was just Grandma’s but really didn’t use it, and it is just sitting there only because it was Grandma’s, I’d like to offer you alternative ways to “remember it.”  

The Stuff

If it means something to you, and not simply “it was grandmas”, and you actually have fond memories surrounding it, why not take a few beautiful pictures of that punch bowl, old desk, or the porcelain doll she so cared about? If those items bring you memories by looking at them, then get those pictures printed out, put them into a beautiful scrapbook, and write that memory down next to the picture. That’s much smaller than any item. Imagine how those memories or stories can be passed down now! And then imagine the joy of passing that item on to someone who will really use it. Either in your own family or bless another family with it. You can do this with hundreds of items. If you have 100 pictures of 100 items, which one is smaller?

The beautiful heavy punch bowl of my grandma’s was something that I actually don’t remember seeing … ever … in our house. It was tucked away in a dark deep cabinet and I found it after she passed. I had it looked at for value, and it was simply a very heavy, worthless, punch bowl. One that I would never use. So along with thousands of other things, I donated them, or dropped them off at the auction house in town and made a few dollars. None of my memories have anything to do with the stuff. All my memories have everything to do with moments. Stories. Time spent together. Vacations we took. Holidays we were together. Stories at night before bed. Not punch bowls and old macrame owls hanging on the wall (tell me someone remembers those! Ha!)


I had 100+ years of pictures passed down to me. This was such an important part of downsizing for me, that I actually did a whole blog about it. Pictures are so important! Follow the link below and I promise you’ll get some great ideas from what I did to downsize our pictures.

Click here to read What To Do With Photos When Downsizing

Now that you have smaller amounts of stuff and all your priceless pictures are saved on a disc smaller than the palm of your hand, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make more memories! You don’t need that old macrame owl or 400 doilies to give you those memories. They are already with you.  I’d love to hear our ideas on sentimental items and what you did with them. Please share your brilliant ideas below in the comments.

Here are a few blogs we think you’ll love!

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