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Why Marie Kondo Photo Organizing Advice Doesn’t Work for Me

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The Marie Kondo Photo Organizing method might eliminate clutter, but I’ll never use it. The author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has great tips on getting rid of clutter, but when it comes to organizing my photos, I have to go my own way.

Wow, so I have been writing a lot about Marie Kondo lately! You would be completely right to assume she is now my personal organizing guru. But there is at least one area where I’d never take her advice: my photographs.

Some of her advice about photographs is difficult to apply in this age of the digital camera and phone. She says to take every photo out of its album and look at each one, one by one. In this way, you can see which photos inspire joy and by following this method you can easily cull a full vacation’s worth of photos down to the five most important.

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At this point in my life, I actually don’t have many photo albums. I’ve already scanned most of my pictures and stored them on my hard drive. (But I still didn’t get rid of the originals because they are too precious to me.) However, there are still ways I could follow her advice. Like so many people with a digital camera, I follow the philosophy of “Why take one picture of the castle when you can take ten?” so I have far too many duplicate photos. These photos definitely need culling.

But culling down an entire vacation to the five most important photos? My mind cannot process that. I typically try to prune down each day of a vacation to the five or six best photos and I find even that exercise to be an agonizing Sophie’s choice. Why must remembering our walk through the park mean that we forget our wonderful lunch? My heart breaks when I must choose.

According to Marie Kondo, we must choose, though, because we’re fooling ourselves when we say we’re holding on to photos because we’ll want to look at them again someday. According to Marie Kondo, someday never comes.

Oh, but Marie, that’s where you are so, so wrong. You’re in your thirties so someday may not have come for you yet but it will and when it does you will want your photos. It came for me this summer when a beloved Uncle reached the end of his long, well-lived life and I went through my mother’s photos and my own to refresh my memories of his life and my Mom’s life. It came again when my daughter left for college and I wanted to look back at pictures of her as a baby to remind myself that the tall beautiful young woman leaving my home had once been my little girl. Someday will come again when I won’t remember a treasured memory and looking back through my photos will remind me and help me to relive it all over again.

Someday comes. It always comes. And when it does, I’ll want my pictures with me. So, yes, I’ll go through my photos. I’ll get rid of the nine pictures of the castle. But I’ll keep the 10th. And I’ll label it and put a date on it. Someday.

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Katy Kozee | Midlife Rambler
Katy Kozee | Midlife Ramblerhttp://www.midliferambler.com
Hi! I'm Katy and I started Midlife Rambler when my youngest child was a senior in high school. I was staring at the coming empty nest and wondering what was next for me. Does that sound like you? Then you'll love our community of fun, feisty women. We're looking forward to the next phase of our lives and talking about all the exciting (and sometimes a little scary!)Keep the conversation going! Hook up with me at my other hangouts.



  1. I always seem to take ten of the same picture, and yet each one is perhaps slightly different or captures something that I hadn’t seen the first time. I have thousands of photos, particularly of the children, and I plan on keeping every single one!!! #blogsharelearn

    • She just had her first child. So I think some of her advice will change. I am half way done with her book and that poor girl has OCD a bit I think. I do and moving and de-crapify everything in my path makes me feel better. A good book that people who do not want to talk to clothes or are men, the books put out by Don aslett.Clutter Free!: Finally and Forever and Not for packrats only are great.

      • Thanks for recommending the other books! I read her second book a while ago and she was much more forgiving. It might be that the original book was a little harsher than she meant it. Some of that one did make me shake my head but I liked it on the whole.

  2. Well said! I quite agree w/ you. And dang it, I guess I’m going to finally buy that book. Is it really so life-altering?? I’m pretty organized, almost to a fault, so I’m afraid it will exacerbate my mild OCD tendencies.

    • I liked the book a lot obviously or I wouldn’t be doing a whole series on it but I saw an article that compared extreme declutterers to anorexics just as you could compare hoarders to people who seriously overeat and I can see it. There were parts where I was like “That was your childhood? What was going on?” But – hey, my kitchen looks amazing so I’ll just take the good and send good thoughts to the rest.

    • Just finished the Marie Kondo book and immediately began searching for a book by an American author who adapted these principles to our American way of life. That’s how I found this blog.

      What in the heck does that Japanese closet look like that Marie Kondo can move her bookcases in there? Most closets I’ve had are 25″ deep and 3′ wide. I get some of what Ms Kondo says but I am left unsatisfied and with no solutions for my problems. Such as, where can I put my vacuum, floor cleaner and carpet cleaner when our home has no utility room and no basement? No amount of clothes tossing helps that. I, too, hold onto photos AND old documents. When my Mom was involved in a lawsuit I produced old letters and old photos to support her case. When our end of the neighborhood was being fined by the city, I showed the communication from many years ago from a former Mayor absolving all of us of all responsibility for snow shoveling of the area in question. When the IRS questioned some deductions from many years ago, I luckily had the old utility bills, property tax records, mortgage payments and dated photos to prove occupancy of the home deducted.

      You can’t always go back to the source for old records. Records get purged, buildings burn down, title companies go out of business. With health care records, those from thirty years ago are not necessarily digitized and the paper records have been discarded by the doctor or hospital. You pretty much have to ‘have your own back’. I need another book that works with real American lives and leaves out what to do with tea service pieces.

  3. So glad I came over here from Elena’s #BlogShareLearn linky party!
    Excellent post – enjoyed thoroughly and now off to share it!
    Thank you and hope this weekend treats you kindly. 🙂

  4. I have so many photos on my hard drive, I’m surprised my laptop hasn’t crashed and burned. I always take ten (or more) rather than one, and there is usually something different about each. I do get rid of the obvious photography fails, but otherwise keep them all. And I just can’t get rid of pictures of my kids, even the bad ones.

    I read, enjoyed, and shared your ‘Kitchen’ post last week. Impressive! Mine are already fairly organised but i still took a few ideas from yours 🙂
    Hopped over from #blogsharelearn. Wishing you a good week. Kimmie.

    • Thanks for stopping by Kimmie and sharing my earlier posts. I know what you mean about not getting rid of pictures of your kids – each one shows a different side. And I’ve actually used the bad ones before for little humorous cards. It’s just a matter of realizing what’s important to you.

  5. We have WAY too many photos–unmounted slides, unmounted prints for putting in albums, albums, digital images and various videos. SOMEDAY they will get transformed into digital (sigh). But really sorting pictures to the best is something for the pros. They have rapid speed shutters to take countless photos. We were on a train trip on one of the scenic rides on an historic steam locomotive-drawn train. A USA Today photographer took several hundred photos for a USA Today feature. From those he said he would cull them down to 50 or so. Then he would give them to a photo editor who would reduce the number to 10 for a page and feature editor to pick two or three. For normal people that’s beyond the pale.

    • Yeah I could never sort that many; I would just throw up my hands! But I would love looking through them all if they were from my vacation Thanks so much for stopping by.

  6. I’ve reached the age where I now wish I had, and could look through, every picture my family has ever taken. I can look at a hundred pictures of each of my children and enjoy this expression, that activity, that memory.

    I’m in complete agreement with you.

    Thank you for sharing with us at The Blogger’s Pit Stop.
    Marie, Blogger’s Pit Stop crew

    • That’s so sweet and so true. I love what you said about your children’s expressions. You don’t realize at the time that those expressions are marking your child’s personality at that moment in time. It’s so good to have the photos to remember.

  7. I totally agree with you! I’m 54, and photos are precious!! She’s too young to know that yet.
    Yes, someday will come, it does to us all!!
    I found you on Pinterest.

  8. I’m reading that book right now and I totally agree with everything you’ve said about the photos – from having way too many of the same inanimate objects, to not being able to get rid of the 10 shots of blowing out the birthday candles because the expression is just ever so slightly different in each one. I agree with Marie, each nuance reflects character and personality, and I want to remember every single detail! I like the overall idea of the KonMarie method, and have started with small things (socks, those hold no emotional attachment for me so deciding if they give me joy or if I just need them is easy! 😉 ), but I really don’t think they get their feelings hurt too much if they roll around and bump into each other in the drawer. 😉

    I’ve been bouncing all over your site tonight (got here from The Pinterest Game), and I’m glad I found you! I think we are in similar “places.”

  9. Interesting points. I think the big difference is cultural in this case and we’re judging the number 5 by it. My husband and I have (both separately before we met) spent time studying Japanese culture and staying in Japan. I stayed with two host families, believe me, it’s so much more intense than having your own place like with the JET Program for language teachers. Never saw anyone take a family picture spontaneously. They do not celebrate birthdays as such. Photo-taking is a whole different world there. They take photos like crazy when traveling but not the way we do, not candid pictures at all unless it<s an accident and someone would not share it not to shame another if it was not great. So forget 10 pictures with 10 slightly different expressions.
    Japanese take pictures very differently than we do: it is still sort of formal (though cell phones have made the new generation more candid, if they are with anyone older, they will be formal). They usually assemble in a group, in front of a major attraction or natural wonder or at an event, give the signal for everyone to 'chee-zu' or do their Victory V sign, and off we go to the next stop for dry, rinse, repeat. Everyone leans in for the picture at the restaurant where everyone often orders the same meal so we can share the 'togetherness'. I've seen semi-pros take pictures of nature and such (they take forever), but otherwise it was all about experiencing, talking, and being with the group… And hurrying up to the gift shop because they need to bring back gifts for their families and co-workers (the latter for being so kind as to work harder due to them being on vacation for example)

    Therefore, they would end up with a whole bunch of group-picture in front of a place (school, festival, concert included) and formal family pictures or 'purikura' (sticker-pictures with lots of silly drawings on them) in their old age. Not a bunch of candid pictures like we do. They would have one very good picture of their wearing a medal they won or when they achieved something major, but not a gazzillion. lol Again, aesthetics is very important so they would not have printed the bad ones in the first place OR have thrown them out already to make sure the person on the photos would not feel ashamed their photo turned out bad. That's actually quite reassuring 🙂 So yes, if taking this into account, I believe 5 photos per vacation could definitely be doable for Japanese.

    I just wish there had been more insight from the editors before adapting it to North America. My husband and I understand a lot about Japan and Shinto which infuses a lot of Marie Kondo's philosophy, so we are not fearful or distressed or bothered by those parts of her book. Many things I've seen criticized online about her ideas have been about those cultural misunderstandings or things that are simply lost in translation. Worse, a TorontoStar article we found yesterday from a freelance lady who claims she has read both books when she definitely did not and says they are horrible. How terrible! She obviously read the executive summaries and drew conclusions about that. Every single counterpoint she made against KonMari Method is actually written in the book. We were glad people were not hoodwinked on her Facebook lol

    Thanks for all the blogs! 😀

  10. page 138: she says 5 pictures per day of event/vacation, which makes a whole lot of difference and seems quite doable…
    Agree on the 20 pictures of varying expressions of children, though!

    • Your comment is very timely Naomi. I just returned from vacation and there’s no way I could pare down my photos to 5 per day! I am being much more intentional though and keeping only those that help me remember the joy of the trip. I don’t need a picture of the famous painting I saw, for example. I know what it looks like 🙂 But a photo of the crowds of people all vying to take a selfie in front of it? Gotta keep that. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I COULD NOT DISAGREE WITH YOU MORE. I followed and finished Marie Kondo’s decluttering method to the T and I felt so light and happy afterwards. As for photos, her advice was perfect for me (and I suspect most others). I had a tub full of photos from childhood (I’m in my 30’s). About the death of a loved one, I thought of that. I kept many photos of my parents and favorite people—even if the photos were blurry or imperfect. Mostly I chucked those extra vacation photos of random buildings, photos of ex’s, memories I’d rather not remember, etc. In the end about 70% of my photos were thrown away!! Before throwing away a single photo, I went through each one again. I also went through all the ones I kept. After going through every single photo TWICE I was left with a set that was heavily edited, didn’t have duplicates, and truly brought me joy. Rather than painstakingly putting them all in an album, I organized them in acid-free sleeves by category for easy retrieval. It has been 3 years since I did this process and not once did I regret throwing away a single photo. Also, when my brother graduated from grad school I very easily put together a slide show.


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