Making a transition to assisted living is emotionally draining, not just because of the lifestyle change, but also because of everything associated with downsizing.
When downsizing is required, much of the personal belongings hold a very dear sentimental attachment. Family heirlooms, awards, certificates achieved by kids and grandkids, collections of collectables, handmade memorabilia, etc.
The most personal belongings for everyone are their photos. Not only the framed photos but the possibly extensive number of photos stored in albums that may even be stored in storage boxes.
Decades of photos that have been printed from film before the digital era changed the landscape needs to be recaptured when downsizing from any size of home to a single apartment. A minimalist approach will be needed, while at the same time, organising the collection for which ones are best to print and frame, which ones are worth salvaging for small shelf display frames, and which photos would be better organised digitally.
3 Tips to unclutter and organise decades of photos
1. Work as a family unit
When parents or grandparents are ageing, and about to embark on a huge transition to their lifestyle, they need to be involved. It will be their home. Offer support to help organise a photo collection. Don’t do it on behalf of someone else because photos are extremely personal belongings.
Every photo is a memory marker. The strongest emotions are associated with the favourite memories of people, places, and experiences. What you feel has the strongest emotional attachment may not be the same for the other person. As an example, photos of grandkids will have a strong emotional attachment, but is it as strong as the start of the other person’s journey in life? Because more important to a senior may be remembering their wedding day or the place they first met their lifelong partner. That could then lead them to reminisce more about their life experiences.
2. Decide on your storage method
Moving into an assisted living facility does not need to be the end of tangible photos. Not everything will need to be digitised, nor should it be. Downsizing just means there’s less wall space for framed prints. Albums will be essential and there are still plenty of options. From acid-free photo albums and photo books to photo folders that have slots for printed photos, CDs/DVDs and fill-in-the-blank index pages; some even with space to write memo notes.
For storing your digital files (photos or scans of photos), choose the one that is easiest to access based on what device the person will be using to view the media files.
You could use a USB to view it on a computer or smart TV
You could use a memory card to view it on a mobile device or tablet
You could use a CD or DVD to playback with a DVD player or with an external CD DVD drive connected to a laptop.
3. Narrow down a list of favourites for framing to display on the wall based on the space available
The hardest part of downsizing is narrowing down the selection to just a firm few photos that would be ideal for wall hanging so as not to overwhelm the space with too many framed photos. Too much of anything is rarely a good idea. With framed prints, it can make the space feel smaller than it is.
Start with the available wall space. Many assisted living facilities have floor plans that are either available in their brochure or can be downloaded from their website as a PDF. This will show the square footage of the total apartment and the wall measurements.
Whatever the wall size is, multiply it by 0.6 (60%) and 0.75 (75%). Those ranges are the ballpark figure for wall coverage in rooms. This is not only for frames on the walls. The maximum wall coverage considers everything on the wall and against it. For example, sofas, tables, fireplaces, and shelving units all factor into the available wall space for hanging photos.
To make the most of limited wall space, consider choosing a multi-photo frame that can have up to 25 photos in a single frame.