pictures and folders and files oh my!

by rebecca on June 10, 2010

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       My camera is my altared space today. I love my digital camera because it puts no limits on how many pictures I can take. I hate my digital camera because it puts no limits on how many pictures I can take.

       I have a real problem throwing pictures away.

       I snap and snap and snap away in my quest for that 1 in 100 spectacular smile, the perfect flower petal opening to the sun, the unique fence line with the mountains in just the right focus in the distance. But what do I do with the 99 others?

       I know I need to dump them, but it is just so easy to save them that I haven’t done it. Now I am buried in picture purgatory. I learned how easy it is to transfer them onto my giant hard drive that seems to have no bottom. I keep pouring, it keeps receiving.

       When I want to retrieve a picture I need an hour to search out a simple image of my daughter at her school play. There are reams of folders and a plethora of photos in each folder. Each and every time I go into a folder I am sifting through junk to find the gem. This is not a good use of my time.

       And it makes me feel dazed. I emerged from the stacks of photos foggy and frustrated rather than elated at the brilliance of my colorful life.

       I need a change.

       I need to worship the trash. As I sort pictures off my photo card reader I want to be religious about culling. What doesn’t go into the collage folder for an annual card can get emailed directly to the person who would appreciate it. If it doesn’t make the cut, into the trash it goes. With more trash and less to sift through, my life would be infinitely more joyful.

       Lack of execution.

       This is my plan. It’s a good plan. I’m trying to do it. But when I throw away a picture, it’s like wadding up my boy’s smiling face and seeing it get smeared with the coffee grounds sitting in the trash can. Throwing away memories? That’s tough for a person who builds altars for a living. I just have to say it: I’m attached.

       It’s very un-Buddhist of me.

       I take pictures because I’m involved in my life. I want to notice the moment my two teenagers are playfully tossing popcorn into one another’s mouths rather than tossing insults. So I snap a photo, or sixteen. Taking the picture helps me be more involved, it helps me distill the life I’m living by focusing on what’s important to me.

       Here’s the paradox: Sorting through pictures distracts me from living more of that life. Taking pictures makes me more present. But doing something with the photos places my life and the living of it on pause.

       It’s a balance. It is at the heart of the paradox that the truth lies. I need to keep taking pictures, loving the pictures I take, and then throwing most of those pictures away.

       It’s difficult to throw something away that I love.

       But even love can bury me.

       I want to stay light and buoyant. A few photos build me a raft for the river of life I’m floating. Lots of photos become an anchor that will sink my ship.

       My kids enjoy sitting with me on our green couch every once in awhile all cozied up to watch the slide show as I scroll through pictures. There is laughter as we remember vacations and kitchen moments. They eat it up as I tell stories about who they were and how they are becoming themselves. But too many pictures just make them bored and they leave the comfort of my arms.

       It’s always easier to be all or nothing, but few things in life work that way. Today I’m learning the lesson of moderation with pictures; how to take them and how throw them away. If I learn how to store them effectively I can learn to enjoy them. It’s a good lesson and I get to gaze at smiles while I’m cultivating balance.


       Do you have trouble throwing photos into the trash? What is teaching you about moderation today? Is there a paradox that has you stretched on the rack of life until you feel you might come apart?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacia June 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

I am the same way. I think, “One day I might actually need one pf those photos where my daughter’s eyes are closed and her hair is sticking up. For something. Surely, I will need it.” So I keep it. And they pile up. And I need desperately to cull, too. One day. Right??


BigLittleWolf June 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

“Very un-Buddhist.” I love it!

It is so hard to get rid of photos – digital or otherwise. Especially of kids. (I have boxes full.) But I don’t actually know any mothers who are good at it. Do you?


Kristen @ Motherese June 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm

You’ve hit a nerve with me with this one, Rebecca. My husband is actually the shutterbug in our family, but the task of culling the photos often falls to me (because it is onto my computer that they are uploaded). So often we have five shots of the same scene and yet it is so difficult for me to make the move to the trash. Attached indeed.

Digital photos are yet another way in which I worry that I fall into the trap of “more is more.” Perhaps thinking about the albums my parents have of their courtship and my childhood will help me remember that a few thoughtfully chosen photos mean much more than 1000s of random ones.


rebecca June 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm


Ahha!! So that’s why I can’t part with those awful photos: because someday I will WANT the closed-eyed-bad-hair moments to put up on a poster.


rebecca June 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Yep. Mothers can’t throw their kids out, and shouldn’t be blamed for that foible.


rebecca June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm


“more is more”. How right you are to point out that this is not always true. In fact, as I age, it is less and less and less true. I’m finding that out more and more.

There is a story in the photos of your parent’s courtship…and I’d love to hear it.


Jim Cox June 13, 2010 at 3:25 pm

NOpe, do not have trouble throwing away photos, take too many not to.
Just try my darndest to stay organized, make cd’s of photos I want to
keep but do not need on my computer…sigh….


Amber June 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Yes I do have troubles deleting pictures! I think that I have found my solution, as long as I stick to my plan. At the end of everyday, I download the photos off of my camera onto my computer and instantly transport them to my family blog. After a year, I turn my blog into a book. Or so the plan states. I haven’t made the book yet but I HAVE put all the pictures onto the blog! That’s a start, right?

Seriously, though, it is SO hard to delete those photos. Even the crappy ones. Each time I hit delete I feel like I’m puncturing my child’s soul. Like they could even feel it! So, yes, I understand.


SuziCate June 15, 2010 at 8:32 am

I don’t have any problem pushing the delte button…because the ones I delete are usually out of focus…now the good ones, that’s another story!


rebecca June 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm


I need to be a professional … like you!


rebecca June 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm


The book idea is one that is growing on me.


rebecca June 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm


Yes, those out of focus pictures should be easy to discard. Problem is, as my eyes age, I’m a bit out of focus as well.


Yvette Francino June 18, 2010 at 8:03 am

Oh yes, I definitely have this problem. It’s even a bigger problem with “stuff” that can’t be easily stored on a hard drive. How about all those art projects the kids bring home? How can I possibly throw away those? My bottomless pit is my basement. I don’t feel guilty at all about digital stuff. I just separate out the “good photos” and use those when I’m searching for photos for gifts, scrap-books, or other special occasions. Disk storage is cheap and doesn’t physically take up room so I don’t worry about having folders with all my old photos. Now, if only I could say the same about my basement…


Judy June 21, 2010 at 8:16 am

Boy is this the street I live on! I adore my digital camera but, like you, I take six shots of a moment, not just one, just to find the perfect one. Here is how I’ve dealt with the masses of picture files.
First, I weed out all of the best and send them to shutterfly. I share them with relatives and use them for photo gifts, but even more, I know all my ‘best of the best’ are stored on that site, should my computer crash and/or burn.
Then I file those ‘best’ pictures in a main file, like “junior prom 2010′ or ‘trip to NH June” and dump the bulk of the others in a generic file, ex: “june 2010”.
If the day comes that I need a picture from storage I can usually find it in the ‘best’ folders and dont have to even go into the big ‘dump’ folders. BUT, if I just cant find what I want in the ‘best’ files, I can always go back and dig in the bigger file….does that make sense?

Keeps me sane, knowing ‘all’ of them are still out there but I can access the ones I might need later.
I guess this is bad advice though, since I’m encouraging you to NOT throw them away. 🙂
I’m like you, afraid I will want that one snapshot, that one moment, even if its not spectacular, and regret deleting it forever.

Good luck my friend. And thanks for commenting on my Motherese post recently. 🙂



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