Sifting and sorting | Mark’s Remarks


During the lockdown last spring, we were like a lot of families – we cooked and ate too much, we thought of home projects to do, we bought a dog, and we ordered things on Amazon.  

One of our larger purchases (other than the dog) were some nice photo albums; items we’ve been thinking about buying for many years. As we spent time looking through old photos and wondering how to organize them, we thought actually getting a place to put them would be a good starting point.

However, that’s about as far as we got. Our photos were stuck into large containers and a few boxes here and there. Over the years, we’ve tried to sort them, only to have to get into the sort and find photos for a graduation or school project.  This slapdash way of organizing just didn’t work.

As usual, we try to cram some herculean tasks into the last few weeks of summer vacation. I won’t tell you the things I still need to do. Suffice to say I will still be working on summer tasks long after school starts. But hey, I’ve enjoyed myself and I refuse to rate my summer on how much I accomplished.

We moved our daughter’s bedroom around to accommodate a girl who is now 10 years old. The space left after the toys were moved out was filled by arts and crafts items and also, gulp, a table for girly things like hair scrunchies, nail polish and (double gulp) makeup.  

She’s still a little young for makeup, but the supplies wait there patiently, nonetheless.

When we moved the toys down to join the others in the playroom, we noticed the space was a bit cramped.  A project table stood on one wall, stacked high with the aforementioned boxes of photos and the fancy new photo albums.

That table was totally in the way of our planned expansion of the toy area.

So, you may guess that we reluctantly decided that, in order to make the playroom an area in which one could still have recreation of sorts, we would be forced to dismantle the project table. This meant the photo project had to start.

Off and on, it took three days.

Don’t get me wrong, going through photos is fun.  But being a person with a list of physical labor type things that need to be done, I felt a little guilty taking time to sit and go through mountains of memories.

Still, it was fun.

We organized the stacks into immediate family photos, extended family photos, friends, pre-marriage photos (which included many pictures of Michelle’s boyfriends), and a stack for each child. Along the way, we decided to pitch some photos we didn’t feel were needed any longer or that we didn’t want to explain to our grown-up children someday.

It was cleansing.

We snapped photos of the photos and sent them over text or messenger to friends and family. We posted a few on Facebook.  Quite a few people were entertained and happy that we were cleaning and organizing photos.  

Both Michelle and I realized several things as we went through our photos.

First of all, we were way too hard on ourselves back in the day. I remember thinking how out-of-shape I was. But mercy, I looked pretty good. If only I could have gotten a glimpse of my older self. I would have enjoyed things a lot more.

However, we feel that we’ve also improved a bit, with age.

Second, there is a photographic chasm between our oldest child (age 23) and our youngest (age 10).  

We practically have time lapse photos of our oldest rolling over, taking his first bites of food and so on; there are videos from our large camcorder, and three large boxes of snapshots.  His early life is one that is well documented.  

Our middle two have a lot of photos as well, but you may have guessed that they had less than their older brother.

By the time number four came along, we were into the digital age. She has very few snapshots in her small file folder. Most of her photos, of which there are many, are safely tucked away online. In order to be fair to her, we will have to print some of them so she has tangible comparisons to her older siblings when she looks at the new albums.

Michelle and I have decided to end a process that is detrimental to our health: sitting on the floor and working on projects. We sat on the floor for hours, sifting through photos, and had to stop from time to time to stretch our legs, backs and shoulders. We ended one photo sorting jag with back rubs. 

Once I got up and felt that my entire left side had fallen asleep and experienced momentary paralysis.

It has been decided that future projects that require a large amount of space will somehow be done at a table or a place we can sit in a chair.  

I’m also thinking that playing with grandchildren someday might require prescription medication.

This is only phase one of the project. Plans will now need to be made on how to organize the photo album themselves. There are a few empty scrapbooks and smaller photo albums that will also be used.  We want to figure out the best way to document our lives and make the best use of space.

I would imagine that by the time we finish this project, we won’t want to look at these photos again for a good 20 years or so.

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