The day finally comes that my mom asks Eric and I to clean out our childhood home in Andover, MA. She wants to prepare the house for sale which can only mean sell/donate everything that isn’t nailed down and back up all of the photos/videos that we care to keep.
Eric and I never felt any urgency for throwing out or selling stuff we weren’t using (electronics, clothes, sports equipment) so naturally we had piles of it. I suppose we also thought if we were ill-prepared for the Big Bad World we could always bail, come home, and have mom cook us Matzo Ball Soup while we played video games until sunrise. Maybe we’d even put the tennis racquets, which have an inch of dust on them, to use. Probably not though…
This post is to share with you the experience of exodus from our childhood home in case you find yourself in the same position.
Disposing of things that no longer served me was hugely cathartic
I knew that there was very little value in the contents of my desk and dresser drawers but seeing them empty was an awesome feeling.
The speed at which I disposed of the items in my room was also surprising to me. It might come with getting older and being more realistic about when I’d actually need an item in the future but I found it very easy to dispose of much of what I had already been living without.
Sorting through everything
Tools utilized: Trash bags, Post-It notes, markers for Post-It notes
Everything I found fit into one of these categories. We put them in the garage in different areas.
- Trash / recycle
- E-waste (electronics that should be mined of their heavy metals before landfill)
- Craigslist items
- Garage sale knick knacks
- Ebay items
- Artifacts that trigger memories (photos, videos, trophies, certificates, gifts…)
- Things that could be useful to any household (pens, notebooks, tape)
The Salvation Army will come to you … for free
No joke, the Salvation Army will come to your house and help you donate a truckload of stuff for free. You make an appointment with them and they come to your house with a moving truck and two guys to help you load everything.
Most of the stuff we got rid of was taken by them.
Scanning 9000+ photos
I thought initially that sending our photos away to a scanning service would be more cost effective. Those services probably had fancy scanners and automation on their side, right?
If we had done that, we would’ve spent over $5,000. Photo scanning services are expensive. Prices they charge range from about $0.50 - $0.60 per photo.
Research led us to buying the feed-loadng Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 which we got refurb for $300 on eBay. For the same cost of 500 photos (with a scanning service), we were able to scan more than 9,000. In addition, if your only use of this scanner is a one-time family photo digitization, you probably could sell the same unit back on eBay and have your total cost be closer to $30-$40 for the scanner if you there is any cost at all.
Organizing is the most labor-intensive task in photo scanning
As Eric and I scanned piles of random photos, we quickly realized that sorting the images on the computer was really annoying since it was incessant clicking and dragging to different folders for every pile of photos. We wanted to grab a pile of photos, scan, and drop into a single folder labeled with that topic.
Switching gears, we created notes on the floor for each topic “Florida Vacations”, “Grampas House in Staten Island”, “Mom and Dad” and stacked photos related to those topics on the notes. We still kept it vague so we weren’t driven crazy by a complex categorization.
Then Eric, Mom, and I all sat on the floor and started stacking our photos into categories (while sharing stories). We returned to scanning a few days later with a much easier task now that the pictures were somewhat coherent.
Scanners must be cleaned or else they put vertical lines on your photos
We had never cleaned a feed-loading scanner before but vertical lines started to appear on our scans and we had no choice. Vertical lines are created by debris on the scanner which become a line on scanned photos since the photos pass underneath the debris-blocked sensor.
Apparently you can’t use alcohol to clean it. The Fujitsu needs the F1 solution which fortunately can be found in individually-wrapped wipes for less than $20 on Amazon. We also used a microfiber cloth to dry the solution and help get the debris off the glass which was stubborn sometimes.
SO MANY DUPLICATES: A job for robots
As many of you will probably remember, when you got photos developed at the drug store back in the day, you could order duplicates. Every photo would have a duplicate alongside it which your folks could put one in an album and one on the wall etc.
We hit SO MANY DUPLICATE photos which originally I was trying to avoid scanning twice but software is so good at spotting duplicates that we didn’t need to do that.
We used PhotoSweeper X for Mac which was $10 and was really great. There are free options too.
eBay is worlds better than it used to be
Take photos straight from your phone: eBay with a phone is an entirely different experience. You can add photos you just took to your listing. The photos stay within the app as well so you don’t have to delete item photos from your gallery later on (annoying).
It suggests the entire description for you: It doesn’t have every item out there but if you’re selling a highly transacted product like an iPod (hugely valuable on eBay right now btw), it definitely does. It can even load a stock photo for you in lieu of one you take.
Print USPS labels within eBay: This doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is. They pre-fill your buyer’s address and your return address which is immensely convenient. They also share the tracking info with the buyer saving you another step. Lastly, you get a discount on postage so you can keep an extra 50 cents or so.
Items I sold on eBay
- A Sony Digital Dictaphone ($17)
- A pair of Walkie Talkies ($70)
- An old unlocked world phone ($19)
‘Is my crap valuable?’
You can find out by doing an advanced eBay search and checking the ‘completed listings’ selection. It shows you what prices items were sold for.
Photo of the trophy / throw out the trophy
Most items I came across in the house were like this. Seeing the item triggers the memory but the item itself has no intrinsic value.
I thought that I might appreciate the tactile element of memories, like holding a trophy, but I’m finding that it doesn’t matter as much. Now that I have all of these photos on my laptop, I pop in more often and go down memory lane.
No wisdom yet about digitizing videos
I’ll come back to this post and update it with video knowledge. So far, it’s difficult to figure out what’s on our videos, what’s worth keeping, and a faster way to back it up than it takes to play the entire video at 1x. Feedback welcome.
Become the King of Throwback Thursday
Sorting through ALL of the family photos is something I bet very few of you have done. I wish I had done it sooner.
Memories are slowly becoming forgotten. I heard that every cell in your body is replaced with a new cell within 8 years. Flipping through the photos, I could tell that many of these memories were on the brink of being being forgotten, replaced by new ones.
Now on my computer, I have a folder that I can go into and recall memories from the early years of my life through high school, even share them with people online to spur conversation about them.
I posted this one photo of my 3rd grade class on Facebook and people were tagging people that I hadn’t seen in 15 or so years. Everyone was sharing their memories of the class, many of which I forgot. It’s exciting to know that I have so many more of these and so much more to discover about the past.