I was 29 years old when I inherited my parent’s photo collection. As a brand new mom with a two-year-old, I wasn’t thinking about my childhood photos or the box of stuff my mom was saving for my brother and me. Truth is, I was busy amassing my own photo collection.
Dozens of envelopes filled with prints of Chelsey’s ‘firsts’ filled my disorganized boxes.
Hours and hours of VCR footage squirrelled away in our media cabinet.
The demands of motherhood left me little time or energy to do anything but shove our memories into a box!
From overwhelm to baby steps
Everything changed when I went through my mom’s photos, only to discover how little I knew about the memories they captured. Her collection included my childhood photos as well as her childhood photos, and some of her mom’s childhood photos. There were old home movies on 35 mm film, slides, delicate heritage photos, a few albums, documents, letters, artwork and school records.
I was completely overwhelmed!
So, naturally, I closed up the boxes and tucked them away for a while.
In the meantime, I started organizing my own collection while looking for ways to tell our family story with pictures and video. Then I started recording information and writing down stories and milestones. I had no idea what to do with everything, but I knew for sure, I didn’t want to hand over a mess to my kids one day.
Where are we today?
Here we are, 30 years later. My kids are married with their own kids and busy taking lots of photos and videos to document their life. And they’re very interested in their childhood stories and pictures as they begin to settle into their lives as parents.
Are they ready to inherit their childhood photos?
Not quite yet!
BUT, we’re actively working on it. Because NOW is the perfect time to begin the process of passing along our family photo collection.
And now is the perfect time for YOU too.
Here’s what you can do BEFORE you inherit your parent’s photo collection
Millennial parents have some unique challenges today.
You are taking more photos than any other generation before you. Your parents also have an extensive collection filled with both printed and digital images. There may be VCR tapes, DVDs, CDs and their parent’s older media. Or boxes of your artwork and childhood memorabilia. Perhaps your mom made scrapbooks and albums filled with family memories.
And now they’re downsizing (or thinking about it) and want to pass this ‘stuff’ along to you.
Get YOUR digital photos organized, first.
It’s time to clean up your own mess before you add more images to your collection. Once you have a system in place and you’re successfully managing your family collection, it will be easier to add your childhood photos. If you don’t know where or how to start, we’ve created a FREE Photo Management Planner that will help you get started today.
Initiate a conversation with your parents.
Take the lead here and tell your parents how interested you are in the family photo collection. Help them take a quick inventory of everything they’ve saved so you can make a plan together.
Offer your help.
Your parents may feel overwhelmed about their collection, or they’re putting off this task until they retire or have more time. They might be uncomfortable with the technical aspects, or just plain embarrassed that they haven’t dealt with the mess. Be understanding and offer to spend time with them to help get everything organized and ready. Chances are, they’ll love the opportunity to spend time with you 😉
Get others involved.
Enlist the help of siblings and family. When you involve more family members, you lighten the load while increasing the potential to hear and capture more stories. Turn it into a monthly pizza party and spend an hour or two sorting photos and reliving your childhood memories.
Be honest about what you want.
Your parents may have saved all your baby teeth, toys, artwork, photos, hours of movie footage, and dozens of scrapbooks. They had no idea you would be living a digital life or how much space their physical collection would need. You may not want or have room for some of this stuff. Approach the topic with honesty, but sensitively. Let them know how important these memories are and how grateful you are for their effort. But be honest about what you can take (physically) and what you prefer in digital form. Reassure and remind them about the importance of having digital copies of everything they kept for you.
Make a plan and get started.
Discuss a timeline for getting this done so you can figure out how often you need to get together. Put the dates on your calendar! Set some goals to work towards and break it down into small steps. What needs to be digitized? Are there home movies that need converting? Will you be putting photos into albums? Creating digital photo books or slideshows? Who will do what? Who will pay for what? Once you’ve made decisions, it’s time to get started.
Enjoy the process!
The real fun begins when you’re gathered around boxes of photos. Your parents have a million stories to tell, and yes, you’ve probably heard them all before. Or maybe not. Now is the time to get clear on the details. Write stories down, or better yet, make use of today’s tech and audio or video record them. Ask lots of questions about their parents, their life. Record, record, record.
“The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that’s all there is.” Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey
What really matters are the stories and memories locked away in those boxes.
What do you think? Are you ready to inherit your parent’s photo collection?
PS: Be sure to download our FREE Photo Management Planner and start organizing your digital photos today!