My family has acquired a house full of possessions over the past thirteen years. Hundreds and thousands of possessions. About a year and a half ago it started to make me feel crazy. There was just too much stuff everywhere. Too many things to take care of, way too many things to ever use, and too many things to keep track of. As I became aware of the problem and started to address it, I came across the term superabundance. That seemed to describe our problem perfectly – we didn’t have just an abundance in our home, we had too much abundance. We had much, much more in our home than we could ever hope to need, want or use.
So I started purging. I did a reverse 100-item challenge; I got rid of 100 possessions (instead of living with only 100 possessions). I read The Every-day Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and tried using her question, “Does this spark joy?” That question didn’t really work for me, but it did lead me to come up with my own questions to guide the process of discarding and donating. This past April, as the purging process drew to a close, I realized something important. My family’s problem wasn’t solely the superabundance. There was another problem hidden within and mixed up in the superabundance. That other problem involved indecision. I didn’t know how to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go. I had to learn that for me, personally, living with enough but not too much requires me to make decisions and say no a lot. No to buying something, no to keeping something we don’t use but might use someday, and no to feeling guilty about passing on something that someone gave me. I have to consciously make decisions in order to keep my abundance enriching instead of overwhelming.
What does that have to do with photography?
Thanks to the joys of digital cameras we can take hundreds of pictures each day. Do we want them all? Do we need them all? Are they all worth keeping? How do we figure out what to keep and what to delete so that we can use the good ones? During my most recent session I took 334 pictures. In the end I shared 30 images with the family, which was hopefully about the right number to be enriching but not overwhelming. How did I go from 334 to 30? It required making hundreds of decisions which helped me to reject 304 pictures. Over the course of several hours, I used a multi-step workflow in Lightroom to cull the pictures down to the best. This process was a challenge for me. It required making decisions of yes, no, or maybe hundreds times. In the end the 30 pictures that I shared all passed my own standards for composition, sharpness, lighting, and beauty. In my own judgement, they also passed Marie Kondo’s standard of sparking joy – I shared the best images that I thought would spark joy for the family. That is my goal, after all. To give families images that they will love, use and share.