I know how hard it is to purge anything of sentimental value. And with photographs being one of our most treasured possessions, the task can be very intimidating. But just like cleaning out that messy closet, it feels so good when the task is done! It will be fantastic to have a meaningful and carefully curated selection of family photos. Below are the rules I follow in my professional work (we call the process of choosing the keepers "culling"). Of course culling is far easier when it's someone else's family photos but I know we can do this well. Just keep in mind that nobody needs thousands upon thousands of images. A smaller collection will make sharing, preserving, printing, and displaying much easier.
Less is more. Quality over quantity. And all those good sayings :)
Here are the images I believe you should keep:
Images that will be important to people who love you when you are gone. For example, you may not be happy with the way you look in a photo but if it is the only one of you and someone close to you, you should keep it.
Images that are part of an important story or event. For example, I wouldn't keep a photo of a chair I liked from a store 10 years ago unless I was making a photo book of our home remodel and I wanted to use it to show the story of how things came together. Or the defining images from your child's birthday party.
Images that show who someone is, or was. Our babies all went through phases of chewing on their hands. I will make sure to keep at least one of each kid doing that. My middle daughter has a very eclectic fashion sense so I definitely want to keep some images of her fun outfits.
Images that are part of a project (like an annual portrait of your child).
Images that are good enough for the walls.
Follow these rules:
Unuseable images go (very out of focus, images taken on accident, etc).
Duplicates and similar images go. You don't need 40 images of your daughter eating yogurt.
Be ruthless. You have so many pictures. You are a photo hoarder (this is me pep talking myself, it may not apply to you).
Be more ruthless again. That's right, sweep twice! After your initial purge of a folder, do it one more time. You'll have a better idea of what's in that folder once you've consolidated a bit so going through again usually makes it easy to let go of a few more.
Cute isn't enough. I want to keep all the "cute" photos of my kids. But all of them are pretty cute photos. Set a bar. Select the exceptional images. Sparking joy isn’t enough here. Does it move you? Keep that one of the super pout face and that super happy face. If it's just meh, and you don't imagine yourself printing it or including it in a book, it can probably go.
It's a great idea to revisit previously culled folders every so often as well. Once we are further from a certain memory, we gain more clarity about its significance in our life.
I hope this helps!