Declutter your life while holding great times

Becky and I have been in a mood to organize, pare down, and/or get rid of our stuff. And we have lots of stuff.

We are in sync with this need to simplify, which is fortunate because we can offer encouragement and help with each other’s chosen project. Also, it is easier to make the decision to put an object in the “get rid of” pile when you have someone beside you who is feeling the same desire to be free from the enclosing walls of life’s accumulated clutter.

True, it is sometimes difficult to let go of some clutter. Photographs are a good example. Family pictures are often listed as one of the things people would most hate to lose in a fire or flood. I agree. Still, our photos tend to pile up over time. Let’s face it, unless you are an Ansel Adams with your camera at least some of them are probably expendable.

That has been Becky’s challenge as she works her way through the boxes of pictures she inherited after her mom died. The blurry shots, the double prints, the repetition, the mysterious subjects are all part of the picture-sorting process.

One must be caring and at the same time ruthless. Maybe because Becky is dealing with old photos, I decided to make my next organization project the box of slides that has followed me from one home to another for decades.

Right off I had a problem: How can I easily view them? I haven’t seen the slide project for 15 years and haven’t used it in the last 30. Would I really have to pull each one — there are hundreds — out of its place in the plastic slide tray and hold it up to the window to see the image?

I figured my only alternative was to purchase an (hopefully) inexpensive slide viewer. As I was checking with Mr. Google, however, I came upon a site ( that offered a do-it-yourself solution to my dilemma using only a small flashlight, an empty margarine container with a clear lid, some tape, construction paper and scissors.

I used an empty yogurt container but otherwise followed the directions except to stuff tissue inside to diffuse the light. It works pretty well, especially after I found a magnifying glass to enlarge the image on the slide.

I was given the Pentax 1000 SLR camera in 1977. Slides were cheaper than prints to develop, so I went with slides. The trays are dated, so it is evident I took slides until 1984. That is when I must have felt financially secure enough to spring for prints. I have a good idea what are on most of those slides, so I set them aside and began my project by looking with my DIY viewer at a separate group of slides, ones that were taken by my dad when I was just a kid. Somehow I wound up with them after he died.

A few were easily discarded, washed out or too dark, but most were clear images. According to the stamps on the cardboard frames, most were taken in 1960, ‘62 or ’63. A fewer number were taken in the early 1950s. The Kodachrome and Ektachrome colors are still astoundingly intense after all these years. (I know technological progress is unstoppable, but I miss the old film cameras.)

I look down at the viewer into the light filtering through the colors and go back in time. There is the brown and white 1956 Oldsmobile sitting in our driveway. There is a sunset shot from the long-gone Shell station on the corner of U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road where Dad worked part time. Over and over again I see my siblings and me in our backyard summertime past.

I have a vague notion that I will choose some of the best slides and pay someone to digitize them. And I suppose in a few years I will have to find a DIY site to show me how to convert old-fashioned digital images into whatever the new unstoppable technological format happens to be.