Points of Concern

Tips to Declutter Before a In-Home Photography Session

Clutter in Documentary Family Photography

One of the biggest concerns my in-home, ‘Day in the Life’ clients tend to have is how their homes will show up in their final images. As adults, we know there are societal expectations to keeping a clean, orderly house; but, we also know having children in the home and a busy schedule adds a level of complexity to meeting those expectations.

I’m here to tell you that the clutter and mess in your home are proof of life for your family. No two houses are exactly the same, and how you all comfortably operate in your home helps to further define your unique way of life.

So, before you take the next few hours to ‘hide the mess’ before your photographer arrives, I want you to take a deep breath and consider what is an important part of your story and what is truly clutter.

Feel a bit better?


Now you can read on about how to reduce common clutter in your home and celebrate the unique clutter that makes your home the BEST place in the world in the eyes of your child(ren).

boy paints with fingers

Culprit #1: Kids' Creations

My boys love to create – and hang onto those creations as long as they possibly can. It doesn’t matter if it is a one minute drawing, LEGO sculpture, or a cardboard box repurposing. If time was invested in it, it was a cherished item that was meant to be seen in my living room, dining room table, kitchen counter- you get the picture. 

Often times it isn’t just the final art that remains as proof of the fun. My boys regularly forget to put away the materials. In my previous life before kids, I would have always made sure everything went back into its place. Since my boys are more prone to reach for screens these days for entertainment, I have become more open to leaving easy access to more creative pursuits. We have an art table in the room right off our kitchen where they are allowed to leave works in progress as well as the materials needed out as long as they’d like (or until we have company over).

As for the art? The solution I came up with is encouraging the boys to make an image (or video) of what they created. They use their Kindle Fire devices to make these captures and share them with their friends and family. Occasionally, if it’s something they are really proud of or I think showcases their unique artistic expression, I make an image of it too. I then save the images in a special folder so one day I can make a book for them.

We also have wall space in certain rooms dedicated to art they can hang. They get to choose what goes up there and for how long.

boy is bored in play room

Culprit #2: Pretense of Value

Ever have a hard time of letting go of items you once spent a lot of money on? 

If there is one life skill photography has helped me hone, it’s letting go of high dollar items that no longer serve you. I’m going to use a camera as my example, but this could easily be an old TV, a piece of clothing, or an appliance that has a single (and rarely needed) purpose.

Every two years or so I buy a new camera with the updated technology. Each time the investment is about the same (around $3500). Now, I never need more than two cameras. I have a primary and a backup. I also have a third – less expensive – camera that I use as my everyday one that can also double as a learning camera for my boys.

Here’s the rub, the camera that is getting replaced is now 4 years old and worth about $400 for resell. While $400 is nothing to scoff at, I still need to give myself the following pep talk that selling is the better plan over letting it sit in a camera bag in my closet from now until eternity.

    • Yes, 90% loss in value in just 4 years is one tough pill to swallow. But, that camera helped me make enough money in my business over those four years that it paid for itself multiple times over.
    • Storage space in my home (specifically my home office) is at a premium and I function better as a creator when there is less clutter in my space. 
    • Assuming one of my boys becomes interested enough in photography to want their own DSLR/mirrorless camera, they wouldn’t be ready for this level of camera until age 12 or so and by then the technology could be completely different.

Now, the points above can’t be applied in the same way to any item in your home, but they shouldn’t be too far off. You can also apply this thinking to those items in your home that are need minor repairs to be back to “like new” condition, so they sit dormant for the most part taking up space. Chances are, you won’t miss them. 

boys play in their room

Culprit #3: Flat Surfaces

If your house is anything like mine, flat surfaces are an open invitation to the worst type of clutter: random evidence of procrastination. In my house, it’s mostly mail that is neither so important that it requires immediate actions nor unimportant enough to go straight to the recycling bin. It ends up on every flat surface on our first floor. My husband is the biggest contributor, but I too am guilty of not being decisive enough about certain coupons that come in that could be of use before they expire.

Maybe your exact issue isn’t the mail, but still you find messes accumulating on your counters, tables, and shelves. Here are some tips that have helped us manage this better:

    • Mail caddy placed near where my husband puts his wallet and keys when he comes home. If there is any chance a mail item could be valuable, it’s placed in there and the rest gets immediately tossed. Yes, I own most of the responsibility for managing what’s in the caddy, but now it’s in one place and almost out of view. The kids also have a bin on their table in the play room so they can keep creations they aren’t quite finished yet in there.
    • Hidden furniture storage is also helpful to keep games and play sets off the table. Our coffee table doubles as a game chest, so the boys have easy access to their favorite games, but are also forced to clean up one before taking out the next one.
    • Backup bins. The laundry has a way of piling up in my house, especially on summer days where we go to the pool or beach. The kids will run inside and leave their towels on the first flat surface they come across. There are also days where we are running late and I bring clothes downstairs to the boys rather than having them come back up to change. Inevitably, whatever they change out of goes on the table. I now keep a backup laundry bin downstairs for these reasons. It helps my boys learn to put things in their place while also addressing the added inconvenience of having to take these things upstairs to properly fulfill this responsibility when time is a factor.