Is it just me or did we frame photographs a lot more in the 1970s and 1980s? Everyone I knew had a wall or hallway covered in family photographs, office walls covered with framed certificates and shadowboxes featuring items like ancestral pocket watches and old forks. With the big trend toward minimalism, I’m seeing more blank walls and empty halls and finding more boxes of framed photographs in garages that no one knows quite how to handle.

When a person moves and comes into a new home with fresh walls, or if photos are removed from a wall in order to paint, it can be a huge psychological relief. Photos can carry a lot of emotional baggage. For example, according to feng shui, the Chinese method of creating harmony in a space, photos of people aren’t recommended for the bedroom because it’s akin to having people stare at you while you sleep and can be disturbing.

More proof of the distress photos can cause are complaints from the family. Adult children coming home to visit will inevitably whine, “Mom, you know I hate that picture!” or “Why do you still have the picture of my ex-husband on the wall? I remarried eleven years ago!” And then there’s always, “Why do you have five pictures of Brother Bobby but only one of me?”

Family and other personal photos in the “public” spaces of the house, such as living rooms and dining rooms, can make guests uncomfortable. All those personalities and stories take up room, even if they’re only two-dimensional.

If you are looking for love, having framed photos with your ex around the house can block new love from coming into your life. It sounds a little woo-woo, but imagine inviting a date home and having a bunch of photographs of you and your ex on display. It would definitely signal that you haven’t moved on.

Chances are good that once they photographs come off the wall, they never go up again. Boxes of framed items are bulky, heavy and breakable, so I advise clients to take the photos out of the frames. Now, once you’ve donated or tossed the frames, what to do with the photographs?

First: do you really want to keep 8 x 10 school portraits of your kids? Check your photo archives to see if you kept the 5 x 7 or smaller version and toss the big ‘uns.

How about wedding photos and you’ve divorced? If you don’t have children, toss, toss, toss. If you do have children, ask them if they want them or save until they are old enough to make an informed decision about it. Most of my childless divorced clients feel so good once they’ve tossed the wedding photos. You’re required to keep the divorce papers, but nobody forces you to keep photo evidence of the wedding.

Most of the time when we frame photos, they are duplicates. If you have the originals, toss the dupes. Whatever other photos have come out of frames can be put into a photo box, an album, or scanned and made into a digital album or shared online.

If you do think you’d like to hang some of the framed items up again, lay them all out on the floor in categories (family, miscellany, friends, formal portraits, etc.). Groups of framed items look best if they are all in one category or have some other unifying feature.

Unifying features could also be size, matching frames, all black and white or all color photos, etc. For some great tips on how to hang framed items in groups, which is quite challenging, checkout

Taking framed items off the wall and looking at them with a fresh perspective might jolt you into realizing you no longer want to look at certain people or things every day, while others can bring a smile to your face every time. The latter are worth putting a few holes in the walls and the time it takes to get them up straight and pleasingly spaced.