Do you really need all those yearbooks?


‘I would like to know your view of keeping yearbooks,’ one reader asks, who has clutter cleared a lot of photos but still has a couple of yearbooks from high school. ‘I asked people I know well and they told me I should keep them. I don’t know what to do.’

I had to research this question before replying. I was brought up in England, have never seen a yearbook, and couldn’t imagine what use one could possibly be.

So that says something in itself. The only mementos I have from my school days are a few scanned photos of myself and my family, and I don’t feel the least bit deprived because that’s all I have. In fact, I’m sure my life would have been very different if I’d kept all my childhood stuff and tried to drag it around with me each time I moved. I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done or lived in many of the places I’ve lived.

My American friends tell me that yearbooks are part of the US and Canadian educational system, and they are usually very weighty volumes. Perhaps because they contain photos of people who were once friends, many people find it difficult to just throw them away.

These days, yearbooks are mostly done online, so the question about what to do with the printed editions is one that future generations won’t even ask. It will all be stored digitally, for better or for worse.

What’s my advice?

My advice for those who still have them and can’t quite bear to let them go is to get a sharp knife, a paper cutter, and a double-sided scanner. Cut open the yearbook binding, trim any frayed pages, and then feed them all through the machine. The best reasonably-priced scanner I’ve found is the Fujitsu ScanSnap. It can scan 50 pages per minute, double-sided and in full colour while you get on with your life.

If the binding is very thick, you may want to take your yearbooks to a printing company and pay them to slice them open using one of their big commercial paper cutters. This will give you a much neater edge for easier scanning too.

You can store the resulting PDF file on your computer and probably never look at it again, but at least you’ll know it’s there if you ever want it, and it won’t be taking up space in your home. Check the copyright information page at before you do this to make sure your yearbooks are in the public domain and scanning them will not infringe any US copyright laws.

Is it worth the time and expense?

Probably not, but these days a scanner is an essential piece of equipment for anyone wanting to run a paper-free office, so if you’re going to use it for that purpose too, it would be a very worthwhile investment.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2012

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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5 Responses to Do you really need all those yearbooks?

  1. I would tend to agree with Casey – it seems to me I have just two from high school – not a huge amount of clutter 🙂 And hey, my best friend was the editor so lots of my beloved friends are sprinkled through the pages of my senior year.

    1. Here’s the full email that started this topic, to put the question in context. The weight of the yearbooks is a factor:

      “A year ago, I threw out all my photos that I accumulated; with the amount that I had, they were quite heavy, and also just felt like emotional baggage that I wanted to be free of plus the physical weight of them (I’ve moved quite often and didn’t want to have any more heavy luggage). However, I did scan and upload the pictures that made me happy and smile or were accomplishments of the past. Anyways, I have a couple of yearbooks from high school, and physically they are a little heavy, but like the photos I want to throw them away. I asked people I know well and they told me I should keep them. Don’t know what to do, either keep them or toss them?”

  2. I wonder what the purpose of disposing of yearbooks would be in an otherwise clutter-free home…for most people, i think a yearbook is something you keep for your own perusal and for future generations’ perusal. They are a time capsule, especially considering that the very paper media on which they are printed is of historical significance since that medium is being phased out…just a thought, because at some point i think the dogma can be paralyzing. Besides, so few things have that kind of possible value, that you can be a virtual spartan and still feel good about yourself with a yearbook. If your possessions are already down to so few, why not just reward yourself by playing it safe? Also at some point in getting rid of things there is a law of diminishing returns, and i think “keep it in somewhat retrievable storage like a file cabinet” is somewhat more helpful in the long run for most people…

  3. Or, perhaps even faster & easier than scanning — photograph the books, or at least the pages you most like. Just open it, point a camera directly on top, make sure there’s no glare (preferably use a tripod). I’ve gotten rid of so many visual books this way!

  4. Hi Karen!

    Thank you for writing this! I threw my yearbooks away years ago (I am in my 30’s). I just decided that it was time for them to go. Best decision ever! Thank You 🙂

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