LIKE switching energy suppliers or giving the skirting boards the once-over, sorting out photo albums is a task we never quite get round to.

Even thinking about it is stressful. You need a lot of time on your hands, and not much resembling a social life, to take on all those hundreds of photos, going back years, carefully sorting them into categories, possibly chronologically, then lovingly displaying them in albums.

“It’s a job for retirement,” said a friend, who admits she’s lost track of her old photos, even ones of her kids.

I’ve got photos from over a decade, stuffed into plastic bags. Some are still in the packets they came in when printed. There are post-it notes on a few of them - ‘Bruges 2006’, ‘Cornwall 2013’, ‘So-and-so’s wedding’. Some of these people are now divorced.

Occasionally, over the years, I’ve blitzed photos and put some into albums. But now even the albums need sorting out. Why six pages devoted to Amsterdam ‘98? I’ve been to Amsterdam several times, and there are only so many cool canal house photos you can take. Why on earth did I feel the need to keep so many snaps of a press trip to Gibraltar? I know none of the people on these photographs - half a dozen journalists I had a laugh with about 20 years ago, and never saw again.

I have two packets filled with photos of an orphanage in Ukraine, where I once went on an aid trip. I remember the children being fascinated with my camera, crowding round, excited to have their pictures taken. I should have sent them the photos. It’s a bit late now - the orphans will be adults and I doubt they’ll remember that English woman who handed out shoes and took lots of photos. I, however, have never forgotten those children.

So now I’m faced with the mammoth task of not just sorting through several bags of photos, but also scaling down the ones already in albums. And what about all the photos languishing in my phone, and the phone before that...?

A couple of weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday, I took a deep breath and made a start. I filled two albums, and launched a brutal cull of photos I can live without, and even though it’s a drop in the ocean, it was a satisfying process.

Once you fall down the rabbit hole leafing through old photos, you lose yourself in a past life. It feels like forever since I went on holiday, so re-discovering 10-year-old pictures of a mini-break in Barcelona, and a family fortnight on the Algarve, was a welcome reminder of travels in another life. And it’s lovely to look back on family photos - my nephews when they were little and cute, before they got cars, girlfriends and facial hair, my youthful dad, larking in a pub with pals, Mum in a mini skirt at college, the two of them happy in their first home, with a toddler and another on the way.

It’s the imperfections of old snaps that make them so charming. Faded colours, closed eyes, blurred faces, awful haircuts capture moments that would otherwise be lost. Today’s photos can be filtered, or deleted, if they’re not quite perfect enough, which seems a shame.

Never before have we taken so many photos - from snaps of your morning coffee to selfies on the bus, it’s the norm to capture the daily minutiae on camera. Masses of pictures that just end up lost in huge digital stores in our phones.

Printing photos off, and placing them in albums alongside treasured old tickets, postcards and letters takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. There’s a lot of love in those albums, and they will be around long after we have gone.