Scanning important documents, photos and souvenirs and tossing the originals is one of the frequent decluttering techniques I've seen posted on organizational blogs. I've always really resisted it, and now I have a good reason. I've just had a catastrophic computer snafu, and irretrievably lost all copies of every photo I've ever saved electronically.
Digital is convenient and compact, but anyone who works with digital files regularly should be very aware of their ephemeral existence. You can back them up in various ways, but they are never entirely safe. True, paper photos are subject to fire, flood and theft, but electronic images always held an extra element of intangibility and easy loss.
So I'll get aboard with reducing clutter by ditching hard copy books for digital, because in a pinch I can always get another. I'll scan unimportant documents like past bills where I can get copies from the companies if needed. But I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with having my only copy of important photos and writing in electronic form.
One of my happiness resolutions is to remove all kinds of clutter from my life. But I think I need to define clutter as that which is unimportant and unnecessary. Physical objects are not always clutter, and clutter is not always comprised of physical objects (stress, anxiety, overcommitment, etc. can be clutter). I hereby declare that photos of important moments in my life (within reason) are no longer clutter. I defy the professional organizers and take back the right to prioritize my own life and belongings.
In exchange, I need to commit to caring for what's important. I have photos tossed in boxes and piles that need organizing and arranging in albums. I should toss photos that no longer evoke good memories, and reduce those that do to a representative sample. I don't need a hundred pictures of the same beach in Cozumel. I should scan what I do have and back it up to an online storage medium so that I am protected from both physical and electronic damage.
Maybe that's what clutter means to me: If it isn't worth the effort to protect it, is it really worth having at all?