This past week I’ve been cleaning out my old walk-in closet in my parents’ house. It’s been four years since I used it regularly and yet it’s filled to the brim with remnants of my life: old t-shirts, ticket stubs, stuffed animals, notes, notebooks, journals. (My poor brother has been living around all the stuff for too long. Sorry Derek!)
As I was sorting through all of the boxes and piles, I realized some things about memories and keeping them. I had been collecting and hoarding every evidence of my life as if someone were going to recreate every moment of my life. I preserved every birthday card and handwritten junior high note and program desperately, as if I anticipated some major memory loss in my future. I didn’t want to forget a single thing. I had no concept of editing.
The thing about being human though, is that we can’t keep it all. My mind doesn’t have room to conserve each detail just as my house cannot hold every article of remembrance. And that’s okay. Lives are meant for living and memories change and evolve as we become different (and better?) human beings.
As I spent hours sorting, I realized that if I were to do it again, I’d definitely do it differently. Memories and memorabilia are wonderful but they are wonderful in small amounts that can be easily reviewed and carried throughout life. Here are some thoughts on saving stuff:
1. Limit the amount of space you devote to memorabilia. If I did it again, I would have a small number of boxes dedicated to memorabilia. Preferably, beautiful intentional boxes. (Maybe these or these?) (edited. pro tip: use archival boxes to keep your memorabilia in the best condition.)
2. Save judiciously. Do not save everything. Do NOT save everything. I repeat. . . Instead, think long and hard before you allow something to enter the sacred boxes of remembrance.
3. Organize and edit as you go. With the limited amount of space that you have, your boxes may fill up and instead of buying another box (don’t give in!), look back through what you have and re-analyze whether each item is a keeper.
(disclaimer: I do not yet fully abide by these ideas. I am still a work-in-progress.)