Posted by: Nancy | October 29, 2007

Keeping Memories

I feel so lucky to be writing to make money.  But after a big project this month, that I finished three days early, I’m tired. 

For this month I wrote 50 articles on home organization and time management.   Which, if you know me at all, is hilarious.  Apparently, I know everything there is to know about home organization and time management – enough that someone paid me to write over 25,000 words on the subject.  

But, as my house falls in around my ears, I’m wondering what exactly my problem is. 

I think that it comes down to a couple of things. I’m the type of person who lives in my brain.  I love to research, write and read.   I’m an occasional do-er, but I have to be in the mood.   I’m also very sentimental.  I still have the outfit I wore when I met my husband, and the t-shirt I was wearing when I went into labor with my daughter.   Add on top of that the fact that both of my sentimental parents have already passed away AND I’m an only child.   So now I’ve got all of their stuff. 

I really never had a chance to be anything other than a packrat. 

As I’ve grown through my adulthood, and my kids are now 3 and 5, I came to realize that a lot of the stuff my mom had kept for me and her future grandchildren were really things she kept for herself.  The things in her boxes are her memories, not mine.  I have no memory of why some of the things she had were put in a box.  Others I remember vividly, either by being there myself, or by listening to her stories.  For many years, I kept all the things she loved simply because she loved them.   In the 14 years that have passed since she died, however, I’ve let go of a lot of things.  What used to be over a dozen boxes have slowly been whittled down to four or five.  If I tried to do that right after she passed away, it would have torn me apart.  But as the years went by, it was a natural and comfortable thing to do. 

I also kept a lot of stuff from my childhood.  A lot.  I thought that when I had kids that it would be cool to play with them with the same exact toys I played with, reading the same exact books my mom read to me.   But when I sat and read a book from my childhood that hadn’t been opened since the last time my mom read it to me, the pictures and the words combined to completely overwhelm me.  All of a sudden I missed my mom so bad I could hardly take it.   The echo in my memory of my mom’s voice combining with mine as I read to my daughter was so hard to hear.  I realized then that I kept those things because of my memories and because I loved them.  So I pulled aside one box of my favorite memories from my childhood and gave the rest to charity.  These are the books and toys that have memories behind them.  Memories that I can share with my kids so they might know something more about me than just being their mom. 

Now that the sentimental things from my kids are being added to all of that family history, it makes me wonder what I should keep of their’s.  Now, I know for sure I’m keeping way too many of my kids clothes that they’ve grown out of.  It’s ridiculous really.  But they were just so darn sweet.  Taking their favorite shirt or dress out of the dryer for the last time, knowing that they will never wear it again just makes my heart ache.   So rather than put it in a bag for Goodwill, I fold it and put it in a storage box. 

Another of my issues with keeping things is that I’m very tactile.  Museums are never really satisfying for me because if I were to have my wish, I’d be able to touch the fine ridges of the brushstrokes that dried there after the artist lifted his brush, considering his work to be done.   Just being able to see a painting or a sculpture in person is really no more exciting to me than seeing a photograph of it.   To be truly happy, I have to touch it or hold it in my hands. 

When I hear about different tricks on how to cut down on your sentimental clutter, such as taking a picture of something and then giving the actual item away, I  just can’t do it.  I can’t.   Without being able to hold it and turn it around in my hands, I might as well not have it because I would feel as if I had lost it.  

I need to get rid of some things though.  I don’t want to have things that are just miscellaneous stuff to crowd out my kids’ space or make the things that are truly special seem like just another box of stuff.  

I’m taking my own advice and starting on my own organization and consolidation project this week.   My goal, now that my kids are old enough not to completely destroy things, is to begin to display the things that are truly special to me, and start to let the things that don’t really matter so much go.   I want the things that are important to me to become part of the surroundings of their childhoods.   Even if they don’t have the same memories as I do about them, they will remember them in their own ways. 



  1. What a great thought-provoking post!

    I’ve taken my kids art throughout the years and have framed in Pier1 frameless-frames (when they come on sale) and one of our bathrooms is decorated with kids art from 1st grade on up.

    It’s a conversation “room” in our house for sure!

    I havea lot more ideas, even though I don’t consider myself highly organized. I like what you wrote: display the things that are important!

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