When I moved back to Ohio after 18 years, I was confronted with a huge pile of junk that had been collected up throughout my childhood. It seemed as if we had saved everything.
Indeed, we had. Before I moved home from Iowa, I de-cluttered there. At the time, I realized that I had every bill and bank statement that I had ever received in my entire life and at 30 that was a ton of paperwork to drag around the country. I realized then that I did not need statements from closed bank accounts. No one was ever going to ask for 10-year-old water bills. I tossed it all except for a few pieces for memories. It was so liberating!
So, when I encountered the much older pile of childhood items I already knew that I did not have to keep it all to remember that I had in fact been a child once. I set to going through it all. I re-experienced the memories from that time as I went through the stuff. Many things had been ruined by water and mold. I looked them over and let them go. I had all the school papers from kindergarten through high school graduation. I went through them sifting out only the most interesting examples and photos. I reduced the massive pile down to a few banker boxes that I stored in a safe dry location to prevent further decay.
Later as I had the time, I began to go through the papers that I saved. I sorted them by grades and major events in my life. I decided that if I was going to keep any of this, I wanted to be able to pull it out and look at it any time that I wanted to. I choose to scrapbook the items. Now I am not an avid scrap-booker but I do realize that albums are a fine way to archive items so that you can easily look at them later. As I finish the project, I will also photograph the pages to have a digital version.
Keeping memories and a sense of who we are does not require keeping everything we ever own. Scrap booking is not for everyone but there are plenty of ways to keep memories without keeping a ton of stuff. Other alternatives for saving memories include making a tableau, frame a small collection in a shadowbox; keep a sample of items in a memory box and digital photographs of large items or collections. What other ways can you think of to keep the memories without the stuff?
Give yourself permission to let go of the items. Ask yourself if you are honoring the items that you hold so dear. Are they being cared for or molding in a basement or garage? What does it cost to keep everything? Are you paying for storage or sacrificing living space? Do you really want the items? Be honest with yourself.
It takes courage to de-clutter the things that hold our memories of ourselves and our loved ones. It is not always a task to do alone or for the faint of heart. If you need support or feel overwhelmed by the project, look for a professional organizer in your area. Check out http://www.napo.net/ for a directory of organizers in your area. Or call Simply Andi at 740-334-1928 for simply positive change.