Memorabilia – Take 1

Memorabilia – Take 1

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I’m going to be honest: this was my least favorite decluttering project. Memorabilia is hard for me to sort through. It is dusty, time-consuming, and brings up all manner of guilty feelings. But as I scooted awkwardly around these five (count them, five!) boxes in my attic the other day, I realized the time had come for my collection of memorabilia to go on the minimalist chopping block.

Let me briefly explain the origin of these tubs. The three on the right were my own personal collection from high school and college. The two on the left contained mostly childhood memorabilia. They were a “gift” (love you, mama!) from my mother this past summer when she was decluttering her own home. The content of these tubs included, but was not limited to:

  • my baby book
  • my first grade report card, in which my teacher referred to me as a “great gal”
  •  a half-finished scrapbook from a high school trip to Europe
  • less-than-sober college photos… quite a few
  • birthday cards from various friends and relatives
  • drum sticks from my high school drum line days
  • my Brownie sash
  • a book I wrote in my early years, eloquently titled “Why I Hate Brothers” 

Clearly, this was a motley crew, like most tubs of memorabilia, I suppose. It was jumbled, disorganized, and had been forgotten for years. I had my Saturday afternoon’s work cut out for me.

Memorabilia is sneaky. A cleverly-folded note from high school can easily bring back fond memories, tug at your heartstrings, and try to justify its existence. To avoid this, I repeatedly asked myself this question as I sorted: Who am I saving this for? (Or, as a good English teacher would say, For whom am I saving this?
This question is a good one, because, really, who wants to look at this stuff? My kids? Probably not. They might browse through a few photos of me in a high school yearbook, but I doubt they’ll ever pore over every certificate of achievement I received during my illustrious academic career. Myself? Highly doubtful. I hadn’t looked at this stuff in years! In fact, I hadn’t laid eyes on most of it since the day I tossed it in the tubs. What makes me think I’d suddenly want to spend an afternoon browsing through every article I wrote for my college newspaper? My mom? Heck, no! She dropped those two boxes off on my porch like a baby on the orphanage steps. (Sarcasm, Mom… I know you’re reading this and you know I love you!) As awesome as I am, I had to face the #1 memorabilia fact: no one really cares much about it.  To soften the blow of fact #1, consider memorabilia fact #2: That’s okay.
Why is it okay, you ask? Let me explain. You are living in the present. Your memorabilia is your past. And as hard as it sometimes is to admit, the past is gone. So instead of spending hours looking through scrapbooks from long-forgotten trips, take yourself out for ice cream, call a friend, read a book. Do something, and do it now, because now is all you have. Carpe diem!
Secondly, this stuff is not you. It is not your family. It is not your friends. I am not my Brownie sash, nor am I my varsity letter. Those are just things. Memories live in your heart and your mind, not in your stuff. 
Finally, you are you, with or without the stuff. I am still smart and insightful, even though I no longer have every A paper I wrote for senior English. I still love to travel, even though I no longer have that half-finished scrapbook from a high school trip to Europe. I still love my family and friends, even though I no longer have every birthday card those wonderful folks sent me. 
Free yourself of your memorabilia, and live now!
But I digress… here’s a pic of me in the thick of it, sorting out the tubs. The box on the left was for recycling (I filled it up twice that day! My memorabilia contained a lot of paper.) The bag on the right contained trash, anything that couldn’t be recycled. The items in the middle were the lucky few things I chose to save.
How did I choose what to save, you ask? Good question, dear blog reader! I chose items that represented very specific or important parts of my life that could not be saved in other forms. For example, I saved my baby book. I also saved small parts of larger collections, like 5-6 articles I wrote for my college newspaper, instead of the 100 or so I had stored away. But, in general, I just went with my gut, and kept asking myself: Who am I saving this for?   
In the end, I winnowed my memorabilia down to this one, not completely full tub:
In order to prevent future memorabilia from spreading through my attic like a pinkeye at a daycare center, I am limiting myself to this one tub. If the tub gets full, I will cull. I’m also instituting an “interim tub,” a smaller shoebox-sized receptacle for items I am considering saving.  When the interim tub is full, I will decide what, if any, items move on to the permanent tub. This will allow me a little time to decide if something is worth saving or not. 
There you have it, folks! My first minimalist stab at clearing memorabilia. I will surely revisit this topic, as I have two boxes of wedding memorabilia and a large collection of photo albums that were not included in this project. But like all things in life, I am making progress one step at a time. 
How about you? Do you have tub (or five) of memorabilia that could stand to be sorted? Are you holding on to your memories in stuff, rather than living your life now? Can you spend a Saturday afternoon freeing yourself from some of these things? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! (And I’d really love to hear some of the crazy, funny things you all find in those tubs!)

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  • Rosie
    Posted at 02:22h, 05 March

    I think it's a similar situation with kids. Granted, mine aren't in the school stage yet, where I know kids produce much more “stuff” that comes home. But I'm planning to start a memorabilia tub for each of them, using the same guidelines. When it is full, we cull. When they are old enough, they can be in charge of it. I think it's important to set spatial limits with memorabilia somehow, and there are many ways to do it.

  • Abantu Cafe
    Posted at 02:24h, 04 March

    Loved this post, Rose! I really need to get to my memorabilia. Do you think you have the same kind of approach to memorabilia for your kids- or is that a whole different situation?

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