My husband and I are polar opposites in so many ways, but the one that comes to mind first is simple: he hangs onto things whereas I don’t. When I write that I feel really bad. It’s not that I don’t want to save things for memory’s sake, it’s just that I would rather have pictures and memories than the physical objects.
For my husband it isn’t so simple. What I see as clutter, he sees as keepsakes or valuable objects. I rush to get rid of things a little too quickly and he holds onto things for far too long. It has been the subject of many disagreements and after years of being together, we balance one another out.
Recently, my mom and dad started cleaning out an old chest they got from my grandmother before she passed away. While cleaning it out, they found many things including garbage (unreadable old papers, old hankies, etc.) and a few family heirlooms. This brought up a conversation about what do you save and what do you throw away when you are saving things for memory’s sake?
There isn’t a cut and dry answer. Some people save everything, while others save literally nothing. I want to fall somewhere in the middle.
When I am gone, I don’t want to leave a house full of junk that I saved for no reason — or at least no reason to the ones to whom I left it — but I don’t want to leave nothing behind either. Looking at the things we cherish from the loved ones that have gone before us should give us a clue, shouldn’t it? Did we want to keep every drawing our parents made as children that their parents kept? Honestly, no. Were we excited to find the little wagon my dad had made in a wood working class? Yes! While a drawing or two from my parents’ childhood is cool, I much prefer things they made and were passionate about — the things that have stories, the things that have meaning.
So now, when I look at what I want to leave behind for my family, I think of things they could use, things they would associate with the stories we told them, and things that have meaning. Growing up, there were items that we would hear stories about a thousand times, but those things mean one thousand times more than a drawing I made when I was four. The jewelry box that I peeked into when my grandmother wasn’t looking, the mixing bowl that I helped mix cake batter in as a child and now use with my own kids, the little candy dish that sat on her end table and never seemed to run out of candy — those items have so many memories attached to them!
So no, I won’t be keeping everything like my husband wishes, but I will be keeping things that have memories and stories attached to them. For example, the photographs I developed myself in high school that my kids talk about so often, the 100+ year-old family Bible that my grandmother had in her chest, the pie safe that was my parents’ and is now mine and hopefully will one day be my kids’. Will I keep every drawing my kids have ever made? No. Although I feel like a bad mom for saying it, I’ve already thrown so many of them out, but I have kept the paintings that my daughter made when she wanted to learn about art. I have kept the projects that the kids were so proud of. If I kept everything they ever made, I would already be out of room, so I am ok with keeping some things for a short time and then placing those items in File 13 (what I like to call the drawer that gets cleaned out twice a year that is full of scribbles and unimportant papers). The things that are important to the kids or to us as their parents we keep for the future — for grandkids and for a time in which we can pull out our memories and share the story behind them.