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For Keeps

2011 September 12

My family recently moved from the house they’ve lived in for nearly 25 years, which meant it was finally time for me to clear out my old bedroom closet and claim the boxes that had been sitting in the garage. I packed up the trunk of my car with the violin I haven’t played since high school, the hiking backpack I took with me when I was abroad in Italy, yearbooks, and nearly a dozen boxes full of ticket stubs, photos, letters, and postcards, and drove it all to my apartment in Brooklyn.

A few weekends ago, I sat in my apartment and methodically went through every box, knowing there isn’t enough storage space in the apartment to keep everything. I read through holiday and birthday cards, notes written by friends during boring high school classes, and play programs. I tossed out movie tickets so faded you couldn’t read the names of the movies anymore. I ended up condensing the mishmash of shoeboxes and hat boxes to just about 4 total, and was able to organize all my photos into one photo box.

It was an interesting process, and more than just sparking nostalgia, it raised a lot of questions about why we keep the things we do, and how we decide what’s worth holding on to and what’s okay to let go of. It was frustrating to look at the stack of boxes taking up space in the bedroom and I was tempted to just take everything and throw it in the trash. One part of my brain told me these boxes were just full of objects, but another part of it told me all of these pieces fit together to represent my life. True, it’s a strange, unsorted pile of artifacts that wouldn’t quite make sense to anyone else, but that’s what makes it mine.

Where do you store your keepsakes? Do you hang onto everything, or only keep the most meaningful items? Do you think there’s value in saving physical objects?




One Response Post a comment
  1. Raquel permalink
    September 12, 2011

    I have the same problem with hoarding old stuff! I have a shoebox full of college bits, and one box for EACH year of high school stuffed with notes and things! Along with drawers and drawers of other stuff. I keep lots of old cards, some wedding invites, hundreds of photos, at least half a dozen journals, letters from old pen pals…. egad! My bedroom and the basement at my parents’ house are like my personal museum! I hope my parents never move! 😉 My mother has made me swear that after the wedding I HAVE TO go through my room and start purging. Yikes! I’m also stricken with uber-nostalgia disease (I blame part of that on being Cuban–I swear Cubans are among the most nostalgic people on earth!), so I have no idea how I’ll deal with this.

    I do think that I might try undertaking a massive photo scanning project though, and keep all my photographs on an external drive or something, organized by years or something. I hate not being able to have my photos with me and albums are just impractical for someone with limited space. I’m not sure what to do about the other stuff though! Scanning a letter or birthday card or a note your BFF wrote you during junior year study hall just doesn’t seem the same, you know?

    Maybe I’ll just leave all this stuff around so someone else can trash it after I die. I don’t know how I’ll be able to do it myself.

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