Amidst all this recent de-cluttering and organizing, I ask myself, “what are the real keepers?” What do I absolutely need to keep? Heck, what do I want to keep? I consider these questions as I place yet another few old greeting cards into a photo box labeled as such. One of my worst fears is losing my memory, so I tend to keep things that have sentimental value. I think that somehow these physical mementos will facilitate the recollection process in the event that that ever happens. Though my filing and storage system can still use a little help from Oprah and organizational “expert” Peter Walsh, I will never admit to being a pack-rat. (I put the word “expert” in quotes, as I’m reminded by my dear friend, that oftentimes these experts are experts in every area except their own lives. I tend to agree.) I actually think I have a system – well, sort of – even though my husband thinks it quirky and understood by none other than myself. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, I think that I have quite an uncanny ability to discern what is worth keeping.
This list is by no means exhaustive. After all, I wouldn’t want to exhaust you, but some of the things that I’ve kept include:
- Hospital Wristbands - those flexible pieces of plastic only slightly bigger than a man’s size ring, secured around a baby’s wrist at birth. I’ll never forget their birthdates this way!
- Greeting Cards From my Husband & Father-in-Law - Something must be said that the two of them know how to pick the best cards ever! Not sure how much of this is learned behavior. I swear my father-in-law must spend quite a bit of time in his local Hallmark or drugstore selecting cards for his grandchildren. His cards to our children are especially meaningful, given the physical distance that separates us. More than his generous giving, I look forward to opening the cards they get from him. From the cover to the inside, each one is hand-picked to reflect the children’s interests, beauty, and personality. My husband’s greeting cards to me are among the most random, beautiful, and hilarious cards ever! They seem to say just the right thing at the right time. His cards to me are given “just because”, and are usually not centered around an event or occasion. It is rare that I myself will purchase greeting cards for anyone. I think that only I know best what I want to communicate, so I will often write a letter instead. Occasionally, beautiful blank cards or those with less print will do.
- Children’s Artwork - Hold on now, not all of it, only the ones that they themselves have created. Classroom-generated art should be tossed at the door, as it only serves as proof that your child can or cannot follow directions, and you already know this! Plus, I’m not raising a bunch of conformists. Do remember to shred what you don’t keep. Trust me, no amount of explanation will comfort a child who discovers her “best-thing-ever” in the trash or recycling bin.
- Photographs - preferably only those that capture your best side. Choose wisely! Seriously, photographs say a lot. They capture moments as well as emotions in time, and remind us of the events and people surrounding those moments. For instance, the image header on this blog was taken of a frog that my two oldest children found in the basement. They then took it outside and “nurtured” it, thinking that it was a good idea for a pet. And you thought it was some internet “art”? Photographs take you back to the physical places you traveled and inhabited, and evoke emotions that are as raw as when they were first felt. Now you just have to remember where you put the darn photographs! The absence of photographs, on the other hand, requires the memory to work overtime to recall and piece the past together, and sometimes obliterates memories altogether. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on the memory.
- Letters – mostly handwritten, few typed. Someone took the time to write it, so I take the time to cherish it. Before her passing, my grandmother and I wrote each other regularly. I’ve kept all of her letters, since the time we were separated. I was 10 years old, so I have lots of letters!
- Playbills & Movie Ticket Stubs - how else am I suppose to remember the names of these things, let alone what happened in them?
- Final Hotel Bills - they bear the name, address, and dates during which we stayed during our travels. The bill itself is useless, but everything else is right there!
- My Writing – I keep all of my writing, whether it’s written on a napkin, cardboard insert from dry cleaners, or the back of an airline boarding pass or ticket. After I’ve pieced together all of it, I may very well have the makings for a complete novel!
And now, I am off to the organization of all these keepers! Oh Happy Day! Let me know some of the things that you insist on keeping. I might need to update my list!