By Caroline Bujold
Do you have boxes upon boxes of keepsakes, old birthday cards, photos, travel souvenirs, school artwork, etc.? Emotional clutter is definitely the hardest for me to get rid of. I’ve continuously tried to keep the collection to a few boxes and edit it regularly, but I still have ways to go. Lately though, a thought has been nagging at me: why exactly am I keeping these things, and more importantly, who am I hoping to pass them on to?
Because this is the real deal people, someone’s going to have to sort through my keepsakes at some point. If it’s not me, it will have to be my husband, my brother or maybe a friend. Then what happens to that stuff I thought was so important to keep? Do I care if it all gets thrown away or if others browse through it? And why, if these mementos are so important, are they in a box, in the basement and rarely looked upon?
I don’t have a good answer for why I’m keeping what I’m keeping. Out of habit maybe, perhaps because I was used to documenting my school years. Or maybe because throwing stuff away that you’ve made, won or received for a special occasion feels wrong. At the same time, I can’t think of anybody who would want my postcard collection or my pins from the six Canada Games I went to. So there are many many items I really just keep for myself and it’s OK if it all goes to the trash in the end.
I don’t want our house to look like a museum of our past experiences, but I do want to find ways to enjoy my keepsakes. So my first step was to bring all the bins and boxes from the basement to start reducing the collection enough that it would fit nicely in my office. I’m still working on this. It’s called emotional clutter for a reason!
I’m not about to throw away handmade cards from my grandmother, but I was OK parting with other cards that only had a signature and letters from people I had lost touch with. I’m keeping my baby book, but maybe I don’t need to keep every last photos my parents took of me.
There is a trend that suggests taking pictures of mementos, so you have a souvenir of it, but not keeping the item. I’ve tried that once and never looked at the pictures again. To me this is just more clutter but of the digital variety. I guess if you are into scrapbooking or journaling and you include these photos in your creations or photo albums, it might work. But unless you are already into that, I don’t suggest going that route.
Recently, I rummaged through my keepsakes bin and in under an hour I was able to let go of my medals. I still can’t believe I kept them this long; it’s been decades! Once I started to look at them, I realized I couldn’t even tell them apart. Was that one for gymnastics or basketball? Was that one for the local weekend tournament or for the big one that would bring us to our first Provincial Games? They were all similar with no particular marking or engraving. I was seriously shocked. Suffice to say that when you stop acting like a robot and really take the time to look at something, clarity springs into focus.
Of all the medals I had, about 40 I think, I kept only two. The first one I won at age 6, it actually looks different and has the year on it, and another one that clearly shows gymnastics. The rest went to our Reuse Centre*.
Again, I’m nowhere near where I would like to be, but as time goes by, I’ve found ways to display some of my keepsakes and reduce them to a manageable size.
A few ideas to display mementos
Pins and medals
- Use favourite pins as pushpins on a cork board
- Shadow boxes for a collection
- Rotating collection in a large frame
- Photo album (two friends have them in albums) or shoe box (my collection sits in a box on top of my bookshelf)
Cards and letters
- Framed, up on a wall with other pictures – My grandmother’s favourite handmade card and my husband’s mom’s handwritten recipe have a place of honour in our hallway
- Interspersed with books on the bookshelf (small tokens)
- In a glass jar (sand from a favourite beach)
- Grouped as a cluster (decorator trick, makes them look less messy)
My nemesis though is still pictures; printed and digital. I keep thinking I’m going to create photobooks, but I have not taken the time to do so yet. We do have one for our wedding and I love it. The photobooks are somewhat easy to make online, but you still need to take time to sort, discard, possibly scan, upload and arrange these pictures into a book.
What are your most treasured mementos? How do you honour them?
*Link: The Reuse Centre is particular to Edmonton, CAN and “deals with items that are not accepted for reuse elsewhere”, mainly for crafting.