When we were hanging our ornaments on the Christmas tree this year, like every year, we were reminded of where each special ornament was from. As we pulled out the ornament that looked like a German Shorthair Pointer, we were reminded of our beloved dog Heidi who passed away this year. As we pulled out the sterling silver baby spoon, we were reminded of our very first Christmas as parents. As we hung the star on top, we remembered the special moment every year that signified that the tree was finished.
People are visual, and we save trinkets to remind us of amazing days, great trips, and special events. Looking at a beautiful seashell that reminds you of your honeymoon, or keeping your son’s first outfit helps keep those memories alive. To keep one or two special tokens to gaze at over the years is wonderful. However, when we start to keep all the special tokens from every special day is when it starts to become a problem.
Memories take up a lot of space. Your kids will come home from school with art projects and math worksheets. You get birthday cards and letters. There are concert tickets and wine corks, movie stubs and magnets. There are gifts from your great-grandmother, stuffed animals that your kid used to sleep with, first shoes, and graduation caps. These are your memories, but how can you decide what you need to keep and what you need to part with?
First, let’s talk about papers. You do not need to keep every spelling test or cute handprint painting that your child brings home. Throw away papers that don’t matter. If you are worried that you’ll forget all the 100%’s your child received, take a picture and upload it to your computer. That takes up way less space, and you can create a file for every member of your family. For papers like birthday cards and letters, buy a small box, and allow yourself to only keep as many as can fit in the box. Be ruthless in order to decide what might make you smile in 30 years.
Next, let’s talk about larger reminders like letterman’s jackets and yearbooks, or blankies and Hot Wheels collections. Allow each member of your family to have one or two memory boxes in order to store all of their exceptional items. I have one, my husband has one, the girls are each on their second box. These hold special art projects, report cards, baby clothes and blankets, etc. Things I don’t want to get rid of, things that I think are important; but also, things the girls might want later on. If they decide they don’t want their baby blankets and art projects when they are older, they are free to get rid of them. I do not need to hold onto their childhood memories when they are grownups.
Make sure to go through your memory boxes every 5 years. It is a good chance to purge a few more items, and to have a good laugh at your haircut from high school.