Monday, February 23, 2009

Keep It? Toss It? Keep It? Toss It?

I am what one would do you say it?...a PACK RAT! I hoard items for what I deem sentimental value or because I think they might prove to be needed at some time in the future.

In my parents' house, there is a place for everything. In my house, there is everything and no place to house it!

I used to collect all, and I mean every single one, of my kids' art pieces when I lived in our last house. One day, I figured, one of them might grow up to become an artist, and they might want to review the chicken scratch artwork they did in preschool. It wasn't even as if I was displaying their drawings, but I was boxing them and drawering them scattered throughout the house.

One day, before our intended move, my husband insisted I toss much of the artwork. "Save a few pieces from each child" was his suggestion. Believe me, when I say it was difficult to do.

When I think about what I saved, it was probably the same piece done by each of the kids when they were each in that same grade. So it might've been a Purim megillah (times three) that I saved from senior kindergarten, and a Rosh Hashanah letter written to the family saved from grade two.

Since we moved over five years ago, I have cut back on some of the collected artwork, but I have still saved many other items.

Yesterday, I spent a few morning hours going through my armoire drawers -- normally meant for clothing, but not in my case! -- and gathering all types of cards I've collected over the years. All the birthday cards for each child and for my husband and myself, anniversary cards, our engagement cards and wedding cards. I categorized them in large manila envelopes and put them together in a clear box, which I'll shelve in another bedroom cupboard.

I have other boxes such as this in my walk-in closet. They house other written collections: an entire five year or so letter collection from a pen-pal I had in Long Island from the time I was about twelve; a collection of earlier b'day cards and postcards and mail that I wanted to keep over the years. I truly don't need all these bits and pieces of my past, 'cause I don't even make the time to take these boxes down from the shelves and give up three hours to read through their contents. I'm just afraid that if I do toss them, I'll be sorry.

I've learned through experience, though, and from hearing stories, that it's easier to do the tossing yourself than somewhere, years down the road, having some family members just dump everything because the contents of such boxes have no meaning to them.

Sometime last year or the year before, my mother handed me an envelope. It was filled with congratulatory cards she'd received when I was born back in September 1961. I'm so glad she never tossed those cards, but knew exactly where in the house she could retrieve those cards from to pass along to me. I'd like to think that one day I might do the same for my children.

"Here, Avi/Adina/Noam, here are all the birthday cards you ever received from family and friends."

AVI: "What am I supposed to do with these?"

ADINA: "Thanks." And she'd probably proceed to look through them, laugh and remember friends' names and personalities.

NOAM: "What am I supposed to do with these?"

Sometimes I wish I weren't so sentimental. But then again, I volunteered, doing archival work for many years, and I think that all my collections -- which might not really mean much to others -- tell a story and reveal who I was, who I am, and who I might (still) become.

All those journals, letters I wrote while spending six months in Israel, snippets of ideas that never yet became literary pieces, reveal more about me than just what's on the surface.

Anybody want to learn more about me? My archive hours are Monday thru Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon. No sign-out privileges.


Robin said...

If you file away and organize all of your crap, it officially becomes "important stuff". My family tends to save stuff in crumpled plastic bags with rubber bands around it. Thus, it remains crap.

torontopearl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
torontopearl said...

Robin, being the "troubled teenager" that I am, and with you being a shrink, I thought/feared you would start analyzing me and saying stuff like "You can't let go of the're keeping yourself caught up in all the fine details...what's keeping you there?"

Robin said...

No way! It's great to keep stuff. One day you'll have a lot of fun with it.

When we lived in North Carolina, I tried to discourage Adam from playing hockey. I said, "You're old. You're slow. And you're gonna suck." He thought it was so funny, he wrote it down. Every time we move, we find it and crack up.