q + a: childhood memorabilia

Jess asks: “Hi! I am 25, and my mom recently gave me all of my childhood papers, artwork, etc. I have ruthlessly been going through it, but I get stumped up. It would just sit in a tub of storage if I keep it, but I don’t want to erase all of my childhood memories. My husband also has several totes of his childhood/high school memorabilia. Do you have any suggestions? I also struggle with what to do with the doll crib and high chair (larger items) that were mine. Keep for a little girl someday? Or will she be into her own things? They are in good condition. Thanks for any advise on this!”

First, don’t let anyone else put THEIR feelings of how much and what personal memorabilia YOU should keep (and vice versa, a common mistake with spouses). Some people can’t bear to part with anything from their past, while others like me keep very little. You need to figure out where you fit in the spectrum.
I don’t believe that by editing down your memorabilia all your childhood memories magically disappear. It’s fun to see pictures we drew and report cards from grade school, but is it necessary to keep ALL of them? Keep the ones that get more of an emotional response then others. As far as the big stuff, think of this way; is it something you can properly store (keeping it clean and functioning) for the amount of time you’d need to in order to pass on to someone that may not love it as much as you did? If you do decide to let it go, take a few pictures of it beforehand so you can see it again when you like. And you must feel good about passing along something to someone NOW who will make just as many happy memories with it. Getting rid of something from your past is not disrespecting the past, sometimes it’s a matter of clearing some room in your home and mind for new memories and new energy to come in.
Deciding to keep or discard something is much easier when you let go of the idea that you HAVE to get rid of anything. Take that pressure off yourself for now. People lose momentum when editing when they stop making decisions; go through piece by piece saying definitely keep, definitely toss (or donate, sell, recycle) and when you get to something you’re unsure of simply put in a ‘maybe pile’, move on until all immediate decisions are done and THEN tackle the leftover items.
One more note. Not all of your memorabilia has to be boxed up and put away. For the things you don’t necessarily want out for everyone to see, why not hang on the inside of a closet door, back of a cabinet, or in the bathroom?
I hope this helps!

3 responses

  1. To one Laura from another :)I JUST went through my memory box this weekend. I got rid of a lot and am now down to the things that I want to scan or digitally photograph before I let them go. I gave a box to my daughter, who ran through hers in 10 minutes, keeping a single handful and tossing the rest. She's moving to NYC and won't have that much room for the past.

  2. Great post! My husband and I both did this recently. It was SUCH a huge relief to go through everything (my mother kept only the best things but his mom kept things like old permission slips … seriously??). Even from what my mom kept, I was able to whittle down a lot (her theory was let me make the final decisions, which was very thoughtful of her). I divided everything into a few categories: school papers/awards/artwork/other paper items, trinkets and objects, and cards. I then divided the cards by the giver (obviously my husband has one of the largest sections). There are three boxes (one per category) and my husband has two boxes. It makes it easy to add new things to the boxes since I know exactly where the item should go. Since we are expecting our first child, I have already been thinking about how to save his things, and I plan to implement the same system – a box for papers, a box for trinkets and objects and notebook with plastic sleeves for artwork (this will be new). For the things he will give/make my husband and I, we will probably add a box to our stash just for things from the children. Sounds like a lot of work (and it sort of was to get going … especially the motivation), but now we know the things we have kept are truly meaningful to us, and it is all stored very compactly in the tops of our closets (each box is about 12 x 10 x 4 and they stack easily. takes up a lot less space than it probably sounds like). Whew! Just thought I would share my experience! It has been soooo worth it – it was a project weighing on me for a LONG time.

  3. I would also suggest that your best friend is the scanner. You just don't need hard copy versions of some things…and you can still have the fun of looking at memorabilia.