This weekend, Alex and I went to the farm. It was to be a nice quiet weekend, wherein I sorted through some boxes of stuff I have stored there in my new push to simplify my life. Extreme simplification.
So I attacked several of my personal sacred cows… my photographs and letters and sentimental boxes.
Several years ago, when I realized that books could be culled, I felt liberated. I ditched many boxes of books I’d had on my shelf for years — that I’d already read, but that I felt I couldn’t discard. I don’t know why I felt that way about books, but I did. I think it’s something about being a writer with a love of the language. Books were always sacred.
Donating them to Goodwill made me feel that I was “sharing” them rather than discarding them.
Aside from books, I have also always felt that way about photographs and old cards/letters.
Now that doesn’t sound too bad, to have a few extra photos, letters and cards around the house. Doesn’t sound bad until you realize that I used to be a camera buff, was a reporter for a few years and developed all my own film. Add to that the joy I had with working on effects (all by hand, this was before the digital photography age).
I am also a writer. The one sure way to collect a bunch of letters is to be a letter writer. I wrote letters (the old fashioned kind with stamps) to all my favorite people on a regular basis (at least once or twice a month) for years. This means I collected quite a few replies.
The problem is compounded by the fact that I also saved every scrap of paper passed between me and my best buds from school. Not just high school… also middle and elementary school.
I’m all about the simplification, but these “sacred” items were never scrutinized.
UNTIL THIS WEEKEND.
So, I went through forty years of photographs. Not just mine, but those that I had collected from the family when my eldest was born. I took all these photos from as far back as I could find them from multiple far-flung members of the family and took them in to have them made into negatives so I could then have reprints made before returning the originals to the rightful owners. Again, this was before digital. It was expensive and time-consuming.
It never occurred to me that it was time to distribute those to the kids. Until this weekend, anyway.
So I sorted through six boxes of photos (no, I’m not exaggerating) and pulled out my personal favorites. That means I now have one fairly large tote of photos ready for my “second pass” later this week. It means the other five boxes and multiple photo albums are now ready for my kids to review. I’m sending some of the better shots to other members of the family, to the kids’ paternal units, and to my own parents and sister. It will take some time to sort through it all, but I did the first pass this weekend!
In addition, I managed to get through approximately half of my old letters. I culled through some and there were some (mostly old love letters) that I ditched just based on the signature line alone. I got rid of birthday cards, Valentines day cards, get well cards, etc dating from 1970 and forward. No kidding.
I burned the discarded ones (you can’t have stuff like that just floating around!) And I now have a decidedly lighter feeling. I also have a trunk (a rather LARGE antique trunk) that is nearly empty. I have about one more Xerox box full of letters to sort and I’ll be through it!
Now, despite my living small ideas, and my desire to be mobile, this sentimental “clutter” has been weighing me down for decades. Literally. I feel so much better now. I can breathe.
I can’t wait to carve out some more time to get through the rest. When it’s all said and done, I hope to have a shoebox of those quintessential letters that every woman keeps to remind her of who she used to be. I’m passing a few on to the kids so they will know what was going on when they were tiny (some from their fathers, grandparents, etc.) The rest… they need to be gone.
I plan to create a scrap book — not the kind that you go out and buy all the “stuff” to decorate — I want the old fashioned kind that contains simple pages plastered with the stuff that defines my life for the first forty years and space to add a few more pages as life marches on.
And I want one “best of” photo album to keep with me of those photos that always make me smile. There will be a shoebox of those “other” photos that I want, but don’t want to see too often. They will live in the same place that those few letters that are keepers.
Now, I ask you… how can someone so concerned with simplification have failed to do this sooner? Every time I tried in the past, the task was too daunting. I couldn’t bear to part with them. And it wasn’t like other stuff, I would reason, it wasn’t knick-knacks. These were LETTERS. I think I was holding on to the past too tightly. My best friend calls it my midlife crisis. I call it coming to my senses.
How can a person grow and continue to evolve while holding so tightly to things that are no longer applicable to life now? A few items, yes. But, a trunk (too big for a person to move alone) full of letters spanning over three decades and six large boxes of photos? Nope. Can’t be done.