The last time my mother visited, she left behind her glow-in-the-dark rosary beads. The appearance of these was puzzling.  Mom left the Catholic Church 40 years ago due to a disagreement on divorce, so why was she still carrying around the remnants of her religion? When I asked her, Mom told me that she uses them as a meditation at night to slow down her brain and fall asleep.  That is so my mom—a combination of old-school upbringing and contemporary self-care. Of course I found that charming and when I offered to return the beads, she declined and told me to keep them. She said “I have six more sets at home!”  So my mother’s glow-in-the-dark rosary beads will stay in my drawer for now, maybe to be found by my own kids who will think they are mine. Many families have ‘meaningful” treasures like this floating around the house or stuffed in closets but there comes a time when they need to go.

This is a good topic for this time of year because families tend to gather around the holidays. Take a look in the attic and other storage areas for objects that you know are ready to go.  In some cases, that can be easy like objects that no longer serve you such as clothing, old suitcases, and things you kept “just in case.” In my mother’s attic that would be the carpet she kept from when she did the stairs twenty years ago and my grandmother’s trunk that can go to the dump.  It would also include those oh-so-fashionable platform sandals from 1975 and the prom dress I will never wear again. If you are hesitant to let something go, then take a picture of it for your photo album.  If you already have a picture of your fabulous self in that special dress, then kiss it goodbye and send it packing.  Do not leave this for your kids or nephew to deal with when you have gone to the pearly gates.  These are decisions you can make now or at least before you get too creaky to get up the attic stairs, as admonished by a recent client of mine.

Most people keep memorabilia from their parents, their childhood, and their children.  How much do you keep, for how long, and then where does it go?  Items of this sort may include:

  • Grandma’s china
  • Grandpa’s Korean War snapshots
  • Parents’ yearbook
  • Your childhood memorabilia
  • Your children’s artwork/ report cards

A lot of memorabilia has a shelf life that expires naturally.  That which seemed charming ten years ago now looks like junk. The question which can help you make the decision is: “Does it have archival quality?”   Photos are only relevant within a generation or two. My kids have no connection to my grandparents and do not care about their old photos. That lack of interest would also apply to my father’s yearbooks, except the few photos in which he may be featured.  At that point, you could rip those out and include them in a family photo album or zip-lock bag with a name and date on the back. Please date and name your photos; if someone cannot identify the people in the photo, then the inherent value is lost.

Memorabilia connects you to the past. If you have no direct connection to the object in question, then it becomes meaningless. Keep that in mind the next time you want to save something for the kids. Is it meaningful to them or just you? Do the work now so that they can miss you when you go and not curse the work you left behind and undone!  Good luck with all your organizing projects!