Family keepsakes: when to purge and when to preserve

May 15, 2019

The Great Purge of 2019

Everybody seems to be talking about Marie Kondo and her Konmari method of de-cluttering. All I know I about it is the one-liner description I keep reading or hearing on television: it’s a system of organizing where you get rid of anything that doesn’t bring joy. I’m sure there’s more to it than that.

Well, my most recent purge has nothing to do with Marie Kondo. I love to purge. I love to declutter and pretend that the house will stay that way for at least a year until I find myself going through the process again a few months later in a different space of the house.

I’m giddy just thinking about purging! Especially after a major editing session at my parent’s house a few weekends ago. My mom is a pack rat. I directly inherited this trait from her. I’m also extremely sentimental. So naturally, I was a scrapbooker which also led to me keeping every moment for those “one-day” scrapbooks. Some now exist. Some still don’t.

Getting Down to Business

Anywho…I had a wildly successful weekend digging through memories and throwing so much away. I went through nine boxes of varying sizes and ended up downsizing it all to one small box. I hear angels singing right now as I type this! Ahhhhhh!

What had surprised me was how much stuff I still had hiding up in the attic. Each summer that I came home from college, I would go through old things and purge. I thought I had made a lot of progress. I even went through a few boxes from the attic a year ago and was still surprised this time by all that I found.

I treasure this photo of me and my first pet, Tigger

My mom literally kept every paper the teacher sent home from preschool through second grade. (I must have already purged some of the later years of boxes). It took about six to eight hours sitting on the floor digging through things. Most of it was easy to toss. I could easily find the colored papers, writing assignments and cards I wanted to keep. What took the longest was stumbling on some papers that had personal information and had to comb through carefully to make sure I kept a pile of papers to shred.

After enough time passes, it seems easier to throw things away, but we often never get to the point of throwing things away because we have kept so much, that it is overwhelming to tackle.

So here is what I learned about keeping things, tossing things and preserving the most important:

  1. Never use rubber bands. They kind of melt and stick to the papers and end up ruining items and break.
  2. Plastic bags (think Ziplock) and binder clips are great ways to bundle keepsakes and protect them.
  3. Parents, you don’t need to keep every single paper. Just the most important.
  4. Don’t keep things like: that old arm cast (yes, I just finally threw away my cast from 1994), teeth (no teeth were found in this expedition), ribbons, anything with glitter, more than one stuffed animal, toys that aren’t in good condition, workbooks, bad/blurry photos.
  5. Do keep: those handmade cards from Mother’s and Father’s days, pictures your kids have drawn of themselves and your family, special journal entries from school writing assignments, school photos, end of year report cards or special certificates, those precious handprints and footprints from other the years to see how much they’ve grown

As my daughter prepares to enter kindergarten, I know many more papers and projects will be coming home. I’ve created a file folder to help me limit the amount of space I have to keep things and keep them organized. I know I will probably never have time to scrapbook again much less go back and scrapbook years of keepsakes, but I can keep the most important mementos that we can all look back on together as a family and that my daughters can share with their children one day.

What are some of your favorite childhood keepsakes that your parents saved for you? Do you still have boxes of items that seem too overwhelming to go through? Have you been able to pass down some special items (clothes, books, toys) to your children? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page:

Tara Lynn