My Summer Project: De-Hoarding Family Artifacts

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This is what is in my living room right now: Sixty years of family photos, papers and memorabilia in 12 plastic bins and 18 scrapbooks, spread out over three temporary tables, four chairs and two regular tables.
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My summer project is to deal with my HOARD. This is my gift to my loved ones while I’m still healthy. As Elvin Bishop sang on Prairie Home Companion, “You ain’t never seen a hearse with luggage on top.”

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      I Have a Plan

    My sister reminded me that millennials do not want our old stuff. So I’m saving focal items and digitizing or scanning the rest. The trash/recycling pile is huge.

      I’m Excavating in Layers

    “Keep, toss or donate” decisions are tough for an admitted hoarder like me. So I’m doing this in layers. I estimate the first layer will cut the hoard in half. After I take a break, I’ll start on the next layer. Each layer is TEMPORARY. If I get stuck, I’ll call in a professional organizer. I did that in Manassas and the experience was very productive (thank you, Liz Witt-Lee!). I can do it here in Pine Level, too.

      I’m Streamlining

    Before, I had bins and scrapbooks for each family member. That meant lots of duplication. I also received several dumps of stuff after three family elders died. Now I just have one timeline and six piles, each representing a decade. What a difference!

      I’ve Stopped Enshrining Dead People

    It’s been 17 years since my first husband died. I’ve learned to live in the present by helping to start a community garden, organize community clean ups, teach Sunday school, travel to gain new perspectives and give time, talent and money to churches or other non-profits. The best way to honor those I love who have died is to live my life and help people now. Hanging on to every yellowed paper or fading photo was a waste of space, time and energy.

    That’s not to say digging for your roots is a waste of time. My mother spent 11 years putting together her book on our family. She had fun doing it because she and my dad traveled and connected with people she hadn’t seen in decades. That book has held a lot of meaning for my brother’s son, my sister and me because it connects us. For a family that is so spread out – North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Missouri – that is important. That was her gift to us. So while I work on this project, I want to stay grounded in the present.

      I’m accountable

    I’m writing this blog post to hold myself to the task. I want to come back here and post about the process as I go along.

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4 thoughts on “My Summer Project: De-Hoarding Family Artifacts

Add yours

  1. What a courageous and wise project, Cindy. I admire and relate to it. That balance between honoring the past and making it an albatross…

  2. Your book is sitting there crying “please don’t let yourself get distracted by all those things in those bins.” You know I’m right. Put the bins away for later and finish your book.

    1. I know you’re right, Victor. The manuscript is sitting there, in the living room by the tables. I promise I’ll be working on it at the same time. I told the two groups I’m in, the critique group and the county writers group, that I’ll be bringing the first chapter for them to read at the June 30 and July 16 meetings.

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