Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

As we prepare to move to Florida in just a few short weeks, we face the monumental task of deciding what to take with us and what to leave behind.

My wife and I each have forty years of clothes, books, photos, memorabilia and miscellaneous stuff.  The last time it was meaningfully sorted and purged was sixteen years ago when we got married and moved to the house where we currently live.  Even then, we didn’t do a great job of getting rid of the old to set ourselves up for the new–as I’m reminded of when I pull out boxes that haven’t been opened in sixteen years and can easily discard half of their contents.

Now we have another opportunity.  We can do it right this time so sixteen years from now (or sixty) when we (or our children) go through our things again, only the most significant stuff will remain.

Some things are easy to decide:  the 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee that’s been ours for twelve years and has over 208,000 miles on it stays behind–especially since the A/C stopped working several years ago.  The couches that have barely survived two small boys, an old dog who was incontinent in her final years and now a puppy–they won’t make the trip. Clothes made for sub-zero weather?  No way.


But then come the harder choices:  artwork the boys made when they were small, school papers that trace their development from their youngest years to now, favorite souvenirs from family trips, ten-dollar trophies from countless sports teams–should these make the cut?

As a family historian, I can find meaning in almost any document or artifact related to one of my ancestors.  Even the most meaningless items (e.g., old receipts from store purchases, pictures of their friends, piles of old Christmas cards, etc.) can shed a little light on the personality or experiences of an ancestor.  But how do I choose proactively now what to save–what to preserve in the hope that it will survive for some future time to tell a story I may not be around to tell?

Being a family historian and a bit of a packrat, I have erred on the side of caution and probably saved too many spelling quizzes, Mickey Mouse keychains and Christmas cards from friends.  But I can’t help but think of my sons and future generations–I can’t help but do my best to assist them in their potential, theoretical quest to know me and my family and what it was like to live in these times.

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13 Responses to Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

  1. mirroredImages says:

    Not sure what that aquamarine box is up there but i’m pretty sure i made it… we don’t have to keep that. And i’m coming home soon to help you part with some of this priceless crap. I mean, these precious artifacts…

    • ArborFam says:

      Most of it is truly priceless (in the sense of having no price/value). Too bad it will all be packed and sealed before you get home. You’ll get to see it when it gets to Florida!

  2. pokedpotato says:

    I would keep as much as possible. Zach would toss it all. Good luck making your way through it all 🙂

  3. Mike Mason says:

    this is not that hard…take a picture of it and chuck it. Just make sure your pictures are backed up in some way. Done! 🙂

    • ArborFam says:

      Mike Mason, you have no soul. A picture of the id tag my newborn son wore on his arm in the hospital during the first hours of his life is in no way the same as the tag itself. To see the size of it, feel the texture of it and know it was one of the first things to rub against his skin, to see my name on it and know that I looked at that very handwriting 12 years ago and gulped and realized I was a father–there is no picture that can carry such emotion.

      Pictures are just shadows of realities; images meant to point us to the realities.

      It’s just all about figuring out what holds the most powerful memories and then finding a place to store it all.

      And speaking of pictures versus reality–seeing pictures of you on Facebook is not the same as sipping coffee together and speaking Greek to each other. So make sure you come visit us sometime soon.

  4. bronxboy55 says:

    I don’t envy the task, Kevin. In fact, I’m facing it myself. There are crates here filled with stuff — things that can’t be categorized and have no logical place in the house, yet are too important to throw away or sell. I’ve heard of people who rent storage units just so they can de-clutter the house without actually getting rid of anything. I don’t think I’d ever be that attached.

    • ArborFam says:

      Not only have I heard of people who rent storage units just to hold extra stuff, I have a twelve-year-old who wants us to do the same. I was also told when I rented my “temporary” storage units here in Florida that it was very normal to hang on to a unit and use it as “overflow.”

      There are so many things in my life I want to overflow…material stuff is not one of them.

      Good luck with your task!

  5. Just a few weeks to go, huh? 🙂 Best of luck with the move! It sounds like you have a lot of happy memories to sort through. I am a very sentimental person, but at the same time, I like things neat and organized. So I struggle a lot, when it comes to sorting through things from the past. Fortunately, I’ve moved a lot. And with each move, I’ve gone through all my belongings so that what remains now are the things truly important to me. I heard a quote once that said, “you don’t want the extraordinary to become the ordinary.” And what it means to me is that if I save every little thing (which would be fun, of course) it takes away from the pieces that truly tell my family’s story.

    But whatever you decide, it will be the right decision, as your past is your own story to tell. I wish you and your family many happy years as you make the transition to your new home!

    • ArborFam says:

      Thank you, Melissa. The first half of the move/purge is done. I went through everything and got it into a storage unit (well, two actually) here in Florida. The trick will be being diligent enough to purge and sort some more when we actually move into a home. But that is still in the future and remains to be seen.

  6. susielindau says:

    I can’t even imagine. I live in Colorado and have seen how many have had less than 30 minutes to grab all of the possessions that will fit into a car.
    I would really like to pare down…Good luck to you!

    • ArborFam says:

      Moving to Florida and staying (albeit temporarily) on an island along the coast has reminded me how important it is to be mobile and to hold on to stuff loosely. It’s only a matter of time (hopefully a lot of time in our case) before a hurricane comes smashing through our area and we have to decide what to grab as we run.

      I’ve watched tragedies like hurricanes, fires and tornadoes destroy peoples’ lives from a distance, but never had to suffer it up close.

      I hope you are safe from the fires and able to rest peacefully. Thanks for your comment!

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