On Memorial Day, my mom invited us over for dinner. She had gone all out – NY strip steaks smothered in sauteed Vidalia onions, baked potatoes, and a giant salad made with fresh organic veggies. I should have known then that something was up.
After dinner, she asked if I would help her with a small chore. “Sure,” I said, not knowing that this small chore would take the better part of the next 3 hours and the following Sunday morning. Mom was on a mission last week to knock out her Spring cleaning, which usually only involves cleaning windows and washing curtains. This year, though, she decided it would be a great time to declutter the attic.
Thank goodness my mom is not a hoarder! Everything in her attic can easily be accessed while standing on the ladder and consists mainly of canning jars, Christmas decor, a few boxes of her personal memories, and as I soon learned, EVERYTHING that I left behind when I moved out 26 years ago!
Together we went through 8 boxes of stuff – some hers, some mine – to rediscover a life long forgotten. In her boxes, we found homework assignments from nursing school, years of Christmas cards from former patients, and even her prom corsage from 1966. In my boxes, we found Valentines from my kindergarten classmates, paper dolls I played with when I was 9 years old, graded papers, awards, folded notes passed by friends in high school, and my senior brag book. It was indeed a day for memories.
Yesterday, I finished going through the bag of items I had brought home for “further inspection”. Among those things I found letters from my best friend, Tena. We met in 7th grade and remained friends for nearly 2 decades thereafter. Our friendship dissolved in 2006, when I moved to Colorado to “find myself”. Tena never quite came to terms with the me that I found. Sadly, she passed away 3 years ago this week. We never had the opportunity to reconcile but in reading the hopes and dreams she had for herself in those old letters and thinking about the short life she lived, I know she was happy, and that is all that matters.
In total, I decluttered 280 memory box items. The few things that I kept included a Bible my grandmother gave me, postcards from my family when I was away at summer camp, a few birthday cards and letters (also from my grandma), and my Girl Scout sash.
Is it hard to declutter things so personal? You bet! It was nearly 4 years after I declared myself a minimalist that I tackled my first memory box – a box that I’d be toting around from state to state for nearly 3 decades. The biggest difference from that decluttering to this one was that I didn’t feel the same sense of attachment to the items inside. I suppose it may be that I reconciled the difference between memories and mementos on the first go-round. Or perhaps it was just that I really had forgotten a lot of what was contained in the boxes my mom kept. It was almost like looking into time capsule of things collected from 1978 – 1991 and then trying to remember why they were so important to me at that time. In most cases, I did not remember.
It was nice to reminisce with my mom and fun to share the memories with Angie, but in the end, I knew I didn’t need to keep most of the items any longer. Some day, I plan to digitize the cards and letters and let those go as well.
On a side note: In my senior brag book, there’s a page called “Where you see yourself in 10 years” with a question about job aspirations and salary. Though it has now been 26 years since graduation, I’m pleased to say that my predictions for myself were pretty spot-on. I do indeed have my own office and I am earning between $28,000 and $50,000. Of course, that was in 1991 dollars (today’s equivalent would be between $50,000 and $89,000). Okay, so maybe I didn’t quite live up to my own expectations LOL. Good thing minimalism doesn’t require a lot of money!