40 Years of Memories Decluttered

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.

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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! 

April Recap

April should have come with a warning label. At best, you could say it was an unfortunate month. At worst, I’d call it a downright disaster!

We shot out of the gate, armed with good intentions, and for a few days we were on a roll. We went to a festival, ate tacos from our favorite food truck, had a picnic, went letterboxing, and walked/hiked 31.6 miles – all within the first five days of the month. Then things went downhill fast. My niece was admitted to the hospital with a severe kidney infection. The doctor said that if she had gone just a few days longer she might have done irreparable harm. Most of that week we had the baby. She’s a wonderfully sweet 22-month-old ball of energy and we love her to pieces but she will wear you out. Needless to say, it took several down days afterwards for us to recover. Then the little one got sick too. She was in the ER twice in a 12-hour period before being diagnosed with Strep.

In the midst of all this, we celebrated Angie’s birthday. I use the term “celebrated” very loosely here. The eggplant lasagna that I made for dinner turned out to be largely inedible. I’m not sure what went wrong but I’m thinking the eggplant itself must have been bad (though it looked and felt fine to me). Our plans to go for a nice long walk were thwarted and we found ourselves at the mall instead. Note: when you try on every hiking sandal in 3 stores and still can’t find what you’re looking for, chances are very good that you don’t need hiking sandals.  And by being at the mall, we missed my mom dropping by to deliver a slice of strawberry cake from Chef’s Market, the most delicious bakery in all of Middle Tennessee. (We later went to her house to retrieve said cake.)

Despite our setbacks we managed to eek out a few small victories though.

  • We removed 112 items from our home and shed. This brings our decluttering total up to 329 item for the year.
  • We both read 3 books. You can check out my page or Angie’s page on Goodreads for more details.
  • We had 11 no-spend days again. I’m beginning to wonder if counting no-spend days is even an accurate measure of success though. When I know that we’re going to spend money, I simply try to combine all spending into that one day so the next is a no-spend day. But $50 spent in one day is still the same as $25 spent on two consecutive days. And when you’re actually working within your budget, isn’t miscellaneous spending already accounted for anyway – no matter how many days that spending is spread over?? What are your thoughts on no-spend days?
  • We made $155.30 in side-hustles, almost all of it from selling clutter on OfferUp.
  • Angie scored another month of free bagels from Panera, of which we only missed 3 days of picking up our newest obsession – Sprouted Grain Bagel Flats.
  • Our meat consumption was up just a bit but we still managed 9 entirely meatless days (64 meatless meals). This was due in large to part to rescuing 9 pounds of unopened, in-date, deli-sliced turkey and ham just as they were being tossed out (for reasons unknown).
  • We hiked 24.4 miles and walked 56.6.
  • We went on our first official camping trip of the year, during which time we completed our letterboxing goal. We found 24 boxes in Murfreesboro, Manchester, and McMinnville (TN) bringing our total to 56 for the year.

Today is the 2nd day of a brand new month and we plan on making a few changes to the way we’re tracking our progress toward our happiness goals. We also plan to make a few changes to the way we approach this whole pursuit of happiness. After reading Erin Loechner’s book Chasing Slow, I’ve come to realize that chasing anything, be it happiness, a career path, sustainable living, better relationships, or early retirement, is counterproductive. To chase is to run after and to run full tilt toward anything, no matter how noble, almost always guarantees you miss the scenery along the way. I, for one, feel like it’s time to just slow down.

How was your April? What one thing would you change to make May a better month?