by Susan Caplan McCarthy
April - Paper Decluttering
What makes something special to you? Is it something that you look at once a year or when you need a pick-me-up? Is something truly special to you if you tuck it into a box that’s stored in an inaccessible corner of your attic or basement?
Only you can decide what is special to you. However, take the time to consider if you are treating something as special while showing how much that it means to you.
I’ll be addressing the topic of photos during October’s theme for A Year of Decluttering. If you find photos as you sort your papers, group them together.
Eliminate Malignant Memorabilia
Just because something reflects your past doesn’t mean that you need to keep it. If you didn’t like high school and have no contact with the people you graduated with, you don’t have to keep your yearbook. Nor do you need to keep cards, photos, or gifts that remind you of negative people and experiences in your life.
The purpose of a greeting card is to extend a greeting or sentiment. Once you read the card, it’s done its job and you’re free to discard it. You can display the card for a few days or a week, but at some point, it will become something that you won’t keep on display.
If the individual included a personalized note that is meaningful to you and that you would like to read again, you’ve identified it as more special than a card someone simply signed their name to.
A lot of people mention that they don’t know what to do with photo holiday cards; they hold onto them, treating them like a photo. If you keep these cards, keep them together. The way I see it, they are interesting because you can look back and see how kids have changed; without this continuity, it’s just a card.
Also, you aren’t obligated to keep everyone’s photo card, just your closest friends and family. If you have a relationship with the family, all the more significant; otherwise, it’s just a card.
Would you spend money on a photo album or picture frame to keep these images? That can also be a helpful way to determine its importance. And, you could always scan the image and toss the original.
If you feel obligated to keep every greeting card you’ve receive, it becomes more difficult to find those with a special message.
Create a Memory Box
You may already have a shoebox or a decorative box for memorabilia. If you have a mix of papers as well as objects (clothing, knickknacks), you may want two boxes. If these items are special to you alone, you could put a note on or in the box requesting that the items be destroyed upon your death.
If there are letters or objects that you’d like your family to consider keeping, help them better appreciate their significance to you, include a note that explains the item(s). If you have something that you’d like another family member to take, include this information.
Maybe you have your grandparents’ letters to one another while he was at war. Consider scanning the letters so you can share them with other family members. If you have something like this that you want to bequeath to your town library or historical society or a museum, talk to someone at that institution. In some cases, they will also need funds to create a display or even to properly store the items.
Create a Scrapbook or Shadowbox
Grouping items together can help show the story these keepsakes tell about your life. If you don’t scrapbook, you can ask around on social media and find out if someone you know would do this for you.
That said, don’t invest time and money in storing or presenting items that you aren’t going to look at. Sure, you went to that play or concert but is it worth trying to create a display commemorating what was simply a pleasant evening out?
Curate the Highlights
As I said, you decide what is important to you. Curating the items that are most significant to you and eliminating the so-so objects helps you to better highlight the events and people most important to you.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.