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The High Cost of Holding on to the Past

Memory Trunk

Talking to a friend on the phone this past weekend, I mentioned to her that I am in the process of shipping the things I took from my father’s apartment in Winnipeg to Vancouver. Since I am not working full-time, moving company costs are going to take a chunk out of my savings. She asked me why? The question took me by surprise – the answer seemed obvious to me; I wanted to keep these mementos of my father. Before I really had a chance to formulate an answer, my friend S. explained that she was consciously de-cluttering her living space and thinking twice about the types of things she added to it.  We spent some time discussing whether or not you needed the actual item in order to remind yourself of the significance of that person or specific event.

I was intrigued by the idea that I could be holding on to things physically in the same way I held on to emotions and other pieces of emotional baggage. I conducted a little experiment. I took my memory box, a small decorative rattan trunk I bought several years ago for the express purpose of storing memorabilia, and opened it up. It was full to the brim and contained, inter alia, three plastic bags, seven ribbons, two wine labels and eight corks. The memory trunk also housed a bunch of pictures; copious ticket stubs for both theatre productions and movies; my baby shoes; a Brownie project I did on “Brownies in Japan;” two Brownie booklets; and seven obituaries, three of which were duplicates.

The ribbons were the first to go; I figured if I couldn’t remember the packages and gift givers they were supposed to represent, then they didn’t deserve to stay. Ditto for the plastic bags, even though I could remember each one’s significance. I’m sure S. will be proud of me – I got rid of the Brownie stuff, the ticket stubs and numerous plastic figurines without hesitation or second guessing. The papers I did decide keep, I filed away into their appropriate places and the pictures were tucked into a photo album. The memory box is much lighter and consequently by some strange alchemy, so am I.

After my conversation with S., it occurred to me that my home is like time capsule – from books to ornaments to furniture pieces, almost every item has some noteworthy connection or special sentiment attached to it. Yes, I still want the items slated to arrive from Winnipeg, but there has been a sea change. I am now committed to rethinking what I really need to keep and what I can let go of.

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