A few years ago John Ortberg wrote a book titled When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box. The title is an obvious reference to the idea that when we die we don’t get to take anything with us; but there is much more to his book than the title. Right now though, I’m fixating on the title, particularly as we deal with all of D’s Mom’s stuff following her move to assisted living. The box isn’t BIG enough!
I’ve spoken a few times in this blog about boxes; thinking outside of them, putting stuff in them, sorting through old ones, well you catch my drift. Anyway, D and I hauled a large assortment of boxes out of her Mom’s place last weekend, most filled with cherished photographs and old scrapbooks, not to mention things like seventy year old transcripts and grandparents’ birth, baptism, confirmation, and death certificates, deeds, mortgages, D’s Dad’s photography studies and Army Air Force memorabilia. It was enough to fill the back of my SUV!
Because I’m a sentimental old packrat we already have a ton of this kind of stuff in our house and now we’re bringing over another ton to rummage through while we’re getting the condo ready for its next tenant. I’m thinking, “How can I possibly sort through all of this and decide what to keep and what to pitch?” It all has meaning for someone, but in what way and for whom?
There is a wealth of advice on the ‘net about sorting out and shrinking down accumulations of stuff, and organizing important papers that you should keep; but this stuff is a little different. It’s a huge archive of historical information and documents which have little or no legal or financial significance once wills have been discharged and real estate and investments distributed to their new owners.
Since I’m a bit of a genealogy nut I decided to try looking at this whole process from that perspective. And you know it actually started to get a little easier. Here’s my approach.
First I ask myself what’s important about what I’m handling. Is it relevant to a significant event in or a characteristic of the life of the person it represents; i.e., me or another family member? Would it help in telling that person’s life story? If not, it can go. If so, is it a duplicate or a lower quality version of something else? Then it can go. If not, is it the object or the information that’s relevant? If it’s the information then it can be transcribed (scanned, copied, etc.) to standardized digital formats and stored on CD or DVD and the original object can go. If it is the information and the object together, for example, an heirloom and its associated written lineage, then it’s a candidate, once properly protected and preserved, for display or retention in the associated memory box. (See, I did get back around to boxes, eventually.)
Having completed this process I’ll be left with a small (I hope) box of assorted artifacts meaningful to anyone interested in the family’s history, and digital collections of any documents, photographs, videos and audio recordings that with today’s optical storage technology (CDs and DVDs) will fit in a shoebox inside that same memory box. I suppose if there is a lot of audio and video the number of CDs and DVDs could be significant. At any rate, I’ll have enough relevant material to write a biography about each family member or family unit that can then be attached to our digital family tree. Oops, I think I just appointed myself family historian.
Seems like a good place to try this approach is with D’s family’s stuff since she’s an only child and her Dad was an only too. Plus right now most of that stuff is together in one place. Unfortunately that one place is our home; the rear entry, the living room, my office, the family room, our bedroom, the basement…hmm.
Well, please feel free to weigh in on the idea, and give it a try if you think it might work for you.
Meanwhile, I’ll be testing the theory…Pops