As I may or may not have mentioned previously, I’m a bit messy when it comes to my personal things. I have a rather large, unwieldy amount of clutter.
But since I wrote this post back in October – and spurred by my brother who moved out this fall (in a fashion similar to a squatter who’s been evicted) – I’ve been fighting a slow, protracted, passive-agreessive War on Clutter.
Amid the days where I alternate between lazily staring at my junk and impulsively chucking stuff before the urge passes, I’ve set up a couple organizational projects for myself.
One has been putting photos I developed years ago (by which, I mean as far back as 1996), into albums. A lot of them now have homes, but it’s still a work in progress.
The other has been sifting through old letters and post cards. I’ve been procrastinating about dealing with this because:
(1) the number of letters I’ve kept over the years is HUGE – good grief! I truly had NO IDEA until I started pulling them out from drawers and out from underneath piles of other junk I have to deal with. (No, seriously – today I found a birthday card I got from my dad when I was FOURTEEN.)
(2) I’ve been having an inner struggle over the type of karma I’ll create for myself if I throw out the letters and cards people have taken the time to write me. (And part of that is also emotional attachment.)
I recently informally canvassed some of my friends on Facebook for advice and suggestions.
Some said, get rid of it all. Others – who’ve kept every single letter and card given to them, and have only recently purged a bit of their own collections – said to find containers to keep them in, if I didn’t really want to get rid of them.
Other friends – who are quite resourceful and crafty – suggested reusing/recycling them in different ways, such as making little gift boxes.
So as a compromise to what I’ve been advised, I’ve started re-reading cards and letters I’ve gotten over the years and casting final judgement after.
I’ve tried to keep my current methodology very simple:
Postcards and letters from abroad: For now, I keep. No question. What I do with them could be a future project.
Cards: Hand-made ones, I definitely keep. Ones that don’t have anything more than a generic “To/from/merry Christmas/happy birthday” greeting, get chucked.
Letters: if it doesn’t elicit a reaction or evoke a memory, OR if I no longer keep in contact with the letter’s author, I re-read it, and out it goes.
So far, it’s been helping me to deal with old letters and cards with minimal guilt.
When I started a few nights ago, I came across a bunch of letters my mom wrote me when I first went away to school. I found one and started reading part of it to her. She actually said, “I WROTE that?” The next thing I know, I went through letter after letter, reading them aloud. It was great.
It also took me by surprise when my mom admitted to me that, after getting me settled in my new residence room and leaving the building to make the five-hour return trip home, my mom sat on the front steps of the residence and actually bawled.
All these years, I’ve never thought of my mom as a crier. I can probably count on one hand – maybe three fingers – the number of times I can recall seeing her cry.
But it gave me a new appreciation for what she went through as a mom letting go (sort of) of her first-born, and re-reading the letters again – with the proper context – gave me a fresh perspective.
I still have a LOT of letters to go through. I’m putting off dealing with the piles of letters from friends who constantly wrote me letters and notes.
But at least in this way I can – if only briefly – re-live the memories in those letters before deciding to keep them … or finally let them go.