“The hard part about going through all the boxes and drawers is that if I open the wrong one, I find that hours pass as I go through the contents.” Wise words from one of our clients who is sorting through decades of the ephemera of life in preparation for a move to an apartment after the unexpected passing of his wife a year ago.
In the course of living, we squirrel things away. We buy boxes of holiday cards on sale and stash them for the next year. We stockpile canning jars above and beyond our jar needs. We keep periodicals with articles we might want to refer to or get creatively inspired by. When you are thinning out in preparation for a move, those boxes are fast to sort. Keep, donate, recycle–not a lot of heavy thinking in boxes of the generic stuff of everyday life.
The boxes that take time are the ones that have memory-enriched not-generic stuff. It’s not boxes of stuff you can pre-identify as memory centric, like photographs. It’s boxes and drawers hiding things that catch you unaware because you had forgotten those things were there. Things that have accumulated over the years that have associations to people, places and adventures take extra time to work your way through and sometimes require a tissue or two too. Maps and brochures from trips, clothing left from teen years in an adult child’s bureau, handwritten notes from people long since passed away, yearbooks and programs from school plays…those are the things that take time.
As move managers, we frequently spend time with our clients going through those memory-enriched boxes and drawers. One member of our team spent a July afternoon hunched in an attic with a client going through a box of accumulated personal papers–among them the draft of an introduction from a luncheon where she introduced Eleanor Roosevelt. A hot humid attic is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for our team member, it was an afternoon of stories told by our client about her life that she will never forget.
The things you find rarely have historical or financial significance to anyone outside those who were involved. But they can be nice bits of anecdotal family history for future generations. Using your phone to snap a photo is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way to do that if the actual document isn’t worth keeping. (This means you need to organize your photos digitally, but that’s another blog post for another time.)
You may have goals for the number of boxes you want to sort through in a week, but don’t judge yourself harshly if you don’t meet that goal. If you find a particularly tough drawer or box of things, give yourself permission to skip it and come back to it later. Of course, our favorite solution to keep you moving forward is to work with a move manager. Sorting through decades of ephemera alone can be lonely, but doing it with someone else is usually a much more pleasant experience. Some of our clients tell us we make it fun…and we’ll second that because we truly enjoy that part of the job.
Lest you think that move managers have an easier time with drawers and boxes full of forgotten memories, I can testify that we can be as challenged by it as the next person. I had to move a dresser, and took the opportunity to sort it out. 80% of the contents (hats, gloves, rain gear) was sorted quickly, but 20% made time stand still. Among the memories: a enlargement of my husband and son at an elementary school math night; our much missed canine’s bandana, winter collar and Halloween bow tie; a photo of a beloved friend who died of AIDS 24 years ago; half a bag of water balloons from when the kids were not yet grown up; and possibly the most emotional thing…the original pink drawer lining paper as folded by my mother at some point in the 1960s. Unexpected but welcome memories that took extra time and more tissues that I should probably admit to to handle. If only I knew a move manager…