An innocent day of clutter purging can completely fall off the rails when you hit the nostalgia box. Or boxes.
Knowing this, I dutifully avoided the four intimidating boxes of letters and nostalgia that trailed me on 5 moves in the last 8 years. Recently, though, I was inspired to action when my friend Marcy sent me an item from her own paper purge (a flyer from my college violin recital). I asked Marcy for tips so I could follow suit; here are her terrific suggestions (paraphrased, with a couple of my own suggestions in parentheses):
1. If you have pictures and letters from the same time period - and enough pictures to remind you of the story of that time of your life - keep the pictures. (Jot descriptors on the back of photos with an acid-free photo pen; you’ll be surprised by how quickly names can drift out of memory.)
2. Get rid of most ex-boy/girlfriend stuff. If you keep good journals, you’ll have sources to access the same memories. And then of course, there may be memories that you are happy to lose, so ditch those, STAT!
3. If you don’t feel a reflexive “Ohhh!” when you see an item, you probably can get rid of it.
4. You likely don’t need to keep every letter from every friend; instead, keep one or two letters per friend. (I followed this rule with the exception of letters from a couple of longtime, letter writing friends.)
5. Toss Christmas and birthday cards unless there is something really great written inside.
6. Keep items that will give your child an idea of who you were before she/he was born.
7. Keep items from relatives who have passed, or who are old enough to pass in the next 5 years.
8. Keep at least one thing from each major era in your life.
9. Following Marcy’s lead, use nostalgia that you would part with anyway as a fun reconnection point with an old friend.