I have reached a breaking point and could use some wisdom.
I recently read the average household has 300,000 items. Well, I have three households and I’m overwhelmed with belongings and treasures. My mom was a saver, her mom was a saver, her aunts were savers.
I have “inherited” both my parents’ things as well as my grandmother’s things. (My mom was an only child.) My mom moved into a senior living house 4 years ago. Since then, she’s moved three times. Each time, a little more has come home with me and now my house is stuffed.
Help me. What do I keep, how do I keep it, and what do I toss – as there is “heart” in some of these things?
Here’s some “beautiful and special things” I’ve inherited:
- Old glasses from my grandparents.
- 300 recipes, either handwritten or clipped from newspapers or magazines.
- 20 old church recipe books from churches and ladies’ auxiliaries.
- Three sets of China and silverware.
- Costume jewelry.
- Dad’s old blueprints of a house he designed when he was a student at Stout State in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
- 2 recipe ledger-like books. Both handwritten from 1919. One from my grandma, Alma, and another from her sister, my great aunt Inga. These two sisters each kept recipe books in beautiful leather ledgers, alphabetized A through Z. Some of the pages are marked at the top where they have tried each other’s recipes and commented on whether they liked it. All written in beautiful script and in fountain pen ink.
- Sympathy cards from 1952 to my grandma from the loss of her husband.
- Sympathy cards from friends to my grandma over the loss of her sisters, Gena and Inga, who died in 1960.
- Sympathy cards to my mom after my father died in 2001.
- Lists of food donations to our family when Dad died.
- Christmas cards to my grandma, 1950s and on.
- baby congrat cards, to my grandparents (1935) and to my parents (’58-’62)
- wedding invitations, 1950s and on
- shower invitations, some from the early ’60s and earlier
- “In Remembrance” books, from both my mom and my dad’s side
- anniversary cards from my parents to each other (they were married over 40 years)
- birth announcements
- church bulletins of memorials given on behalf of ancestors
- Ten old hymnals (1918 and on) from various Lutheran churches that my grandma and her sisters attended – some are a blend of Norwegian and English due to congregants transitioning to America from “the old country”
- baby cards to my parents for each of their three kids
- Hundreds of holiday cards
- Cards from little cousins to one another, circa ’40s-’60s
- Letters my parents wrote to each other from 1953 to 1957 before they were married
- newspaper clippings of obituaries from unknown-to-me family members
- old tax, Social Security, bank, and life insurance statements from the 1940s and on
- baptism certificates, confirmation certificates
- old Bibles from the last two centuries some in old Norwegian and German gothic-like script. (A friend mom was visiting from Norway. She could not read it.)
- old binders of my dad and mom’s college lectures and handouts
- my parents’ school yearbooks
- Mom’s school report cards from elementary through high school. (1940-1953)
- Mom’s fifty photo albums.
- Thousands of loose pictures
- Thousands of negatives
I could continue on and on and on.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am grateful to be able to see and read a lot of the memorabilia I am going through, but I cannot save all of these things and other family members do not want these things. I need to make decisions on what to save and what to toss.
They are all treasures. Some of the sympathy cards have notes in them, saying what a wonderful person Inga was. I will keep a few of these.
But when I say I have ten full huge plastic bins filled with beautiful and special treasures, I am saying, “Help me. I don’t know what to do and where to start.”
Have any of you been through this daunting task of sorting through it all? How did you do it? Please advise.
Part of my struggle is this: These belongings belonged to people. All of these people mattered. They existed. They were here for God-ordained reasons. So, to throw away Mom’s 1935 baby shoes, knowing my grandma’s first child was stillborn and she waited seven long years to have my mom, seems mean to do.
I feel like, in tossing remnants, that I am saying to my ancestors, “You are insignificant. It doesn’t matter that you worked at Highcroft in Wayzata at the great Heffelfinger estate.
That the Bible you took with you as you left Kvikne, Norway and crossed the Atlantic in the 1880s, bears no significance to me because I can’t read it, let alone Norwegians living now can’t read it, even though its words likely helped you transition to your new life in Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
So, friends, calling on your help.
Give me some ideas!