Poor Biff’s Almanac — (No) Thanks For the Memories

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

In last night’s post, I went on a bit about my attempts to start going through the strata in my office and throwing out things that I no longer use or need or want.  The first strata is always the easiest.  It mostly consists of dust, used staples, and slips of paper on which are written fragments of phone numbers.  It doesn’t cause me much heartburn to throw out that sort of thing.

But then it gets harder.

Tonight I continued the progress I made last night, but this time I had to actually pull boxes out of closets and open them up to see what is in them.  Pandora had nothing on me!  She was a rank amateur.  If she had opened up any of MY boxes, she would have said she wanted to go back to her condo and open up her own damn boxes.  At least they only contained death, sickness, pestilence, telemarketers, and extended warranties.

The things I was pulling out of MY boxes put me squarely in a quandary.  It’s easy enough to throw away an old collar stay for a Geoffrey Beene shirt I haven’t owned since the 1980s.  It is quite another thing to pull out a medal I’d won in high school for getting first chair in a multi-state band competition.  Can I throw that out?  It was a momentous moment in my life.  And yet, I haven’t thought of it in probably 25 or 30 years.  So how important was it really?

And there was the medal I got for hiking 14 miles through the Shiloh military park when I was in Boy Scouts at around the age of 11.  And the key to my first car (a 1969 Mustang that was already long in the tooth when I acquired it in high school … and which has probably long since been recycled into bits of refrigerators and iPads).  The guitar pick with the Peavey logo on it that came with the Peavey electric guitar I bought with my own money in high school.   The ticket stub to the Rush concert my older brother took me to when I was around 18.  The boarding pass for the plane that took me to London for a summer study-abroad program I participated in when I was a sophomore in college.

How will I ever get my life simplified if, every time I pull a bit of detritus out of a box, I stand there, motionless, for half an hour, my hand poised over the trash can, debating with myself whether I should toss it or not?

Do I need any of these things?   Absolutely not.

Do they serve any useful purpose whatsoever?   No.

Does it make me happy knowing I have them tucked away?  Not particularly.

So why is it so hard to toss them in the trash?

It’s like throwing away little pieces of myself.


    • Thanks, Dave! Yeah, I had forgotten about all those things until I started going through them. At least most of them are small and don’t take up much room. I’ll probably just conglomerate all of them into a single bin and put it away in a closet somewhere. It least it will be out of the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have done the “take a picture and then get rid of it” approach for certain things, and I’ve never missed them. As you’re aware, I’m trying to do the same thing. I think part of the keeping is perhaps because we don’t think we’ll remember without them, and part of it just may be (thinking ego here) that we need to somehow be able to prove to people that we did something important at some time in our lives.

    I always think back to a long-ago visit to my parents’ house, when my mother pulled (out of nowhere) my standardized test scores from high school. This was probably ten years ago, I think, so I was just past 40, and she still had these in her dining room drawers. She showed them to my kids, who got a kick out of the fact that I had paper proof of my former, pre-children intelligence. But then she grabbed them back from me and said, “Give them back so I can put them away. I know if I send them home with you, you’ll only throw them in the garbage.” Well . . . yes. I would have. My high school scores were of no interest to anyone—not even me—and no one else was going to ever see them, all tucked away in that drawer where they’d been for the better part of 25 years. And they were still there when she died a couple years ago and I cleaned out her house.

    Now, as I sort and toss, I try to keep in mind what my children would actually think is important to keep. Do they want my “Top Ten” academic award from ninth grade? Does the collar and license tags from my childhood dog mean anything to them? Doubtful on all counts. My goal is to not have my kids someday going through the things I thought were important, and saying to each other, “Do you want this? I don’t,” and tossing it all.

    And now, dear Biff, you’ve given me my next blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of … that someday someone is going to have to go through all of my junk … only to realize it’s all junk. Whatever sentimental value it has to me won’t get passed on to anyone else. You can’t transfer memories to other people very well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve nailed it right there. You can’t transfer the memories. What means a lot to us may not mean a single thing to our children unless they have a specific memory also associated with that item. I’ve tried to keep that in mind and not take it as a personal affront that they don’t want things that are meaningful to only me.

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  2. I have boxes of that stuff. They are memories that will serve you well at some point. The mystery is that you don’t know why or when but you will be delighted someday to open that box and see one of those memory landmarks

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s very true, Billy Mac! I will keep the things that trigger good memories and that don’t take up too much space. Hopefully, I’ll get to share them with a grandchild or someone someday.


  3. I think your “little pieces of myself” comment’s exactly right. I’ve solved the problem partially by keeping tokens of some things, or examples: one or two first grade valentines rather than forty-six; a few pieces of my mother’s jewelry rather than her whole collection.

    What I’ve found is that one object often is as useful as a dozen, when it comes to evoking memory. Every year, I discard a few more things, and it’s always interesting to see what goes and what stays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great idea! I will definitely put that to use. Another “trick” I’m using for paper ephemera is to scan it into a PDF or JPG, or even just take a picture of it with a digital camera. Then I have it on my hard disk and can throw the paper itself away.

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