One of my commitments for the summer is to clean out my closet. This is a daunting task. While I am making some progress, there is still a lot left to be done. One of the reasons it takes me so long is that I have difficulty parting with things. And my closet has lots of things housed in it, not just clothes. This includes photos. Yesterday while looking for some reel to reel tapes of our oldest daughter Tara’s young years to be digitized (which I never found) I discovered boxes of photos. I spent several hours going through them. I organized the photos for each family member. In the process, I went down memory lane, living in the past. I discovered several things in the process.
One discovery is that I have taken too many pictures through the years, and many of them were of people who are no longer in my life due to time and distance, and some, due to death. The photos of the people who have passed away were easier to deal with than those who haven’t. I kept some of the photos of loved ones who are deceased, wanting to remember them as an important part of my history. For others, I could let go of some of the photos of those who were only a part of my life for a certain time, a time which passed many years ago.
I suppose we all have people at different phases of our lives who, for various reasons, we do not carry into our future. Even so, I had difficulty parting with all of their photos. If someone else is charged with the arduous task of cleaning out these photos when I am no longer around or able to, they will have no idea who many of these people are. I did destroy some of these, but kept entirely too many. This reinforced something I have known about myself for many years. I hang on to people too long, and not just in the nonphysical sense. The photos reinforced that knowledge.
Another discovery is the importance of traditions and family. There were many photos of Thanksgivings past, an important holiday celebration in our family. Each year I put photos out of the family at Thanksgivings we have shared for the past thirty years, and the nieces and nephews especially enjoy poring over those. Those photos must remain. What I have been able to let go of is framed photos of many of the children at different stages. Those were taking up too much space. I accepted the suggestion of a decorator I had do some work in our home during the winter to clear out that clutter. Many of those are photos of family members who always enjoy going down memory lane by seeing photos of their early years. I have added those to the other family photos that can be spread out on the coffee table to be enjoyed each Thanksgiving, and not have them take up so much space on furniture surfaces. That change was a hard one to make. I still have family framed photos, just not so many.
Poring through photos of family members who are no longer family, and deciding what to do with those, was especially difficult. Photos of Tara’s dad were put away for her, as were photos of his family. I had to keep some of the photos of that family since they are still my family, and in my heart, will always be; divorce did not change that. I could not part with all the photos of friends who have died, even those who I have not seen for many years. That would feel like wiping them out of my history, and I could not do that. I was able to let go of many photos of business colleagues who due to death and other changes are no longer in my life. While memories with some of them will always remain, the photos are not necessary to keep those memories alive.
I separated many of the photos into packets for each family member. I did not want to make decisions about which photos Mike, Tara, Chatham, and Paula and family, would want to keep. I hope they will take those to their homes now, since they are theirs. But if they don’t, I am willing to box them up for them and maintain them, for them to go through, (and probably discard!) when I am no longer able to try to convince them otherwise. I just could not destroy those memories. Too many ballet recitals, school pictures, and pictures of birthdays past. But those represent our family history. Let others decide they do not need to be maintained; I could not do it.
My closet feels lighter, and so do I. Now I need to do the same with those digital photos!