There’s nothing wrong with having a box full of sentimental papers.
In fact I can’t imagine not having a box with letters and notes, flyers and postcards, little bits and pieces that remind me of times, places and people past.
But I had a memento box that was due for a going through.
I lived in Japan from 1998 until 2002. I have 2 large 12×12 scrapbooks full of pictures with some tickets and flyers which help to tell the stories. But there was still this box…
I found flyers and tickets and booklets and brochures… and a silkworm cocoon… 2 JPhones… a broken Chinese watch with Maoist propaganda images on it… (thank goodness I never bought a little red book which were a dime a dozen when I visited in 1999) …and faxes and iron-on patches, and lots of unsent postcards…
I’m past the point where I imagine myself with a backpack plastered with patches showing all the places I’ve been. I never could commit to one bag anyway.
Nothing in here was a surprise to me. I have revisited this box many times over the years. But this time I went through everything carefully. I tried to think about what these things mean to me NOW, not what they once meant. Did they make me feel good or bad? (the nasty faxes weren’t helping me then or now!) Some of the papers I couldn’t even read. Japanese script is beautiful, but middle school handouts about earthquakes on cheap newsprint are neither beautiful or useful.
I wasn’t exactly ruthless. It’s been 10 years… some things had simply lost their magic. The stuff in the center of this picture went into the recycling bin and the out of focus stuff to the left got donated.
The watch went in the trash.
I bought it in a Chinese import shop in Japan.
It was broken and couldn’t be fixed.
I kept a lot of things too, but not in the box. I pulled out my scrapbooks and added flyers and tickets and brochures. Looking through them, I realized I had done this before. I must’ve gotten overwhelmed by the task and given up. The books are already very full. But I added some flyers in by tying them with string and attaching them between the relevant pages, or at the ends of the book. I glued some things to the covers and tucked other things into the few empty page protectors.
Success. The box went from completely full to almost empty.
Almost empty… I neglected to mention that I had some things from our UK trip and our 2008 and 2010 NZ trips in the box too. They were bothering me the week after I cleaned out the Japan stuff, so I pulled the box down again and continued working.
This time I scanned flyers and papers. These trips were taken during the digital age, so the pictures are online and on my hard drive and the scrapbooks are blurb books. It made more sense to scan the papers I wanted to keep.
I set aside the books that I got in the UK – guides to Saltaire, Whitby Abbey, York Minster and Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. They have a home in the bookcase with my other books. And I realized that maps have a special resonance for me. I don’t have a lot, but I’ve decided they have a special space in the bookcase too.