Sunday, January 30, 2011

When to be a Keeper and When to be a Thrower-Outer

Tonight I spent time going through a shopping bag full of papers that belonged to my grandmother who passed away last Fall. My Aunt and Mom were helping my grandfather out, going through and cleaning up the house after her passing, and this was a bag of papers that were related to genealogy, so that meant they got set aside for me to have (Thanks Mom and Aunt Becky!!!)

So after the busy holidays and nose surgery and work and all that I finally had a moment to sit and review what was in the bag.

Firstly, there was a super awesome blue ribbon First Prize of a stack of photo negatives from the 1950's, each sleeve carefully labeled in my grandmother's handwriting. Joy!

There were a lot of large manila envelopes that my grandmother had re-used to store notes she had kept when doing genealogy. For several years in the 1990's and early 2000s my grandmother had done a lot with genealogy, she and I kind of got the bug together. So now I have lots of the original scraps of paper that I can tell she was on the phone with a sibling asking questions and was taking notes; there are lists of questions that she was passing around the family trying to track down answers. As I look at these notes now I have confirmation for some of the things I've found out recently just based on what questions she knew to ask her relatives. So I will have to carefully review each scrap of paper.

And there were also what seemed to be drafts of letters she wrote to family members. I guess she would write up a letter and then re-write the final and actually mail that. But it seems that she kept some of her drafts. I have to admit this seems so alien to me! All that writing seems like such a chore!!! But that is only because now nobody writes anymore, it's all typing and texting.

The other week at work I was participating in formal testing of software. This required a printed-out script of each step I had to perform in the software. And I was supposed to write exactly what happened in the system as I did each step. I was horrified! I looked at my co-worker and was like, you want me to "WRITE"??? With a PEN???? And these scripts were like 26 and 19 pages long! AND I was supposed to sign and date each page! I threw out insults about living in the 1500's and weren't we supposed to be a technology company and all that, but they just ignored me. I did it, but I did it grumpily and with numerous complaints of how carpel tunnel syndrome was kicking in. :-)

But anyway, I'm glad my grandmother kept those drafts because now I know what family members she was in contact with as she was doing her research back in the 90s.

And lastly, there were copies of genealogy reports I had sent her from my research, there were cut-outs of pictures from magazines that she probably meant to use for collages (she enjoyed creating collages of pictures from magazines), and there were newspaper clippings of how to get stains out of clothes and things like that.

It's this last batch of info that I'm wondering about. I look at it, and really, it's not stuff worth keeping. But I have a hard time thinking that because it was important enough for my grandmother to keep and tuck away. I mean, especially the old reports I sent her - if she didn't write anything on it, then it's so old and out-of-date, there is absolutely no reason to keep it.

So I need some encouragement here people - tell me it's okay to throw stuff out that I know, I KNOW, is not worth keeping. After all, if I were gone, would I want some relative to keep some stupid recipe I cut out of a magazine that I meant to make, but never did, but kept because the picture of the food was just so great looking? Of course not! Throw it out!

I guess I've talked myself into it, but I'm not going to do it tonight, I'll throw the useless stuff out the next time I get into that bag. For now it can all stay together.


  1. Yep, 'tis okay to throw away stuff that you KNOW is not worth keeping!! You simply CAN'T keep EVERYTHING. Just make sure you go through everything in each box. Ya never know when a hidden gem might show up!!

  2. I'll vote with Becky. It's easier to take care of the rest of the stuff properly if it's not lumped in with too much of this type of stuff. If you believe that these items might say something about your grandmother, you could take 4 or 5 of them and make a scrapbook page.

  3. It is so hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I know I'm in the same boat. My Mom wrote in notebooks, cards, envelopes, on paper plates or anything she had within reach! Amid everything we keep finding snipets of information that fits into the genealogy puzzle. We have to read everything and decide if it's worth keeping! Good Luck :)

  4. Thanks everyone! I appreciate the encouragement!

  5. Look at it once Leah and pitch it if you cannot see any use for it. I completely understand the difficulty. I'm the woman who couldn't through away my mother's used lipsticks for 3 or 4 years (and no, I didn't use them). But you will find the notes most confusing 4 or 5 years from now and find yourself reconfirming information you already have examined.

    As to the drafts she kept of letters - think how often you refer back to something you wrote in an email when reading a response. Many, many people in those long ago days before carbon paper, typewriters and computers kept copies of letters they sent. It might be weeks before they would receive a reply. Having a copy of their letter was the best way to track the correspondence.

  6. I completely understand what you are going through. Oh boy do I ever! You have permission to throw things out that are completely useless! Now don't you feel better?

    PS You won the genealogy lottery with your "inheritance". Enjoy!

  7. Yes, Sweetie, I agree...throw it out. I think if you keep this stuff it will just confuse things later as was mentioned above. You have to draw the line somewhere. Mommy

  8. If you need encouragement, just go to YouTube and type in "hoarders." I know how hard it is to separate artificial attachments to something from actual attachments.

  9. I'm coming in late on this one but I'm with Greta on the last part of her response. Some of these papers, the recipes, esp., say something about your grandmother. You could do a great blog post by making the recipe, photographing the result, and posting both the photo and the magazine page. (Can you tell I'm a saver?)

    Really, if you think it is of absolutely no importance or ever will be, the best thing to do is probably pitch it.

    What a blessing to you that your grandmother so carefully saved the negatives and wrote information about them, and that she saved all the genealogy information!