Column: Aging issues: Go through your items

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Commentary by Lorene Burkhart

This is the third in a series of articles about the trauma of downsizing and making decisions about what to save and what to share. Facing a lifetime accumulation of your “treasures” is daunting but doing it while still in good health makes the process much easier.

After making the big decisions – where to move and what to take with you for furnishings, it’s time to tackle the boxes and cartons you have stored in your garage, attic, under the beds and in the cupboards. Opening them is truly a chronicle of your life and family memories. They may contain photos, printed materials and mementos from your parents and your own early years. That’s why it’s a good idea to take your time so that you can savor it.

Set up a work area where you can remove everything from the box and spread it out. Be sure to have a comfortable chair and a trash can nearby. If you have the space for a side table, you may want to make spaces for others to look at specific items after you have sorted them. It’s a great opportunity to invite your children and/or siblings over to go through the items. Be sure you have boxes or bags available for them to take their choices with them.

You may want to take some photos, prepare an inventory or even write a journal. When I was writing my memoir, I sorted through all of the family photos and rescued those that included me. If the information was available, I put a post it on the back to jot down the date taken and who else was in the picture. Then I filed them in a box (a shoe box is perfect) in chronological order, which provided a pictorial history of my life. It was very helpful for recalling events and some were used in my book. (“Accidental Pioneer, A Farm Girl’s Drive to the Finish,” available on Amazon)

This same process can be used for sorting mementos, items from scrapbooks, even old report cards. It was great fun to turn the pages of my 4-H scrapbook and recall the triumphs and the tragedies. For the report cards, I put them in chronological order and sat down with a legal pad starting with first grade and going through college (Yes, I had them all), recording the name of the school, the teacher’s name and my end-of-year grades. This is a great way to be able to scan down the list and see where you always excelled and where you had problems. You may find that how you remembered it isn’t the way it actually was. Happens all of the time!

Because I had kept some historical items belonging to my parents (over 100 years old), I offered them to the Historical Society in the town where they grew up and lived all of their lives (Vincennes). They were pleased to receive them and my brothers and I feel good about having their “keepsakes” in a safe place.

The crocheted and embroidered linens made by my Mother were offered to my nieces for them to remember their Grandmother.

All of this is a lovely march down memory lane. Each of the large photo albums from travels with my husband were enjoyed a last time, removing only the photos that pictured one or both of us, and the rest was discarded or given away. If you haven’t looked at them for years, it’s a sure bet that no one else wants to see them. It’s fun to use the “kept” photos to make a collage and frame it for your new home. The same is true for family pictures. Surrounding yourself with happy photos of times, places and people you love is comforting.

Be brave. Others have done it and survived and so can you.

Next, we’ll talk about adjusting to a new lifestyle.

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