Photographs and other memorabilia are hard for me to part with. My father died when I was seven so all I really have are pictures of us as a family, of him as a kid in Croatia and Italy, and of him in the Army. There are a few other things I have of his like his scouting jacket with all his patches that I now wear at my own Den meetings. Through the years (before digital photos) I always took pictures of everything that I was afraid I would forget. There was no thought that my memory would hold onto the moment or that I would see anything more than once so I needed to cement a guarantee that I would remember with pictures, memorabilia and anything else I could hold onto. This was an expensive obsession of trying to preserve time. Getting film developed and printed to find half of the photos were throw aways didn’t stop me. I had photo albums with exact dictation of every photo with fear of forgetting. I even kept the crappy photos just in case.
Fast forward to me getting married and having to pack up my room which spilled into the entire apartment. I finally had enough room for everything, my husband came with little to nothing so there was plenty of room for me. That lasted all of two years as my compulsion continued as I felt I needed to dictate my new life so when I had kids they could see every moment of our life, just what every kid wants..no? I framed pictures and hung them all over the place, I wasn’t happy with my living conditions so I wanted all these pictures to surround me on every wall. I started to purge my things with the plan of moving out, five bags of memories I was willing to get rid of. There went all the bad or duplicate photos no one wanted. I let it go!
Next was me moving out, back to Long Island I went. Packed up, how is it possible to still have so much stuff. While packing I got rid of three more bags out to the curb. As I unpacked in my new apartment I didn’t want clutter, I wanted clean lines and a clean house so I got rid of things as I unpacked. The past was to be the past, I was forging forward with a new life. Everything fit perfectly, I couldn’t even fill up the five new closets I now had! Yet in the 9 years I am living here I find myself in the same situation all over again. That fear of not remembering every moment hit me hard.
Before I had Julian (2010) I was nesting hard, I cleaned out everything. Bags and bags were donated or discarded. When I had Julian I was unable to look at photos of us in the hospital but I kept taking them and ordering them through an online service but never opened them, just put them into a huge storage container for the future. Looking at the pictures you would never know how I was feeling inside or my reasons for not being able to look at the pictures. My memory obsession paired with my postpartum made me manic and anxious every day. I thought about hiring someone to go through them, organize and put them into photo albums that I bought in preparation, I never did. It is now 6 years later I got rid of every photo album, instead I filled up decorated shoe boxes and let go of everything having to be in exact order. The last thing for me to go through was that large storage bin which I did last night. Looking at the photos, enjoying the moments and letting go of the neurotic behavior made going through them a joy. Julian had fun looking at himself through the years. I have the pictures separated in two piles – before Julian and after Julian, the old me would have to have everything in chronological order, marked on the back the exact date and into an album with a dictation. I feel so free being able to just box them up and put away for future viewing.
Am I alone with this? Are you a hoarder of memories too? Do you know how to let go and be free?