Let’s Discuss: Memorabilia

file000162092220So I read this post by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love fame) that suggests– encourages– getting rid of old photographs and journals that create emotional weight. I am just coming off the emotionally freeing act of accepting I will never sew or scrap book and therefore gave all those materials away. The burden of “someday” is over!!! woohoo!!!

But now I am thinking about these old photos, letters, and journals and wondering about this shocking idea of throwing them out. There seems to be no thrift store drop offs for emotional baggage is there? No reuse or recycle even– just shred and burn.  Reduce would be good.


Ah, so many metaphors, so little time.

But what about it? I don’t know about this. I am fascinated. I am repulsed. Can I do it? Should I? Dare I? But what if…What?

I don’t know.

Tell me. How do you decide what to keep? Why throw it away? Why keep it? Give your thoughts on this in the comments.

Here is the post:
Dear Ones –
A friend of this page asked me to re-post this essay that I put on here last year — in honor of spring cleaning…so here it is!
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is your home a museum to grief?
About nine years ago, a dear friend called me one morning in a state of joy, to inform me that she had spent all night throwing out old letters, photographs and diaries. She sounded so free and light, it was amazing.
My jaw dropped.
Letters and photographs and diaries???!!! Who throws out letters and photographs? That’s the stuff you’re supposed to run back into the flaming house to rescue during a fire, right?
But she had thrown away several garbage bags of it, she said. Because many of those letters and photos and journals, it emerged in the conversation, were relics of her sad old failed relationships, or documents of bad times. She had been holding onto them the way we often do — as some sort of dutiful recording of her complete emotional history — but then she said, “I don’t want my home to become a museum to grief.”
The historian in me balked at the idea of this — you can’t throw away letters, photos and diaries!!!
But I took her words to heart. I couldn’t shake that powerful phrase: A MUSEUM TO GRIEF. I couldn’t shake the sense that she was onto something. I couldn’t forget how joyful her voice had sounded. I couldn’t stop thinking about what miseries I had stored in my attic, literally hanging over my head.
Later that week, I took a deep breath. Then I got hold of several big black garbage bags and did a MAJOR cleansing. Divorce papers. Angry letters. Tragic diaries of awful times. (YEARS of them: the repetative chronicle of my depression.) Vacation photos of friendships now severed. Love letters and gifts from men who had broken my heart. All the accumulated evidences of shame and sadness. All of it: IN THE TRASH.
What was left were only items that made me feel light and lucky and free when I saw them.
That was nine years ago. I have never missed one single piece of it since.
So I ask you — are you holding onto anything that spurs memories of shame, of abandonment, of loss, of sorrow?
I don’t mean healthy sorrow, like photos of a now deceased beloved relative or friend or pet. I don’t mean that treasured photograph that you keep in a beautiful frame on your bureau — the one that you look at every day, and think with sweet sadness, “Oh, how I miss my wonderful grandmother.”
No. You can keep that picture — and you should!
I mean items like that letter where your ex-lover explains why it’s over, and then details in excruciating precision all the reasons why you were never good enough for him, anyhow.
I’m talking about that kind of shit.
Throw it away. Trust me.
See what happens when you stop hoarding sorrow.
Don’t safeguard the relics of dark times.
Clean out your shelves (real and internal) and make space for new life.
Don’t become a museum to grief.