Recently Honey and I have been decluttering the basement in preparation for finishing it as another living space at some point in the future.  We’ve made great strides with getting rid of all the stuff we just don’t need anymore.  Something tells me that if we haven’t unpacked the box in the almost 3 years we’ve lived in our house, we’re not going to.  But, there are still boxes full of memories that seem to have no place.

We have purged college textbooks and notes, old bedding, pots and pans, toys the girls don’t want or need, books we’re never going to re-read.  I took a huge pile of stuff to Goodwill, there’s a huge box of books waiting to be donated to the library book sale, and Honey took a car full of cardboard (plus an old TV and DVD player) to the transfer station.  Getting rid of all that stuff and organizing the stuff we do have has made me feel lighter.  There was all that baggage of years past weighing me down on the floor beneath my feet.  That is except for this pile.


Photo credit C. Fuss

When my grandmother died two years ago I, along with my uncle, was tasked with cleaning out her apartment.  We did the same thing to her place that we recently did with our basement, purged all but the necessary items.  I was the family member with the biggest house and so I was given the job of housing all the things that were left to other people until they could retrieve them.  Most of that stuff is gone, but what remains is that pile on the left.

What do you do with your family history?

Likewise, when my husband’s grandfather died he, his sister, and aunt readied the house for sale and emptied it of its contents, which got dispersed among family.  Later, his aunt brought a few things over for Honey she thought he might like.  The burden of going through a loved one’s belongings amidst the sting of fresh grief was too much, and so the items were relegated to the basement.  “For later”.  That’s the pile on the right.  Also not pictured is the painting easel my stepfather gave me that was his mother’s.  My step-grandmother was a prolific amateur painter.  We have one of her paintings hanging in our dining room.

What do you do with this stuff of memory?

Contained in those boxes are family photos, albums, my grandfather in-law’s high school diploma, the program from my father’s funeral. The people in those boxes are mostly gone now, or so far removed from the stories they project that it’s like they never happened. Throwing this stuff out just seems wrong.  Leaving these items in a corner in the basement seems…wrong-er.  But what do you do with it?  How do you successfully handle the task of family historian?  Where do you put it to give it the honor it truly deserves without dredging up feelings you’ve so carefully boxed up with a pretty little bow?

We don’t have an answer.  Honey and I agreed the boxes needed to stay there.  “For now”. Neither one of us is ready to tackle figuring out what to do with them.  I’m not sure we ever will be. And I’m not sure I’m okay with that.  But what’s the right thing to do?