Scott Hardie | June 1, 2019
My mother recently moved into a smaller apartment and couldn't keep a lot of her things. I moved a few of the leftovers to my house that I need more time to sort through, like filing cabinets full of old financial documents. Now it's time to donate and throw away the remainders.

I'm not one to keep mementos, especially other people's things. I'm just not sentimental like that, and I'm well aware of how clutter can get out of control. I have a few small items that belonged to my father and brother and aunt and other deceased family members, things that I keep in a desk drawer or in one case on a shelf, but I can't fill my house with family heirlooms, carrying them with me for decades every time I move.

For example: This past month, people kept suggesting that I keep my father's framed college diploma on behalf of my mother, since my father was so very proud of it. But look, he's been dead for twenty-two years, the diploma is giant (3-4 feet across), I have nowhere to hang it nor do I want to see it on the walls (I don't even have my own diploma hung), and so it would sit in a cardboard box in the garage for ten years, until I move to another house, at which point it would sit in that garage for more years, and so on, until finally I die and someone else has to decide what to do with it. What's the point? I'm sincerely happy for my father that he earned a difficult degree five decades ago, but the diploma now is just a thing, and keeping things around has a cost.

Am I wrong? I ask because the few people with whom I've discussed this seem to think so. There's a box of old family photos of extended-family relatives that I've never heard of, and my parents' diplomas and awards, and a few knickknacks that my mother was fond of that mean almost nothing to me. Most people react mildly negatively when I mention that I'm letting this stuff go to the dumpster. Should I really keep these things forever? Is that what family members are really supposed to do? I don't have kids, but if I did, I wouldn't want to burden them with carrying around my stuff for the rest of their lives.

For reference, here is the current state of my home office. The filing cabinets and things on top of them just came over from mother's apartment a couple of weeks ago. The rest of the boxes and plastic bins are full of stuff from the last house that I still haven't had time to sort through since we quickly moved two years ago. Much of it deserves to be thrown away, but I won't know what until I have enough free time to go through it all. I don't have anywhere else in the house to store this stuff, so it just sits in my office, collecting dust and hogging space. In light of that, should I really bring home more boxes of more stuff that I don't want?

Lori Lancaster | June 18, 2019
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Scott Hardie | June 18, 2019
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