I know, and you know, it doesn't make any sense to feel guilty about throwing away a 60-year-old plastic wedding topper coated with icing from a long-gone wedding cake. But, I do. Feel guilty.
So, when I heard of a book titled, Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash, by professional organizer and senior move specialist Vickie Dellaquila, I thought it must be written for someone like me who needs a self-help group for estate excavations.
Downsizing and organizing a personal estate has been on my mind a lot lately as my sister and I make decisions about our aunt's personal property, what to save, what to toss, what to give away. It's an exhausting experience and every "workday" leaves us feeling physically and emotionally drained.
Anyone who has helped a parent downsize their possessions or clear out a family home for an estate sale might recognize the triad of sadness, guilt, and frustration. I stop and think about every matchbook, every ticket stub; my sister calmly drops the stuff into the trash. What looks to me like a story hidden inside stack of receipts (Now, why did she save these? What did she buy? Was this something special?), my sister sees as "Trash."
And what about things that were clearly not meant to be found? Better those had been tossed away many years ago.
Dellaquila works with people in all stages of life, but her work with seniors downsizing their belongings offers practical tips for anyone dealing with an estate or looking to pare down their possessions and simplify their life.
Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move is written workbook style with personal anecdotes and advice for all phases of downsizing from the initial decision to relocate, to organizing the move, and then to getting settled in a new home.
She explains how to find and work with a senior move manager, as well as what to expect from the relationship. Dellaquila also offers practical solutions for clearing away unwanted possessions and personal reflections on what has (and hasn't) worked for many of her clients. Her positive approach and nonjudgmental attitude make this workbook a good coaching tool for anyone seeking help in downsizing.
While the book is directed at for seniors (and adult children) considering this change, the author also shares ideas useful for anyone caring for family memorabilia --
"Some people need to organize the accumulation of their lives before they can decide what to keep or give away."
This seems to be especially true for family photos, letters and documents. When these family memorabilia is organized it becomes more valuable; photos can be digitized for a slideshow, letters can be passed on as a collection or returned to the sender with a note, "Please take no offense, as I am lightening my load all around. Hold onto them if you like, read them, and let them go if you like."
"If you can't bear to part with a 40-year old high school letter sweater or wedding gown, cut out a swatch of it and frame it with articles about the football game or the wedding invitation."
"Toss the everyday tableware and start using the 'good stuff'…"
For genealogists and family historians, the photos, letters, and documents are only a part of our ancestor's personal possessions. Before we find ourselves with boxes of family history we will be called to make decisions about the bits and pieces of someone else's life. Dellaquila's book is a good reminder that we can make things easier for our descendants by making those decisions ourselves about our own possessions.
Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move by Vickie Dellaquila. Mountain Publishing, 2007. 155pp. Available from www.OrganizationRules.com.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book.