I read a recent post by AK that flew right in the face of a hobby I’ve been cultivating. It’s something I’ve been doing for a little while and is really only one facet of the other side of the Letting Go story. The hobby (and obsession for some) is “archival”.
First, I’m no stranger to purges and I feel the same satisfaction from downsizing as anyone with too much stuff would. However, sometimes, regret comes back to haunt me. It’s not the loss of a blender or a stack of towels that I miss. It’s usually something less utility and more historically significant, which usually carries some emotion with it. When I say historically significant, I don’t mean like a piece of the Berlin wall, I mean something that represents a period of your life. And even though there is emotion and significance behind it, there is also a strong element of uselessness.
I ‘ve read a little on the KonMari method and internally nodded my head up until I got to the point where it was explained that we hold on to things for two main reasons: the future and the past. In the case of the future, we don’t want to get rid of something because we may have a future use for it. That’s a rational argument, but I usually tackle that by reminding myself that when I need it in the future, I can buy the latest and greatest version of what I need. (Ironically, the latest version of most things will probably be made shoddier and overall be worse in quality, so…) That kind of mindset would make older generations freak out. How wasteful!
In the case of the past, which is where my archivist neuroses kick in, you are afraid of losing a bit of your identity. The modern philosophy is to live in the present, which, expressed in outrageous terms, is hedonistic. If you disregard your past and do not plan your future, what is life? A day-to-day experience with no permanence.
And, many would agree, the past is highly important, on a personal and societal level. I’m not going to go to the levels of psychoarchivists who want to preserve absolutely everything, but I do believe that you need to have a record of your past in more than simple digital records.
I have a box in which I keep all my ephemera. I have items going back to my teenage years, which I believe are personally socially significant. One of the most useless things I have is a rubber hand with formable fingers. Yes, at the time, it was usually used to flip people off and it has literally zero value today, but it’s a part of my past and is a useful prop when sharing my life story with someone. Everybody loves props.
I have an old horoscope paper which used to be sold in little plastic tubes back in the day. I have memorabilia from past jobs – old name tags, signs, magnets. You could find some of these things in thrift shops and consignment stores and that is where the great disconnect happens. People think these things have value. They only have value to the person who acquired them. You can’t buy a memory from a store. I would never try to replace anything from my memory box from a store. Like a child’s replacement teddy bear, it’s not the same.
So back to the KonMari method. You might surmise that I would keep everything in my memory box because it gave me joy. That’s not entirely true. It rekindles a memory. And more importantly, the loss of not having those items is greater than the cost of keeping them. There is a time in a friendship where you finally feel comfortable baring yourself for another person, and that is when the memory box comes out and is shared. To not have a physical record of your personal highs and lows would be a shame. You can flash all the photos and videos on the screen that you want, but to be able to touch someone’s past is unique and special.