Stories Instead of Stuff

It's the stories behind the stuff
we keep that matter most.

So claims Jill Gleeson in a recent Woman’s Day article entitled How I got Rid of My Parents’ Junk Without Throwing Out a Lifetime of Memories. I agree, with a twist she did not include.

Jill wrote a poignant article that speaks to most of us beyond a certain age, and perhaps to our children who will have to deal with our collected remains, sooner or later. She describes a sorting process she went through with her father to separated junk from treasure.

Still at the end of the article, it sounded like she had half a warehouse of old stuff still sitting around, waiting for her to find it a new home at some point.

Perhaps she missed a crucial point here. She seems to be talking about stories in her head, and she has made no provision for those stories to live on. Also, her future housing costs will be higher as she seeks space for tangible memories. Here’s a solution that would prevent her from needing a warehouse in the short term and allow those stories to live on to inform future generations:

Take pictures and write stories!

This is also a way to let family members share treasures without having physical custody. The stereo slide you see below is one example from my family.


It is one of a set of a dozen. This particular slide shows my father’s parents on a hill in western Oklahoma shortly after their marriage. Only one set of originals exists, but about ten years ago I scanned those originals, making digital copies that could be printed if anyone cared. My brother has the originals and lots of us have copies.

My siblings and I know the story of these slides. Our children might, but it’s less likely they’ll mean anything to later generations. That’s where Story comes in. In a  nutshell, that story begins with my grandfather’s early fascination with photography, both stereo and standard. The story threads its way down generations to several of  my grandchildren who are avid photographers today.

I’m now prompted to wrap those slides in a PDF story package about the history of photography in Ben Melton’s family.

This photography story spans generations. A picture of my mother’s favorite broach would be more specific. I might include details of how she wore it to church and how lovely it looked on her green crepe wool dress, and how thrilled I was when she let me wear it on a special date.

If you click the Stories tab on the menu bar above and select Grabbing Granny's Dishes, you can read a story with a picture of my grandmother’s ivy dishes that now live in my cabinet and the rest of the family can share via pictures. The story tells how I got them too, which makes me smile each time I lift them off the shelf and remember that event.

It’s also worth including pictures of ordinary objects like black Bakelite dial telephones or saddle oxfords. How about various cars your family drove? Your old bike? You can find these photos online to create a digital family museum archive.

Clean out your closets and attic, basement, or garage right now.  Celebrate your memories in photos and stories. Clog hard drives rather than closets and keep the memories alive as times change!


Linda Moore Kurth said...

What a great idea. Posses many family treasures I know my only child would find a burden when I pass. Doing something like this would be a wonderful gift to him.

Sharon Lippincott said...

I'm glad this idea rings your bell Linda. The additional benefit, beyond freeing him from disposal duties, is that he'll have the stories, and you'll enjoy writing them.