What’s a hoarder?
It’s a person who saves a lot of things that might not make sense or have value to others.
Mom, are you a hoarder?
Way to hit me with a tough question, son! If I’m being honest, I am a hoarder. Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m ready for a reality TV show, and own 50 cats, or that my home endangers my safety or that of my children, let me explain. I have a lot of papers. I have saved awards, report cards, records, certificates and letters. I have saved notes, photos and postcards. At nearly 40 years old, my personal legacy is yet to be determined, but my personal paper trail is lengthy and spans 4 metal file cabinets, 8 scrapbooks and 1 Rubbermaid storage bin.
After we relocated and downsized a few years ago, I got rid of a lot of things. (Nearly 2 storage units full.) I still grapple with what is necessary versus worthy of tossing, selling or giving away. (I have used the rusty bed springs for 2 projects so far.) What I keep, most people might not value, or consider relevant or useful. But, most of the paper I’ve saved adds valuable insight to my genealogical work.
I don’t want to start a debate about the merits of digitizing records versus hard copies for your records. When it comes to genealogy, I think you should have both. Here’s why- Digital records, photos and files are easy to manipulate and share, but can be lost with a computer crash. To me, there is a romantic connection that I have with an actual piece of paper. It’s important to have a digital back up too. I have a lot of papers that most people will never care about. Yesterday, I was glad that I am a document/ paper hoarder.
I called my old elementary school yesterday. I wanted to know if they still had a permanent record or file for me, and what information it included. As I’ve researched gifted education for my boys, I wondered if I had IQ test results in a permanent file somewhere, or teacher observations about me as a child that would help me parent my sons better. The secretary at the elementary school said there was a school district archival building that saved things for 100 years.
My hope surged as I dialed the number and left a message. While on another call, the records department left a message informing me that the district only kept records for 3 years after a student graduated or transferred. There’s no permanent record. There’s no file with report cards and teacher’s comments about Jennifer’s enthusiastic participation in class discussions. There are no copies of gap-toothed grade school grins. It’s like it never happened except for my own memories and records I’ve kept. This really bothers me, and reminds me of my personal insignificance.
I doubt the general public will care about my report cards. My progeny might not either… unless it is one more thing that ties us together or adds insight to who I am. (mostly A / B student who loved to read and was “enthusiastic” as noted by nearly every elementary teacher in the comments section.)
People save what they see value in. They keep things to remember a person, an event, or a feeling. You might not have kept your report cards or every award or paper recognition someone ever gave you, but I am sure there is at least one collection in your dwelling. After you are gone, and there is only your box of stuff, what you chose to keep has no value to others unless you share the why you’ve saved something. People need to understand its significance to you.
Genealogy Jen’s Weekly challenge– Label it! Find something in your home with genealogical significance. Photograph it. Write down what you know about the item. (If you’re feeling super motivated, start a digital file and record several items. You can transfer the information and pictures to a digital photo book service, to share as a family history holiday gift.)
Good post. I like your idea at the end, and I agree everyone should keep both records. It’s sad to hear how many people’s records have been damaged by flooding and fire, so the more we can keep, the better.
Thanks Luanne! My goal is to post on Fridays so it’s more consistent for my readers. I know I do better with my research when I have a specific goal or task to focus on, and thought it would help others as well. Thanks for the feedback!
I could really identify with you. It would help if I could just take 15 minutes a day and do one thing, but I live a busy, scattered life and long for hours to organize. Maybe I’ll take your advice and go do one right now!
Wow, I have nothing from childhood, not even many photos (maybe 4-5), let alone school reports, certificates, etc. How cool you have so much. Yes, computers can crash and hard drives will fail, but there’s many places online to share with future generations, some free (like FamilySearch). With all the back-up servers, your personal paper trail can live forever…or as long as us humans continue in the digital age!
Three or four generations down the line, if that box of “stuff” survives, someone is going to open it up and go, “Ohhhhh! Look at this! This was great-grandma’s!” You’ll be alive to them in a way that transcends time.
Talk about disappearing without a trace — A couple of years after I graduated from high school, the property was sold & repurposed. I had left most of my paper momentos with my mother, since I moved around a bit. After she died, there was nothing left of mine, due to siblings who had trashed all my records while keeping theirs in my mother’s storage boxes.
Friends & Internet cousins are my true family members now…