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The Memory Keepers.

Where do you draw the line – of what you keep and what you give away? Sometimes something makes the cut today, but not tomorrow. Sometimes something doesn’t make the cut today, and I wonder if I will regret that tomorrow.

Baby socks. Folded up piles and bundles of baby socks. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, a few months of barefoot, and then it’s back to the drawing board again. A whole year of memories in socks. Growing feet hold up growing bodies.

Baby socks make me cry. Curled, pink and skinny newborn feet turn into chubby, dirty toddler feet. And so on.

Last week we sifted through the house before we played our game of musical bedrooms. Old toys and old books that belonged to me. Old toys and old clothes that belonged to Scarlet and Des. Toddler toys were separated into four piles – trash, donation, Des, Scarlet. Clothes. Hair ties. Finger puppets. Each toy is a memory, and I’d be lying if I said I remember the origin of each one, but I get darn close. I try. I consult old blogs and photos and notes. I take the time to pinpoint the gift-givers. I take time to pinpoint the memories.

Every object brings up a memory I did not remember until I saw it. Ever have that happen? There is a person, place or thing and your memory is somehow triggered, but if it hadn’t been triggered, you would probably have spent your entire life never thinking about it again. And what of memories then? Where do they go? How much should we remember? Only the important stuff? Isn’t it all important? I can remember a lot but eventually a lot of it blurs together, I’m sad to say. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment Scarlet first took a step that kept on going. Not five or six wobbles and then falls. I cannot pinpoint the exact first word she said because it’s like she’s always been speaking. (I think it was “dada”) I didn’t keep a baby journal but I started this blog when she was nine months.

It hurts to keep too much. It hurts to throw anything away. I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I’m a memory keeper. I pick up each discarded or outgrown toy and I remember the relative or friend who lovingly picked it out for her and paid for it with potentially shaking and/or wrinkled hands. Youthful hands that never seem to have enough money passing through them? That hurts too. Extra points if the friend or relative is in any kind of physical or emotional pain, even if they weren’t when they picked out our gifts.

As if donating an old puzzle they gave my daughter four years ago will add to the aching burden on their hearts.

Where do you draw the line?

My parents kept nearly two decades worth of the 80’s and 90’s era junk of five children. They did not want to be the ones to make the calls. They did not want to be the ones to break the hearts. They left that up to us. Cassidy is on the other side of the spectrum. He’d toss it all if I’d let him. I won’t. Me – I’m somewhere in the middle. I hate clutter and junk. I hate musty mold and broken insect wings in boxes of books. The thoughts of spiders and mouse sh*t would send me over the edge. And yet, I’m a memory keeper.

I can’t keep it all. I can’t save it all. Not under his watchful eye – not sneaking little junky toys in the “save” boxes when he’s not looking – thinking of my mother or my grandmother or the mothers upon mothers before me – all preserving at least part of their children and children’s children’s objects. There is not much you can control but you can control this. And that’s how people let it get out of control. They think they are controlling their lives. As if piles upon piles of papers and crap on their beds and on their heads and falling out of kitchen cabinets and closet doors, piles up into the love and security they feel they are lacking in their lives.

I am an in-between. I am a memory keeper. If I can’t keep it in my hands, I can keep it in my heart. I can find a new way:

This is part of why I blog – so that I don’t forget what must not be forgotten.

This is part of why I take photos – so that I don’t forget what must not be forgotten.

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There are a lot of stories to tell here, but I guess I’ll let the photos tell it.

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81 Comments

  1. Beautiful pics of your family! I have one trunk that belonged to my great grandmother. It still has her original receipt in it. I have all of my super special memories in it. Sometimes I take things out and look at them. Sometimes I have to decide what stays and what goes. But it's all in there.

  2. If we had the space, I'd be like your parents and keep everything. Now that mine are older, I think it's having vicariously… they're more the keeper of their rooms and their stuff. I have a box for each of them that I tossed their projects in and I love going thru that. But that's it.. that, the blog and my ever fading memories 🙂

    1. Well the blogs..the blogs help so much. It's how I was able to get rid of so many baby clothes last week. I have photos of the kids in each and every adorable outfit.

  3. There are no pictures of me as a little girl and that's why I'm always taking pics if my daughter whether it's a special occassion or not. I write down all her milestones and keep it in a scrapbook. So, I know exactly how you feel.

  4. We live in my hubs old homestead where his mother was born so there isn't a ton of room, so, my hoarding has been toned down to only really really cool art projects but mostly I have started blogging so she could go back as an adult and go, man my Momma was really random… lol. I know how you feel though, you don't want to miss anything, it's not like you can press rewind and go back and get it… your photos are gorgeous as always!

    1. haha, random! I so wonder what my kids will think when they read my old blog posts. Probably they'll think I'm as much of a nerd as I think I am even reading posts from a year ago!

  5. This is partly why I adore giving you Malone's hand me downs. I LOVE seeing his outgrown things on another baby I love. Also, I remember when your mom gave Scarlet that heart dress and it makes me so happy that something that is so loved by her has been able to be worn for such a long time.

    1. So funny because he was wearing Malone's pajamas today! Only, he was wearing them as clothes since he wore the red moose pajamas to bed. That's how much I love them! They go well with the butter and syrup in his hair.

  6. I understand how tough it can be. I've been trying to preserve my memories with photos because if I decided to keep everything I may just turn into a hoarder as well. I do keep at least one thing from the kids childhood, for eg. I saved Madison's first pair of shoes but have given away everything else. It can be tough deciding what to keep and what to let go but you seem to be doing a great job and your photos and your blog capture those memories for you as well. Once again beautiful pics of the kids. Hope you're having a great Sunday!

    1. Happy Monday now! My mom kept my first pair of shoes! Des has been barefoot all summer and I'm sad to say I no longer have Scarlet's first pair of shoes since I donated them to a younger baby whose parents were short of money. Des isn't using shoes yet so at least I still have his first pair of shoes to have and to keep.

  7. "I'm not a hoarder by any means, but I'm a memory keeper." I love that. I have such a hard time getting rid of things. My daughter is the same way. Sometimes I'll be ready to part with something, and she'll chime in with "Do you remember when so-an-so brought that to us?" I do love passing things along to my best friend Julie for her kids. Then I see them again and it makes me smile.

    1. So awesome. Sometimes things I forget..my daughter remembers. That's one of the things I love about her being four. She tells me who gave her gifts and she's always right when I fact check!

    1. Very hard! That's what my parents went through and are still going through. They don't know what is most important to us or not, so they just kept everything for us to go through!

  8. You and I sound very similar in our roles as memory keepers. My husband is more like yours and would toss everything if it was up to him. I have a sentimental attachment to things that are associated with a special time or memory. Scraps of paper, favourite toys, certain pieces of clothing – they can difficult for me to part with. I like photos and my blog as a way to keep the memories and tell the stories.

    1. And you're just so good at it. I do feel that our styles of sentimentality (does that even exist) are similar. I read your posts and I just think, "Holy heck, yes."

  9. Incredible pictures!!!I'm not a saver – I have a plastic tub in the top of each of my boys closets – when it is full I have to get rid of some stuff!!I do wish that I would have started blogging years ago because I love the record that I'm creating through my blog – and it has gotten me to take way more pictures than I used to (now if only I could improve my camera skills!).

  10. Sounds like a lot of our husbands are the same! My husband has already started collecting baby toys and gear in a big pile in our basement so we can donate or give it away. I like being able to help someone else out with the things we don't need anymore, but there are some things I want to hang on to. I'm planning to keep all of the wonderful children's books we have, so we can pass them on to our grandchildren some day.

    1. My husband does that too! And sometimes it's stuff I still want in the "tag sale pile." Once, and only once, he sold something from my grandmother at a tag sale when we lived in SF. He is more careful now, to his credit.

  11. Stunning photos as usual! I struggle with what to keep. Each child has a "box" and I have one too (overflowing!). I started taking photos of a lot of things now but sometimes you just want to touch the memory! Of course, my blog is my means of recording the stories along with pictures. Helps solidify the memory forever:))

  12. This is precisely my struggle right now. What to keep and what to throw away. But we don't throw away anything really. Because it's all in our hearts. And maybe it's not the specific memory that so important but the love we feel when we think of the memory. That toggle between no hanging on too tight but not letting it go either. Where is that line? I'm definitely trying to find it myself…

  13. I'm so with you. I want to keep it all but then the clutter gets to me and I purge. Some things, though, are non negotiable and I'll keep forever. And yes, blogging helps me hold on too.

  14. Yes, this is why I blog as well to keep the memories….I also have way too much STUFF in my house, if you see me on Hoarders (don't judge) I never get rid of the boys' clothes because in my mind I think…what if I have another boy?? But then, when things start to get crowded I have to start cleaning house, and its tough. My hubby is just like yours, throw it ALL away. *sigh*

    1. I have a boy and a girl and I always think that if I had a third, we'd be totally set, right? Nope. I donated mostly everything. However it all comes back around. When I had my son and only had hand-me-down girl stuff, my friends gave me more bags of clothes than I ever needed.

  15. This is very familiar to me right now. We are in the middle of packing for a move, and I am coming across things I forgot about. I like throwing things out, but part of me always feels guilty. My fiance came across a voice recorder of my first son saying he loved me, over and over again. When I heard that I bawled my eyes out. He's 13 now and barely wants to sit in the same room with me. Hearing that memory makes me feel so many things.

    1. Oh, that is so sweet. 13 or not, he still loves you! That's something I could never throw away. I still have a cassette tape of my grandmother talking, and she's now ten years gone and I don't have any way to play it..I still keep it.

  16. I'm back! Was having issues with the blog and I missed all my favorite blogs while I was busy fixing it. I love the interaction between dad and kids. So adorable! You will be thankful that you put away those favorite toys so you can give them to them when they get older too.

  17. We are on the same wavelength, Tamara. I just wrote a post for later this week about writing down memories so I do not forget. I used to scrapbook, and those books are precious to me. Now my writing is my way of holding those memories close. I do need to start taking more photos though – I've really slacked as the kids have gotten older.

    1. I can't wait to see your post then! I so often think we're on the same wavelength. Except when you went to that preteen concert and I thought I wouldn't have been able to stomach it! I do believe you that one day I'll be able to do that..

  18. I am so with you, Tamara. It's so hard. You can't keep it all, but I find it so difficult to part with my kid's things…and I'm really more of a "pitch it all" kind of person in general. We were clearing out our kiddie books from Lucy's shelves and my pile for "the attic" vs giveaway grew and grew. I just have so many memories of them sitting on my lap and reading those books. It makes me teary thinking about it now. It's easier with their stuff now that they're older, but their baby stuff…I have boxes full. –Lisa

  19. I am definitely a memory keeper but mostly digitally. I hate stuff in general, and if we buy anything new, I have to toss out something old ( I think it must be because my mother is the opposite, she saves everything). However, there are a few items of the boys' clothing that I will probably keep forever and ever. I just can't part with them. Those are the memories that can't be written down or photographed. They just are, as they are.

  20. I wish I could definitely hold on to all the memories and keepsakes from my children! Right now, I have them saved in a little drawer, but it's starting to overflow already! Just think, once they start school…there will be even more keepsakes and a bigger dillema of what to keep or get rid of! As always, the babies are so adorable!

  21. I was thinking that on Saturday…I have so many drawings and clothes and stuff of the kids and I don't know what to keep or what to toss…it all means something to me, to them, no matter how small…I'm going to end up on Hoarders some day I think. And very beautifully written – and the pictures – LOVE them! 🙂

  22. Those are amazing pictures! I too am a memory keeper. Not a hoarder, but I want to keep my special treasures from life. My husband is a minimalist. I cannot tell you how much we fight about "stuff." To the point that I just want to throw it all out. The blog is a great way to store those memories! your children are precious!

  23. I'm somewhere in between and this is without amazing little ones like this clouding me judgment. I'd probably be trying to keep everything. I love all the photos and these cute little social media stars you've added on the sidebar are adorable.

    1. I was always bad, I think. Adding kids to the mix just means I'm bad with three people's stuff, instead of just my own! Thanks about the stars! I used to have these funky icons but I lost them and then I had the red circles that everyone seems to have so I found these stars to mix it up a bit!

    1. Thank you! Once I get into the more active photography business side of this, I'll probably mix it up with photos I've taken professionally, but I also like having my family as a regular thing.

  24. I'm definitely in between. I can't keep it all, but I wish I could. I take pictures of the stuff I know I should probably get rid of. It's way past time for me to invest in a good camera…a memory keeper. And not just pictures, photo books and a blog. The pictures of your family are so beautiful.

    1. We have a few photo books here that we've made from the blog. I love the new way to do things. There is certainly something to be said about looking through photo albums with photographs that you can take in and out, but I love the look of the digital versions.

  25. Such a beautiful post that left me tearful! Today I was driving to a playdate, a friend's house I hadn't been to since I had my first son and we had gone over for our first playdate. Driving through her neighborhood, all of these memories came flooding back to when my 2 year old was just a baby and how I had run a stop sign because I was late to this VERY important play date (in my mind), and how he had pooped out of his diaper and the hostess so kindly allowed me to use her changing table for my very poopy baby. I had totally forgotten all that until I was reminded at the stop sign. Sigh…I am a memory keeper too 🙂 I wish I could hold them with me forever, but like you said, it somehow all starts to blur together.

  26. We just don’t have the space to keep everything on hand, so we’re forced to get rid of a LOT of toys and clothes. Like you, that’s one of the reasons I blog. There have been so many times I’ve wished that I’d had the blog earlier, just so I could have written down more memories of T when she was a baby. As far as digital pictures? I totally hoard those – just can’t seem to let go!

    1. I get you! I need to put all of my "memories" onto a hard drive or something. My computer can't handle all of it! I wish I had blogged forever..I'm glad for what I have so far.

  27. I have the same problem and I admit, I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to these types of things. It's hard for me to part with them. I am trying to be better though and only keep the absolute favorites.

  28. So timely, Tamara! As we prepare for our move to TN, we are going through boxes we packed over 12 years ago for our present home. They contain special outfits, school assignments, notes from family meetings, hand-made cards from the girls, and so much more. Stopping to read, laugh, and enjoy really, really, slows down the repacking process!It is hard to decide what to keep. However, my thoughts are tempered by helping to go through my grandparent's house after they passed on. They kept tons and tons of stuff. It took several of us a couple of days to go through.

  29. I am an in-betweener too! I do not like clutter, but I do like to keep photos and some memorabilia. I have quite a few scrapbook albums I made before everything was available to save digitally. Photos are the best – aren't they? Love yours Tamera!

  30. Your photos are always so beautiful. And I absolutely relate to this. It's hard to let go but it's necessary {especially since I am already bulging at the seams and need room!}Beautiful post mama.Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection. Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)¤´¨) ¸.•*´ (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxoRaising-Reagan.com

  31. I say keep it all! My parents got rid of everything. Everything. There are so many things I wish I had now that are long gone. I know you can't keep it all, but keep enough that your kids some of that stuff when they're grown. Sure, old socks-toss em! Your pictures are beautiful! As always. 😉

  32. Stuff is just that…stuff. I need to get rid of so much here. There are things that we can and should keep, and others that its simply ok to write down a memory, and just let go. It's so hard sometimes, isn't it?

  33. Amazing. My fave was the one of dad holding up the little guy and seeing how small the lil guy was against his dad's hand. You could "see" the little guys trust in his father's hands. You can't get any better than that!

  34. I know I am late to this post, but I still must comment!I am the exact same way. I hate throwing things out when I have memories associated with them. Blogging and taking a million photos helps a lot, and 4 years ago I started doing a once-a-year scrapbook where I include photos and "memory stuff" from the previous year – stuff like concert tickets, invitations to weddings and the like, programs, whatever. It's a good solution for stuff that seems too "special" to toss but isn't really worth framing or displaying. I'm not a pro scrapbooker (these are not masterpieces by any means) but it gets the job done!Of course, that doesn't help with big stuff like toys. But photos of the kids paying with said toys could perhaps suffice?

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