Dusty Old Boxes

The latest de-cluttering guru tells us to keep only things that give you “joy”[1].  All other items should be thanked for their purpose or usefulness or memory and then given away.  At the end of this exercise all that should remain is an environment of pure joy!

We are told to start with clothes, then books, kitchen cupboards and desktops.  Then, after all that practise discerning the feeling of joy over an object, we should be ready to tackle photos and personal memorabilia.

On the top shelf of my largest storage cupboard are three dusty old boxes that have been there for years.  They were to be the last step of my de-cluttering exercise.

I slowly opened the lid of the first box and found masses of old photographs, mostly black and white, some labelled and others not.  The first handful of photos was of loving couples and families enjoying reunions at the dinner table.  Others showed groups of people standing proudly on the front step of a house. The next scoopful was of children at play sometimes happily holding pets in their arms or on their laps.  Another handful produced proud young adults in various uniforms – ready for war or to start a new career. The next bunch showed lazy days on sandy beaches, birthday parties and yearly Christmas gatherings.  Frozen moments in time captured forever, I quietly and gently put them back in their box.

The next box was filled to the brim with letters and cards. Some still neatly tucked into their envelopes, others held together with yellowing scotch tape and looking well fingered.  Most of them had handwritten messages in big loopy writing that was difficult to read.  The stamps alone told another story postmarked from places and dates from long ago.  Amongst the letters were children’s drawings, thank you notes, lists of party guests, menus and lots of much loved recipes.  But my very favourite find in this box was the love letters, written with such passion and folded lovingly into perfect little rectangles decorated with doodled hearts.

The last box contains loads of newspaper clippings mostly of all the family’s birth, death and wedding announcements from over the years.  Underneath all the newspaper, I found grandmother’s lace handkerchief and what looks like a tiny baby’s christening dress and a lock of hair.  I picked up a lone slim book and several dried flowers fall to the floor.  There are numerous small diaries, every page filled with the writing which continued up the sides of the page. Carefully folded in some tissue paper was an old dated sampler proudly stitched by a young girl two hundred years ago.  Treasure after treasure had been lovingly stored in this last box.

I quietly closed their lids and stacked the three boxes on top of each other.

Just then, it dawned on me that someone had already sorted the family memorabilia into those three separate boxes, leaving me to find three dusty old boxes of pure joy.

[1] Spark Joy by Marie Kondo


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