It was the fall of 1985 and I was shoulder deep in a nasty basement sump pump when I decided to sell the house. I put it on the market and it sold in nine days. (I should have such luck now!) Immediately, thirty years worth of “stuff” was subject to scrutiny.
Everything it took to run a household with an acre of land, outbuildings, machinery and tools was not a problem. The kids took what they wanted and between garage sales, an auction, and giving it away, the majority of that dwindled into the swanky Early Halloween decor for which I am famous and would use in my apartment.
Under normal circumstances, I would not have been quite so sentimental but with Jack’s death in 1982, everything we had shared became precious. With our magic tent, whatever old car Jack resurrected with his mechanical expertise (and later a truck camper and a 20-foot Class C), prayer, and little else, we treated our family to the delights of nearly every state by the time he died. This led to extreme Walmart boxes of souvenirs, pictures, slides and movies. Other boxes were filled with collections going back to Jack’s childhood and mine, 26 years of marriage and children, love letters and countless mementos.
By the summer of 1986 and hating life in a big city apartment, I made a second decision, to jump head first into life on the open road. It was no problem selling the furnishings because they were never that important. What I had left was crammed into my first solo RV, an 8-foot x 25-foot space on wheels with scarcely an aisle down the center. (That was before I learned about GVWR.) The RV bounced throughout North America for the next 20 years. For a while, even a typewriter bounced along—remember those!
Bringing Back Memories
Fast forward to 2005. A park model and sunroom mysteriously (through a bank mortgage) appeared on my 50-foot x 70-foot lot in Arizona. By 2007, the motorhome said goodbye and I was once more “curbed.” What came out of the motorhome holds and went to live in my office/shed would amaze you. My memory being what it is, it certainly amazed me.
Through the next years, daughter Tracey took the huge box of old family and Girl Scout movies and edited them onto DVDs for all of us to re-enjoy. The slides I edited and scanned into the computer or pushed into the wastebasket. I had lived all our family adventures and my solo travels through the lens of a camera.
Fast forward again to fall of 2013 when those restless bugs began biting at North Ranch and I made a third decision that I hope will take me to the Pacific Northwest, the ocean, green trees and major mountains. I continued to pare down, throw away and give away those things that somehow had accumulated. This time was different, since technology had moved like a runaway freight train. I had an enlightened 449-gigabyte computer, a workaholic scanner, several 64-gigabyte flash drives, and daughter Janet to help me with the project.
The scanning stack grew and grew as the storage bins emptied. With my handy-dandy paper cutter, and in a willy-nilly fashion, I cut bits and pieces of cards, handwritten notes, thank you letters, newsworthy accomplishments and bulletins, none of which I could quite ditch. Each prized tidbit was taped to an 8½-inch x 11-inch paper.
Janet scanned all those, plus full pages of certificates, obituaries, graduation and marriage invitations, and put them into Taxes, Communications, and Tracey, Janet, or Mom computer folders. One letter was from the women’s editor of the Niles Daily Star in Niles, Michigan, who had heard me do a talk as a returning national delegate to the Girl Scout convention in Seattle in 1969, and asked if I would write a weekly column on our community Girl Scouts.
Every week for four years, I created a column called “The Troop Snoop” by Kelly Green. Since often no news came forth, I wrote about the activities or goofy things my own senior Girl Scouts were into. They did not know that their leader wrote the column and couldn’t figure out how Kelly Green knew so much about all the embarrassing tidbits of their GS lives. That was my first leap into writing…not for money, but for the fun of seeing my stuff in print. How could I throw away that letter…into the scan pile.
Decisions to Make
Any identifying papers were duly shredded. A lot of it was more fun than necessary to keep, like the W-2 form from my first job as a medical secretary in 1955, not only an eyeopener, but also a laugh and a half.
The tax box alone was heavy. After checking with my accountant, we scanned the papers and special receipts, and then shredded them. Janet tied my hands to a chair before she took the calendars saved from the beginning of time and shredded my life.
I had faithfully recorded four inches of double-sided logs the first few years of my travels that included living on a Baja beach. I had already written books and articles pertaining to those years; however, they made for very interesting reading, uh maybe for my eyes only…into the shredder!
Would you believe real tears dripped onto the mass of maps with my routes traced in colored pen? They were in incredibly bad condition with torn fold marks and ragged edges. They didn’t do me any good because I was always lost BDGPS (before dashboard GPS), but they were my life’s blood for twenty years.
Not only did all that scanning pare down the boxes, but also I discovered that since Janet did such a great job of labeling, I can bring that tax information up when necessary. I can cry, laugh, or reminisce with all those scanned memories, movies and pictures on my computer screen. It is much easier than digging through boxes and far more apt to happen.
I am often asked, “How did you get rid of everything?” It is a process and I had to learn that memories go with you…but it certainly helps to have computer folders to open for a memory nudge. With Janet and Tracey’s help, I did it…. sob. God Bless.
Sharlene Minshall’s first novel, Winter in the Wilderness (in e-book & hard cover), and the fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada are available through Amazon.com.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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