Remember how in Life-Changing Magic: Part One, I mentioned how I "accidentally napped through the important parts"? Well, this was one of the sections I conveniently slept through; getting rid of cards and pictures. Growing up, my Dad's house was filled with cards and photographs. During birthdays and holidays, cards and letters would be on display in hour house, standing upright or taped to the edge of a counter. And they'd stay like that for a full 365, until Hanukkah, Christmas, Rosh Hashana and my birthday would roll around again. Sometimes, my Dad would even take a picture of the card arrangement, admiring his merchandising skills. (I miss that goofy man so incredibly much, btw.)
If you know anything about the 5 Love Languages my love language is Words of Affirmation. As a writer, sending and receiving cards and letters are so important to me. I'm attached to the written word and a letter or a card can literally turn my world upside down, depending what they say.
My Magic Sponsor, Hailey, and I don't usually argue, but when it came to this particular section of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was
apprehensive incredibly resistant to the idea of getting rid of the greeting cards, holiday cards and pictures that filled three whole boxes. I kept insisting I could never throw away the written words of people who've thought of me. And she kept insisting that this is WHY this book exists. If we had it our way, we'd never throw anything away--even the things that make us miserable when we look at them. When she's right, she's right. But I still fought her the whole way through...until it really was time to address this category...so I could at least blog about it. (You, my precious reader, keep me so accountable. Thank you <3)
I pulled the boxes of cards and pictures down from the high storage shelves in my bedroom and laid them on a Joy-Sparking blanket, to begin the process of ONLY keeping cards and pictures that Spark Joy. I carefully removed the stacks, placing them on the blanket, pretending to sort them. But there was nothing to sort. I'd need to open and read each and every one. I opened cards from both my parents, three envelopes of notes I passed in High School, sixty-eight Hanukkah cards from grandparents, aunts and cousins...which was devastating in its own right, because there was no longer any cash in them. Stupid. Anyway, I found letters from people I don't even remember, cards from childhood friends who's handwriting takes up all the blank space, as children have the fine motor skills of an elephant and the penmanship of a serial killer.
I read through letters from my Camp friends, greeting cards for "just because" reasons, Thank You cards for baby shower gifts, bridal shower gifts, acts of service and my friendship in general. Okay, seriously, how do I part with this? In the book, Marie Kondo says that it's okay to throw away cards, for the most part, because the people who sent them most likely don't even remember what they wrote. The sentiment will always be there, but the words don't have to be held prisoner in a box. Let them go.
Of course, some things were very easy to throw away; letters from people I am no longer friends with, the three cards I received from my boyfriend in the three years we were together, an entire stack of pictures of my High School
gut wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-shattering, drug addicted crush...straight into the trash. Mmmbyeee.
But believe it or not, the hardest category to consider getting rid of was all the birth announcements, baby shower invites and annual (mostly cheesy) holiday cards that soccer moms send out, to keep everyone abreast of what all happened in their family the last eleven months. I eat that sh*t up like meatloaf. Those are my favorite and this is just ONE of the stacks I've saved over the years...
Maybe I felt like I was throwing people away, or their memories at least, by getting rid of these cards. Logically, I know that's not true. I mean, some of the couples in these cards have since divorced, the babies on the cards are not babies anymore and some of the birth announcements are from, like, three kids ago. Time marches on in healthy ways and acknowledging that made this process and category somewhat easier to sort through as I went.
cool story, erica! what's in it for me?
If you are in the process of "Tidying Up" and this area is a struggle for you, as well, here are some simple things to keep in mind as your sift through cards, pictures and letters:
CARVE OUT PLENTY OF TIME FOR THIS CATEGORY. Reading through things you maybe haven't looked at in a while can be overwhelming, emotional and time-consuming. You're always welcome to break it into sections (i.e. Cards one day, Letters another, Pictures...) BUT I highly recommend doing this in one swoop.
BUT FEEL FREE TO TAKE BREAKS. As we revisit the past through photos and written word, it can (and will probably definitely) spark all kinds of memories and emotions. This is why, even though you're doing this in one chunk of time, you may need to step away to stretch your back, shake your sillies out, and continue on...
KEEP THE THINGS THAT SPARK JOY. I've said this hundreds of times...BUT, this category can be different. Much like clothes, sometimes we keep things (especially cards/pictures) to remind us of the good times we DID have, the times we did "fit" into those jeans, into that relationship, etc. For me, the "Joy-Sparking Criteria" was if I opened the card, looked at the photo or read the letter and smiled real big, busted out laughing or got the urge to share the memory with the people involved in that memory, then I kept it! If not...mmmmbyyyyeee.
IF YOU NEED HELP, ASK! I'm always referring to what I call my "Magic Sponsor"; the person who knows I'm following this protocol, totally supports me in it and is available to remind me that I deserve to have only things in my possession that make me joyful and happy. Approaching the category of cards, letters and photos is rough on us sensitive human selves, so if you need some extra support...maybe a friend (or 15) to come over and keep you company while you do this, or let someone know you're tackling this section of your home and you'd like them to be on "standby" in case things feel heavy, speak up! WE NEED AN ADVOCATE, ALWAYS. Maybe I'm making this over-dramatic...but this was really difficult for me, because I have a lot of pain around old relationships and old stories that were and are represented in words sent to me and photos taken over the years. I'm just saying, I get it. Just make sure you take care of yourself.