Decluttering papers and a surprise find

LettersLast night I started sorting through my dad’s papers and truly there is nothing more boring than other people’s bank statements. My little shredder was already quivering at the prospect of chewing through all that paper. Usually my shredder’s best performance equals about five sheets. Then it starts jamming and overheating and whispering under its breath “paperless billing.”

So there I was – looking forward to a tedious hour of paper shifting – when suddenly I struck gold. I had obviously inherited my Clutter Monkey genes from my dad, as among his invoices and bills I found photographs and letters and certificates. Items I had never seen before, many dating back to the 1950’s including letters which belonged to my mother.

I found pictures of my dad doing National Service in the Navy and one of my great grandfather in a line up of local dignitaries. There was a letter from my dad to my mum when they were courting and a letter to my mum from another man (scandal) called Peter Perdue. A great name, but obviously no match for my dad.

Most fascinating of all were some letters written by my late grandmother. She died several years before I was born,  so my only knowledge of her had been second hand though photographs and anecdotes. But here, in these letters, her voice and personality came through for the first time, giving me tiny glimpses of the person she once was. Like many women her live revolved around the home and her husband.  She kept chickens, two cats and a dog called Smudge. She gave updates of relatives, meeting the Rector and the embroidery projects she was working in. It was a simple life, but I sensed a contented one. I realised how slow paced life had been 60 years ago and yet, perhaps not so very different from today.

Papers have always been the stumbling block on my decluttering journey because they felt like such a big task. I also believed that there was no room for the past and everything should go. However these letters have made me change my mind. You see I also found an old box of letters I had written to my parents. I wrote these when I was at college, twenty years ago – before the world abandoned letters and replaced them with emails. I was tempted to throw them away, but now I think I will keep them. Because one day I may have a curious grandchild of my own.


3 replies

  1. What luck that you found those! While I was sorting through (and also shredding mounds of) my grandma’s papers, I found a letter from my grandpa’s mom (my grandma’s future mother-in-law) to my grandma, dated one week before my grandparents’ wedding (January 1942). While the vast majority of papers we keep are useless, the odd little treasure makes it worth taking the time to sort through and make conscious decisions about. Some things are just clearly keepers.


  2. Good post. I’ve a mass of family memorabilia from the previous generations – too much to store. This years project is to scan what I can, though I feel reluctant to part with older letters and photos. Not an easy call, but at least scanned they can be easily passed on!


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