When my husband and I were first moving in together, I had an enormous Rubbermaid bin of stuff that I called my “memory chest.” It was full of things that I had collected throughout my life that I wanted to keep but didn’t have a desire to display. If memory serves correctly, the container weighed more than our sofa.
After struggling to carry it up the stairs of our building, my husband set it down in exhaustion and threw the top off the bin to see what was inside. He pulled out an unopened bottle of Bud Light and waved it at me.
Husband: What is this?!
Me: A bottle of Bud Light.
Husband: Yes, I can see that. But what is it really? Why is it in a storage box that weighs a ton?
Me: It has sentimental value.
Husband: Tell me about it. Tell me about this bottle.
Me: I don’t remember, but I think it was funny.
Husband: You don’t remember!?!
He pulled playbills and ticket stubs and dried flowers and coasters and a hand-full of other things out of the box. I’m ashamed to say it, but I only remembered about half of the reasons why the things that he was showing me were in the box. It wasn’t much of a memory chest after all.
Finally, he screamed, “wouldn’t pictures of all of this stuff serve the same purpose as storing it?”
He was right. It wasn’t the physical objects that mattered to me, it was the memories represented by the objects that mattered.
Over the next few weeks, I went through the contents of the bin and took digital photos of the items with my camera. I organized the photos in an iPhoto album and filled in the photo’s Notes field with information about the object’s associated memory. Then, I threw away the object without any guilt or sense of loss. If I want a trip down memory lane, now I just open a file on my computer.
E-mail copies of the photos to yourself at a web-based address (like gmail) or setup a private flickr account or traditionally back-up your hard drive if you’re worried about damage or theft of your computer. Also, you may find items in your memory chest, like I did, that you decide you want to permanently display.