Declutter Your Life with a Memory Box

When I was a teenager, my grandmother bought me a medium-sized plastic tote. The box is clear with a white lid, and it fit under my childhood bed. Years later, that same box is stored in my home. The box has moved with me to various locations, and it holds my memories (or perhaps childhood mementos is a more appropriate title for these items). 

My grandmother is a very practical lady. She really is a frugal woman, if you use the definition of the word. She is economical in her use of resources. She doesn’t overbuy and she doesn’t waste. I have always admired her, and I trust her judgment.    

Now, back to the box. My grandmother bought me the box because my teenage room was full of stuff. I had old drawings, journals, toys, my girl scout uniform, yearbooks, crafts, and a whole lot of other items all mixed together. Some items were special, and some items were not. 

When she gave me the box, she told me that I should sort through my childhood keepsakes and only put the special items in the box. The box would be my “memory box,” and anything that didn’t fit inside would be donated or recycled. 

At first, I was not sure why I needed to limit myself to one box. I had room in my childhood bedroom, and these items weren’t something that I looked at often. She persisted, however, and we spent several days together sorting through my room. 

The process of creating the box with my grandmother was special, and it felt good to declutter. By the end of it, I had a large pile of items to donate and to recycle. And, I had a curated box filled with every item that I considered special enough to keep. 

As silly as it may seem, creating the memory box had a profound impact on my current lifestyle. Now, I don’t like to be weighed down by clutter. For me, space is a valuable resource, and I try to use it frugally. 

Don’t let me confuse you. I have more sentimental items than what can fit in my memory box. The box is reserved for items that no longer have utility in my day-to-day life. If a special item has utility, I use it. I find that this keeps me from having a cluttered home. For example:

A lot of my current day-to-day dishes belonged to my other grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. These include her special pan for baking cardamom bread, her beautiful glass plates, and some of her other unique serving dishes. I use these items frequently.

Creating a memory box profoundly impacted my current lifestyle.
My grandmother’s cardamom bread pan. I use it every time I make cardamom bread.

I display (and use) family cookbooks in my kitchen. We use bookends that belonged to James’ grandfather on our bookshelf. My dad’s handmade desk is used regularly in our spare bedroom. There are more examples, but I don’t want to belabor the point.

In summary, having space in my home is important to me. I like clear counters so I can spread out while cooking and baking.  I like my dishes to fit in my cupboards, so I don’t have to hunt for special-use items. I like my clothes to fit in my closet so I can properly survey my options. All of these goals are easier to achieve with less stuff.

If you are like me and want a little less clutter, you may want to consider making a memory box. Even if you don’t want to get rid of anything, it might be useful to know what you have and to see if it has any utility. Perhaps your multiplication tables from third grade would like to be recycled. Perhaps using that special pie tin in storage to make your next apple pie would bring you joy and fond memories. Food for thought. – Kristin

The first loaves of cardamom bread that I ever made with my grandmother’s pan and recipe.

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