The Emotional Cost of Purging

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You’d think after six years on the road we’d be free of stuff, footloose and fancy free. Well, not quite.

After selling our house in 2012, we sold or gave away most of our belongings.

We Kept What?

A couple of crates of stuff remained. The kids each had one and I had a 1 or 2. One contained family scrapbooks and we had a safe with “important documents” in it.

Fast forward to this year. Mike’s parents sold the cottage where these crates were stored. We weren’t in town so Harrison picked up all of our crates and took them to his apartment. We finally claimed them last week.

Somehow those “couple of crates” became five crates plus the safe. Where did all this stuff come from?

I lifted the lids and my heart lept into my throat. These crates were filled with items that I just couldn’t bring myself to sort through and purge during the big post-house-sale downsizing.

Since I hadn’t dealt with these things year ago I now had to pay off the debt of stuff.

What did I find?

  • Mike’s high-school year books
  • My grade school book
  • Our honeymoon album
  • My children’s baby books
  • Their baptism outfits
  • Their first stuffed animals

And tons of photographs.

When we were purging the house and I was working my way through shelves of crates, I had scanned a ton of photos and saved them on my computer.

Now I was looking through the photos I hadn’t scanned. I didn’t have the time to go through them all, but I couldn’t chuck them either.

Crate #1

This crate held items from Mike’s and my childhood. Mike quickly sorted through his things and put most in the trashbag.

It took me a bit longer than that.

One of my childhood things was a “School Memories” book. It had:

  • A two-page spread for each school year
  • Room for a school photo
  • A pocket for paper keepsakes

My mom had dutifully filled out the pages, starting with preschool. My friends. My favorite subjects. My pets. My teacher. There were also some “great” works of writing from those years.

Miranda grabbed the book and had fun looking through it. She commented on the classes I took or read a story that I wrote. It was fun for me to share a bit of my childhood with her.

But, was it worth saving this book for 25+ years for the 15 minutes of sharing?

Crate #2

This crate had my children’s baby books and gift bags full of “stuff” from their early years. Miranda couldn’t understand why from each birthday party I had kept…

  • Deflated balloons
  • Pieces of wrapping paper
  • Cake toppers
  • Cards

Miranda put her baby book in her crate and we put Harrison’s away to give him later. We looked through all of the cards looking for forgotten money. Miranda netted $1 and Harrison $25.

Crate #3

This crate was the hardest crate to deal with.

It was full of photos.

Photos of:

  • Mike - infant to adult
  • Crissa - infant to adult
  • Harrison - infant to 13 (when we started traveling and started our library of digital photos)
  • Miranda - infant to 12
  • My parents - one picture each from their childhood years and a wedding photo
  • Our siblings, nieces and nephew

Armed with a scanner, I digitized photos of my parents, relatives, Mike and me. Then I looked at the two “shoeboxes” full of my kids’ younger years. I didn’t want to scan every one of those photos.

Some of them weren’t good photos. Others were part of a “set” of photos from the same event and I only needed one to remember the event.

I found photos that I had recently been looking for and couldn’t find in my digital library. I scanned those and added the physical copy to the trash pile.

What about all of the others? Why was it so hard for me to get rid of them?

It took some internal searching to find an answer to that question. It was related to my post-partum depression.

These photos showed me smiling and enjoying my children during years that I hardly remember.

With that understanding, I allowed myself the time to digitize more of the photos. Then I dumped the full shoeboxes into the trash bag without any guilt.

We didn't leave that much behind, did we?

We didn't leave that much behind, did we?

Scanning important documents and photos.

Scanning important documents and photos.

I finally parted ways with Mrs. Beasley.

I finally parted ways with Mrs. Beasley.

Crate #4

The scrapbooks.

(que dramatic music)

A few years ago we mooched-docked at Mike’s parents’ cottage. While there we opened the scrapbook crate.


  • Built an easel
  • Put the camera on a tripod
  • Set up a station with natural light

The kids and I spent hours pulling pages out of the albums, taking digital photos of them, and re-inserting them.

At the time I couldn’t quite part with the physical copies, so I stored them again. I hoped to be able to deal with them sometime in the future.

That “sometime in the future” date was here.

It was time to purge the scrapbooks.

I planned to look through the physical books one more time before having Mike carry them to the dumpster.

I was doing okay with the concept of purging them until I started looking through the scrapbook for year 2001.


We missed digitizing this one. I couldn’t throw away a year of our family’s stories - especially from the fun pre-school years.

Much to Mike’s disappointment, I decided to keep this one crate.

The Safe

Now that I’d gone through the emotionally-charged crates, I could tackle the safe.

What did we think was so important to keep in a locked safe five years ago?

It contained:

  • Papers from the purchase of our house.
  • Our will, which is now null and void.
  • Our wedding certificate.
  • DVDs - our wedding, our children’s births and early years, etc..
  • US Savings Bonds that belong to the kids.

The safe was the easiest to sort and empty. I scanned a page from the house purchase, passed on the US Savings Bonds to the kids, and kept our wedding certificate.

In light of my personal discovery while sorting photos, I also decided to keep the album of DVDs.

We put the rest of the papers into the firepit, set fire to them, and watched our suburban history go up in smoke.

Not Quite Debt Free

Five crates and a safe became two crates. One for Miranda and one for us. They went to my parent’s storage facility.

I know what you are thinking.

Another date is coming.

I still have some debt of stuff to pay off. I’ll have to deal with those scrapbooks for the 4th time.

Maybe then - with some time spent digitizing that skipped-over year - I’ll finally be able to pay off that debt and part with the hardcopy albums.

What Are You Holding On To?

What’s that final thing you have in storage somewhere?

4 Comments The Emotional Cost of Purging

  1. Picture of Rick Garboden Rick Garboden September 06, 2016

    I (we) have gone through our totes and boxes full of treasures. Downsized but nowhere near where we need to be. This past year we moved from a 3000 sq. ft. 5 bedroom house down to a 1500 sq. ft. 3 bedroom trying to downsize since it is just Jenn and I and a son every other week. We have three years before we want to full time or at least be out 9-10 months at a time. It has been so hard as I call them my treasures. But them I have to think that when I die that my children will have no connection to most of my so call treasures and they will see it as only junk or trash. Reading yours and other blogs where you have been able to purge the way you have I commend you. I know we will get there…. we have to. Best of luck on your adventures and happy camping.

  2. Picture of Susanne Susanne September 06, 2016

    We did great with purging stuff until I opened up a box containing my photographs and personal writings from middle school, high school, college, and my early years with Trent.  So much happened in this 15-year span of time that reading only a small fraction of my diaries was enough to overwhelm me. I finally stuffed all of it back into the box and stored it at my mom’s house.

  3. Picture of Crissa Boyink Crissa Boyink September 09, 2016

    Thanks for commenting. While purging I had to keep in mind that my kids would not appreciate my “treasures” either. It helped to let go of things like my Ms. Beasley doll. ;)

  4. Picture of Crissa Boyink Crissa Boyink September 09, 2016

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who needed to keep a box. ;)


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