Sunday, November 07, 2010

What would you do?

Today I pulled out a large box that was part of what ended up in our house after my mom passed away. And yes, I know, she passed away many months ago, so your first question can rightfully be...why are you just now going through those boxes? Well, lots of reasons.

There are so many boxes and so many things that the task is overwhelming. I don't mind admitting that I'm intimidated by the task that lies before me. There is so much to go through and I have no idea what to do with all that I uncover. The work we did in sorting and packing her house was just the beginning.

The other major reason for a delay...it is hard emotionally. After her death, we worked hard to pack up the things in her house and move them here. That alone was a task that was so difficult due to the distance involved and the emotions tangled up in the process.

So here I am, 21 months later, pulling out a large Rubbermaid container and starting through it. I knew this was a container that held photos. In fact, as I worked my way through it, it had more than 20 photo albums inside along with a fairly large pile of photos that were just tossed in the box. Twenty albums....hundreds of photos. Some of them are labeled...many are not. Some are people I know...some are not. Some are not people in my family, but seem to be friends of my parents. Others are family members that I don't know and, without any labels, I probably will never identify. And then, for some reason, there are multiple copies of some photos...the same photo showing up in different photo albums. No logic in that at all.

I labeled books as best as I could. But there are still hundreds of photos that leave me at a loss. What to do? What do you do with photos that you just can't identify? If they seem like acquaintances of my parents....easy choice. I can toss those. No one will ever want to see those again. But what about all the rest? All the photos they have of our kids...those are photos that we also have. Do I need multiple copies of each? And what about really old photos of family? Some are very old and probably would be meaningful if I had any idea who they were. But I don't. They are just old photos with old people.

I'm only one box in...with so many more to go. And I'm already at a loss.

9 comments:

Thumper said...

I'd set them aside, put them in storage, until I was sure what I wanted to do with them. Give myself some time to figure out if anyone else might know who the people in the pictures are and if they would want them. And then when I was sure, I'd either pass them along or toss them. There's no wrong way to handle it...you do whatever feels right and when it feels right.

My FIL has been gone for over 4 years and my MIL still hasn't gone through all his things. It'll happen when it happens, on the timetable that suits her needs.

No explanations for the length of time are needed; same with setting things aside for later. Even if you have to get storage someplace...hang onto the things you're not sure about until you are.

Star said...

I know how difficult it can be. When you decide what you want to keep, maybe offer the rest to other family members? There is no timetable except the one you are comfortable with.

Cocotte said...

Can your kids help sort the photos? That just sounds so overwhelming. I often wonder if I should be developing as many photos as I do.....is anyone going to want them someday?

haphazardlife said...

I'd toss any doubles and any in which I don't know the people. As for the old family photos, I'd keep them and try to find out who people are from other family members.

But then I'm a ruthless tosser, I've been sort of pushed into a similar situation - I can relate to how overwhelmed you feel.

- Jazz

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I'm so sorry about your mom. With the photos, I agree with what Star and haphazardlife suggested, and definitely take as long as you need. I know I'll be going through that in the not too distant future, and it sounds so hard. Take care.

VioletSky said...

OMG this could be me. This will be me, when I get around to the Rubbermaid box fo my mother's photos and papers. I think I will be less sentimental now when I get around to throwing out the photos of people I don't know. And the many just bad photos.

secret agent woman said...

With my grandmother's estate we just got rid of all the unidentifiable photos and the ones of their friends.

bernthis said...

it's a tough one. My mom has told me she has a few boxes of private things she has kept. She never showed them to me and I dread the time when I will have to sort through them.

I would say if you already have copies perhaps you could get rid of them or maybe give them to someone in ur family who might now have a copy of their own

Jocelyn said...

There's no easy answer to this. I've been through it, too, and I've watched my mom sort through photos similarly, and all I know is that there comes a moment in the process where your guts rear up and let you know what should happen. Sometimes it's a moment of "I'm living my current life right now, and that's all I can do. I can't keep trying to shepherd other people's memories, especially when I don't even know who these people are"--and sometimes it's a feeling of protection of the past and a need not to toss out something potentially meaningful. Until your guts speak, just set them aside.