Don’t Throw It Away!

Our family has recently devoted considerable effort to weed out family memorabilia and to pass on, give away, or throw out once treasured knick-knacks, books, and pictures. There are many more boxes to go, all filled with possible treasures, but more likely, with white elephants that don’t fit into any of our current homes or lifestyles.

Some items would be useful for others who have real needs. Giving those away makes more sense than letting them occupy space in a closet or attic. Many old family photographs and letters could be digitized and discarded. Other items have lost their provenance: Did this vase come from Aunt Fanny or Granny? Does not knowing that diminish any remaining value?

As we strive to discard things, it may seem strange to talk about deliberate saving, but thoughtful preservation can actually help in the downsizing process. An excellent 2006 booklet from the University of Illinois at Chicago, written by Sandra Florand Young and revised by Douglas Bicknese and Julia Hendry talks about exactly that. Although it’s a manual for small organizations, the basic principles apply for families and individuals as well.

Don’t Throw It Away! Documenting and Preserving Organizational History encourages organizations, both large and small, to save and organize their office and project records…It offers practical advice on providing security for records and setting up an in-house archives, as well as factors to consider should the organization want to deposit records in an institution…

Organizational records not only document the work of an organization, they tell the story of the community and its people, their successes and the issues that they believe to be important.

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