I like journals, but I’m a selective recorder. Some things are better left in the past.
At the end of my time here, I want my cherished keepsakes to fill a box, not a storage unit.
Doing this means letting go of the keepsakes that have a neutral or negative quality, and it’s not just so mementos can fit in a box of a certain size, but so I can enjoy them now.
It’s not automatically easy, so here is a guide to help you sort through keepsakes that you shouldn’t be keeping:
Neutral keepsakes are what I call short-term keepsakes. They are appreciated now, but you don’t need to save them for all time. You certainly wouldn’t need to scrapbook them. These are usually pieces of paper such as greeting cards, a program from an event you went to or a participation certificate—a “thanks for coming” gift that’s not really too important.
The way to know for sure if something is a short-term keepsake is to see how you feel about it as time goes by. If you care about it less and less, you won’t miss it later. Go ahead and recycle it.
Be sure the things you are saving are about you and your family. You don’t need to save the program from a friend’s wedding ceremony just to prove you care about her. That belongs in her keepsake box, not yours.
Negative keepsakes, the things you save because they feel like part of your life story, but they make you cringe (such as bad photographs and journals about feeeeeeelings) are something you should deal with too.
The people who know me well know that I have a terrible memory regarding the past. It’s selective, at best, so I like journals. That being said, I don’t think you need to keep the sort of journals that are used for processing feelings, venting frustration or anger, or would cause excessive embarrassment when found.
Not all journal entries need to be positive, but we all know the difference between persevering through struggle and hardship, which is integral to a story with hope at the end, versus the kind of venting that carries only negative qualities.
I don’t save journals entries that will be discouraging to read, for three reasons:
1. I don’t want to leave it as part of my legacy.
2. After I’ve moved on, I don’t need the baggage.
3. I don’t need to read twelve pages of melancholy to remember what sadness and loneliness feels like.
Writing is a good way to process feelings, but that doesn’t mean you have to save those words for all posterity!
Recently someone made me angry. What I felt like doing was calling other people to tell them about it, “Can you believe she said this to me?” but I kept my mouth shut. I knew later I wouldn’t be able to remember the details, so I thought about writing it down, not just to process my feelings about it, but to keep a record in case it happened again. Then I could point to this time and say, “See? This.” But then I remembered the Bible verse (1 Cor 13:5) that says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs,” and I knew that’s what I was trying to do.
If it would not be a good story to tell, don’t write it down, or use the delete button judiciously.
My best friend received a hate letter when we were in seventh grade, and after reading it, we decided it must be destroyed. A bonfire was our first choice, but we went with our second choice and buried the shredded pieces of it in my parent’s back yard. It was satisfying to get rid of it. That should be the fate of keepsakes that are hurtful and discouraging.
Journals needn’t be a complete historic account. It’s fine to pull pages out of a diary and throw some away or delete entries on a computer. Keep the ones that make you happy to look back on or help you tell your story.
If you think about the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it’s easy to see what the first part of her life was like without the full historic record. That’s what I want my journals to resemble: snapshots of days in the life, happy memories, small details, and relationships.