Keep it or Throw it Away? Why we save things

I tend to be a saver.  Not an out-of-control packrat, but a saver.  I save books, photographs, letters, papers, cards, report cards, etc.  I also saved almost all the clothes that my children wore as babies and toddlers, regardless of the condition.  I just couldn’t part with the memory of each of them being so little.  The clothes were tangible evidence, more so than photographs, that they were once tiny babies.

When my grandson was born, I went down to the basement to see if any of the baby clothes I’d saved were usable.  For the most part, they weren’t.  Things were stained, stretched out, out of style—not what you’d put on a new baby.  So I had to decide what to do.  Throw them away? Put them back in the boxes?  I weeded through them, saving the ones that triggered particular memories: the purple corduroy outfit that both girls wore when they were toddlers, the Snoopy outfit that my older daughter wore almost every day when her sister was born and we were both too tired to fight with her about what to wear; sweaters my mother had knit, a few special party dresses.  The ones that were badly stained and not wearable I threw away.  All the rest I put back in the boxes anyway, not having the heart to throw them away just yet.

Now I am glad that I did keep some of these things.  One of the pictures Jody sent me a couple of weeks ago was this picture:


Imagine—these booties are almost 100 years old.  My aunt Elaine was born in 1917, my uncle Maurice in 1919.  Someone saved these and pinned a label to them to identify them for posterity as the booties of Elaine and Maurice.  There were not a lot of material objects passed on from my grandparents, but here is one that says so much.  They, too, cherished their babies, wanted to preserve the memories of them as tiny babies, and held on to something tangible to keep those memories alive.  And it worked—I now can imagine those babies and my grandparents as new parents, probably as overwhelmed, exhausted and delirious as all new parents, but also in love with those babies.

So I guess I won’t be getting rid of the baby clothes yet.  Maybe some time in the 2080s, a great-grandchild will find a box with a sweater, a Snoopy outfit, a purple corduroy jacket, and imagine the children who once wore them.

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10 thoughts on “Keep it or Throw it Away? Why we save things

  1. I always knew you were an amazing woman – but this blog and all the research that you worked on is so – WOW! – totally over the top and no words can describe the joy you have brought to me (and I’m sure many of the family members). Thank you this is awesome!!


    • Thank so much, Joann, for your kind words. This has been a labor of love for me, and if it brings joy to others, then that’s just icing on the cake. I hope you were able to find some of the pictures of Jeff on here. Search for “Jeff” in the search box, and you should find several posts with photos. Welcome!


  2. I, too, have a box of baby clothes squirreled away, and my most recent move I really questioned it. I went through the box and realized a lot of it was very shabby: babies do that to clothes! The rest was rather odd-looking; I hadn’t realized there were fashions in children’s clothing. But after throwing out the rags, I tucked the rest away for those grandchildren I hope to have eventually. I felt a little shamefaced about it – so thank you for this post that reminds me that even without a baby to wear them, they have value to the family. Next time I open that box, it will be to pin notes on the clothes.

    Love your blog – thanks so much for the work that goes into it.


    • Thank you so much, Rabbi. I am really enjoying yours also. I particularly liked your discussion of shiksa and meant to comment, but don’t think I ever got around to it.

      Don’t be shameful about saving anything! I wish my family had saved more—more documents, more letters, more pictures. Compared to some people doing genealogy, I feel like a pauper! Other people have letters that are a hundred years old. Those booties are probably the oldest keepsake I have.

      Thanks again for commenting and reading.


  3. I save things but I am not as bad as my mother. I think she borders on hoarding. I am currently trying to scan and organize what I have so that I can get rid of more stuff. But some things should definitely be kept!


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