"Decluttering" my history - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 33 Old 04-09-2008, 11:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've come up against one of my toughest decluttering challenges: an old journal. It's a spiral-bound notebook that contains about two years of my life. That journal used to mean a lot to me--I used to say that the two items I needed to make a place home were my contact lens case, and my journal. :P

The thing is, a lot of the things that I did during those two years, were things that I now regret. So part of me thinks I should get rid of the journal, as a symbolic "shedding of baggage." In fact, I almost tossed it without a second thought, but then I decided to read through it...

...and now I can't decide. I did wince a lot as I read certain portions, but I also laughed and cried over other parts...now that a good seven or eight years have gone by, it's a little easier for me to feel sorry for the confused person that I used to be, in a detached sort of way, rather than feeling really down about myself, which I used to do when I thought about those years. And there were a few highlights to those years that reading this journal helped me to remember.

I would love to hear the thought process that others have gone through as they decluttered personal things from the past.

So, any other journal-keepers out there who want to weigh in? Do you generally keep or toss your old journals? What if those journals contain parts of your life that you'd rather forget, or at least really don't want to repeat?

I might add, that I am going through a major shift in my life right now (the end of a marriage), which brings new meaning to the decluttering process. I am shedding a lot of things that I had a hard time getting rid of before, because I am looking forward to a new future, and don't want to drag all this old stuff into my new life.
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#2 of 33 Old 04-09-2008, 11:25 PM
 
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sorry hit post before my message was done
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#3 of 33 Old 04-09-2008, 11:25 PM
 
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I would find it hard to get rid of, especially since you're reading it during a time of change in your life. I'm guessing it reflects how you've changed and grown during that period in which you kept the journal.

Some people suggest that if you want to get rid of something like that, to have some type of ceremony involving burning it or destroying it, symbolizing moving on from one of life's chapters to the next.
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#4 of 33 Old 04-09-2008, 11:52 PM
 
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i agree: burn it. but you might want to take the time to re-read it now and "appreciate" it one last time. you can use this time to put a close to that "chapter" of your life. i've pitched some of my my writings (i burned them actually). jackie onasis (sp) burned all of her diaries before she died, and i think it's the only way to preserve your privacy. now, granted, the newspapers probably aren't going to be quite as curious about your and my life as hers, but the point remains, would you really want someone else reading this some day? if not, take from it what you can at this juncture in your life and move on.

i've started going through similar things recently. i read them all before burning and it's exhausting. i have four years of journals from college (20 years old) i haven't had the emotional time/strength/initiative to go through yet, but i recently got rid of a lot of my divorce time papers (10 years old). it was nice to appreciate all that i've learned. a lot of what i was just learning then, i really have made permanent in my life as of now.

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#5 of 33 Old 04-10-2008, 01:00 AM
 
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if there are parts in it you really like and are motivational, take them out, no need to get rid of the whole thing.... (really not trying to undermine your decluttering process, maybe there is just one page or a few words that really mean somthing to you now, take them out, can even jot them down someplace where it doesn't take extra space)

I like to write but some things I write I look at and think to myself, would I want anyone... whether a loved one or a total stranger to one day read if the anser is no, it's gone, either burt or composted... I said what I had to say on paper and got it out of my head and once out I'm okay to let go of it (well most of the time - sometimes I'll write and rewrite things just to get them completly gone if that makes any sense.)

I don't personally need a ceromony to get rid of the paper things are written on, my little thing is just to get it on the paper, but if doing "something" with the journal or writings works for you, do it.
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#6 of 33 Old 04-10-2008, 03:52 AM
 
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i keep all my old journals

your past is what has made you grow into who you are today

one day your offspring might want to read it...when you arent here anymore!
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#7 of 33 Old 04-10-2008, 12:10 PM
 
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This is one of my hardest challenges ...
I have about thirty journals ... from about age eight to twenty-two or so, when I stopped journalling.
I was going to burn them on my thirtieth birthday. I just turned thirty-three.
Another factor is that I am a professional writer, so I feel some kind of obligation to archive my beginnings ... as do my readers (I did a poll.)
Really though, I had a wretched childhood and I think I'd rather just trash them, but I haven't had the guts to do it yet.

Ultimately, I say burn 'em! (This coming from the hypocrite struggling with her own conflicted feelings ...)

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#8 of 33 Old 04-10-2008, 03:07 PM
 
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Is it possible someone you are close to would appreciate reading them later on?

I ask because my grandmother keep journals and now that she is gone, my aunts and I are reading them. Not everything in them is happy but I feel so fortunate that she took the time to record her life and thoughts for the next two generations.

I have one from a bad period that I waffle back and forth on. I hate the content yet I think if someday, a woman I loved was going thru the same thing, she may take something good away from reading it (and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel).

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#9 of 33 Old 04-11-2008, 08:38 AM
 
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I keep my old journals too and recently thought about getting rid of them during my decluttering mission. But I am someone that would have a great interest in reading my Mom's old journals should I have the chance one day. To know what she went through, how she felt, what she thought as a person and not just my Mom, would very much intrigue me. I've decided to hang on to mine in case someone would be interested in mine one day. It's a bit of truly personal history. I think it's neat.
But it does feel like holding onto the past sometimes and adds to the storing junk factor so I understand it's a hard decision.

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#10 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 01:50 AM
 
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i got rid of mine.

i know some people would like to read them in the future, including my husband (who rescued the from the trash twice) but the ones i had were from a time of confusion, overindulgence, debauchery... etc that i prefer not to remember.

what helped me decide was to think about my daughter reading it..... not the picture i want her to have of her mom.

i still have my memories of the tim e and have and will again share my thoughts on them with my family, i just don't want my rather incoherent, immature sometimes so drunk as to be illegible writings about that time preserved, yk?
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#11 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 02:13 AM
 
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i've gotten rid of all mine and it was a pretty big deal. i kept them until i didn't feel sad about getting rid of them and then just tossed them. they went through several moves and were packed and unpacked a million times and i'd always look at them and at some point i was ok with letting them go. i did as a pp said, take out a couple pages that i wanted to remember. it wasn't much, small enough that they just live folded up in my underwear drawer

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#12 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 03:29 AM
 
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Interesting thread!

I have what I consider journals from my twenties still. I have found them extremely valuable as I have been scrapbooking my photos from that time frame, too. Granted, my journals are notes jotted in my daytimer, so it isn't quite the same. However, there are some very personal notes in those and these items take up a lot of space since there are 10-13 of them. (I cannot recall right now where the journals begin and end, but the photos I'm working with are from 13 years.) I have just gotten through merging all the photographs and memorabilia from that time frame and used the journals to do so. While reading through them, I laughed and cried and felt all sorts of emotions. This is why I consider them journals more than daytimers. I was planning to shred and recycle them once I am done with the scrapbooks. However, after reading through them, I am torn. I have been trying to figure out a way to use some pages and such IN the scrapbooks and/or preserve them somehow in a different format (like scanning or photographing), but I don't know if it is worth all that work once I retrieve the info and finish the scrapbooks. The whole point of the scrapbooks is to tell the story of me for my daughter and/or whoever might be interested later on along with the more practical goal of getting these photos out of boxes and into something viewable.

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#13 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 07:19 AM
 
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I'd keep it. I kept diaries when I was younger, and as cringeworthy as it is to read hrough them, it seems like it would be a crime to get rid of them. They're a part of my history; thus, my family's history; thus, the world's history. That doesn't make them brilliant or profound, but it does make them a tiny piece of the puzzle. Who knows? Maybe one of my old classmates will start World War III, and my observations of his behavior in the schoolroom will provide the key to a compelling biography. Maybe my great-granddaughter will read the entry I wrote on September 11 and get a little more excited in her history class when the subject comes up. Maybe they'll be used as part of a study on the development of handwriting during childhood. Whatever. The point is, who am I to destroy them? Diaries are history. Keep yours. Even if you put it in a box and never read it again--keep it!

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#14 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 07:56 AM
 
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Keep it!

I have journals from my teen years up until now and I have never considered throwing them away. They are a part of me and remind me of my growth and change. Yes I do wince when I read through some of them because I am not proud of some of the things that I have done but I am way more forgiving of myself now and can accept who I was then. Of course it is still a process and there are several journals that I still don't read through but I will get there.

I agree with a previous poster who said that they are history. Not just your history but also the history of those around you who shared their lives with you.
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#15 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 11:22 AM
 
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Oh man I couldn't do it. But then I'm an avid journaler...

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#16 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 05:14 PM
 
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I got rid of most of mine. I mostly just write to get the thoughts out of my head where they are festering. Don't really need to read it again or hang on to it.

Now, I have notebooks full of ideas, like invention ideas, article ideas, etc. *Those* are the ones I have problems dealing with.
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#17 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 05:19 PM
 
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i did this very recently. it was very cleansing.

i'm seeing a lot of peole saying to keep them... that kind of suprises me, but i think it probably has a lot to do with who you are, how you grow, and-- what you write in your journals! i realized i use mine to process stuff. most of them are very repetative musings that dont really... translate... to anyone else reading them, or even me making sense of them now. i've kept the ones from when i started dating dh, when i was pregnant, and my trips in europe. the ones i would want to read, or have enjoyed reading with dh. (where did we go on that trip again?, etc).

i'm also a super declutter-er... and really dislike having "things." i'd rather remember college how i remember it. thru the filter of who i have become.... etc etc etc.
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#18 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 05:38 PM
 
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I'd probably go through and pull out the best bits and save those.
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#19 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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My plan is still to burn all of my journals. Now if I could just get the guts to do it... I admire those of you who've been able to let go.
Any regrets?

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#20 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 09:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by aweynsayl View Post
i did this very recently. it was very cleansing.

i'm seeing a lot of peole saying to keep them... that kind of suprises me, but i think it probably has a lot to do with who you are, how you grow, and-- what you write in your journals!
: Same here. Putting those pages through the shredder felt so liberating. The troubled voice detailed on those pages was no longer my voice. She had to go.

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#21 of 33 Old 04-13-2008, 11:19 PM
 
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^ ita!

no regrets.
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#22 of 33 Old 04-14-2008, 12:53 AM
 
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I read through my old journals, cringed and rolled my eyes, and kept a few pages of happy, non-embarrassing entries.

Maybe whether or not people keep journals depends on the quality of the book, the writing, and the thoughts expressed. My unbearable prose consisted of endless entries like, "Laundry. Paid bills. I hate my job. I wish I liked my boyfriend."

Note that although I did keep the happy parts of my journal, I don't know where those pages are, and thus have not missed them (my big purge was 4+ years ago). So I might as well have chucked the whole thing.
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#23 of 33 Old 04-14-2008, 04:43 PM
 
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yeah mine had entirely too much poorly written boyfriend (an lack thereof) angst. i actually had condom wrappers from my first few timmes stuck btw the pages. i'm a happily mariied women.........don't need those to remind me of worser times. even if i wasn't happily partnered up i am a confident strong woman now so i still wouldn't need reminders of how things used to be.
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#24 of 33 Old 04-14-2008, 05:03 PM
 
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I would say, if it is something you don't want your kids to read, then get rid of it. But maybe take a moment now to write down what you got out of rereading them - how you have grown, how you can look back at your past self, etc. Then you are still saving its essence and reflecting on your own growth since then. (And you can write your thoughts on the computer and just save the file, so there is nothing to store).

In general, if it gives you joy to see/read it, I would say you could hang onto it. But if you are just keeping a historical record (or if it makes you sad to see/read it), then let it go.
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#25 of 33 Old 04-15-2008, 05:56 PM
 
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But maybe take a moment now to write down what you got out of rereading them - how you have grown, how you can look back at your past self, etc.
that's a nice idea! i might do that!
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#26 of 33 Old 04-16-2008, 03:20 PM
 
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I still have most of my old journals, but two summers ago I came across my dysfunctional marriage/ divorce phase journal, along with some hurtful letters from my ex. I went outside and burned them. It felt great! I will never hide from my daughter the fact that I was married to someone other than Daddy before, but I definitely don't want her reading the nitty-gritty details from that phase of my life.

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#27 of 33 Old 04-17-2008, 01:53 PM
 
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one day your offspring might want to read it...when you arent here anymore!
When my mother died, my father took all her old journals and ~~ I was protesting wildly against this ~~ burned them. I am still mourning the loss of those writings.



I was able to salvage one little section because she had started recording on the computer and he didn't know about those files.

I have read and re-read that section dozens of times.

My mother wrote about the most mundane things you could possibly imagine...but I love those writings. I miss her so much and reading her journal brings back memories for me and allows me to hear "her voice" again.

I'm sure there are some parts of her journal that she probably did not want me to read..or maybe not...but I love her despite her mistakes and things that I don't agree with and things that are embarassing.

I say keep the writings. There are people who love you who will want to read them.

 

 

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#28 of 33 Old 04-17-2008, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, I thought this thread was dead, but look at all these new replies!

I've thought through some of your comments. A few of you have said that I should save them for my children to read someday. Well the problem is, some of these things are *not* things I want my children to read about, you know? I have no problem telling my children that I have made mistakes, but that doesn't mean they need to read all the details! Besides, I would worry that while I did a great job of describing how much fun the *cough* drunken debauchery was, I may not have explained well enough all the pain and regret it caused me in future years (which I FEEL when I read it, even though it may not be explicitly laid out therein).

I think what I'm going to do is...I'm going to go through it a few pages at a time, keep the happy memories, and shred the parts that hurt to read. I will also journal about the process.
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#29 of 33 Old 04-18-2008, 06:33 PM
 
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It seems to me that Dear Abby or another advice columnist had a letter with a similar question. Someone else wrote in about a place that was collecting women's stories. Gahhhh. I wish I could remember. My Google-Fu is failing me today. Does this ring a bell?

Maybe it is because I'm an amateur historian of a time when few women wrote that I find the "toss it" "burn it" idea scary. The lack of the record has led historians for mean years to assume a lack of a voice. This isn't entirely true. (We can't let the exhibitionists bloggers have the whole say on the current generation. )

If cluttering is an issue perhaps scanning would be doable. If a book is going to be tossed anyway, then unbinding it and running the pages through a scanner with a document feeder would be an easy way to preserve the information. I do this all the time for records in the library where I work though I realize the tech for this might not be as close at hand for everyone.

I might feel differently about the long view of the historian if I had actually written down any of the really embarassing stuff that happened in my early 20s.
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#30 of 33 Old 12-30-2008, 04:41 AM
 
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thank-you for this thread. I'm still unsure of what I will do with my old journals, but I am taking pictures of the little scraps here and there and creating a memories folder in my computer.
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