Memories are made of this

Memories are made of thisI do love the idea of decluttering in theory. I’m just not much good at it in practice. But I was reminded, at a funeral the other day, of how easy it is to throw away the things that matter.

We were saying goodbye to my lovely Auntie June, whose glamorous sense of style and Sunday lunches were a comforting constant for three generations of her family. She was always beautifully dressed and still wore ten den tights and heels at 90.

When my cousin, Kate, gave the eulogy in the church, it wasn’t just a 90-year-old woman we were saying goodbye to, it was the 19-year-old War Office secretary who had to wave off her new boyfriend, my Uncle Frank, to the airfields of Canada to learn how to fly Spitfires in less time than it takes to learn Twitter today.

It was the glamorous dippy 60s mum who went to feed the hens in a fake leopard skin coat because she had forgotten all about them till she was all ready to go out. It put them off laying for three days apparently.

And we were also saying goodbye to one of the few people who knew what it was like to get all dressed up for a night out and then have to spend it in the London Underground sheltering
from bombs.

But her memories will live on, in her husband and their children and in the letters and photographs and the things that they treasured. As Kate told us, Auntie June had a story for every ring and bauble in her jewellery box, and she gave them away to her grandchildren when they were old enough to look after them. She passed her things on, and the memories with them, which is an art I worry that my generation has lost.

In our rush to declutter, we risk wiping our personal memory boards clean. We tend to keep the ‘valuable’ stuff but ditch the kitsch. And when my mother died, my sister and I took comfort and gallows’ humour in pointing out the things we could finally get rid of – the grim plastic blue and white pots my parents insisted in keeping the coffee tea and sugar in… as well as, not instead of, a separate glass jar, so that making a cuppa involved an elaborate game of Russian dolls. It drove my brother-in-law crazy. The 3D painting of a Spanish holiday scene that we couldn’t even explain away by saying it was painted by one of the kids. And the ranks of tacky modern oil lamps that blocked the view of the art deco ones she’d picked up for a fiver in the 60s.

We bundled them all off to the charity shop, but somehow we couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of everything completely. My sister gave the blue pots to my brother-in-law with some cash from our mum in it; the hideous picture is now in my kitchen, embarrassing my children; and last month, my Mum’s tackiest, brightest oil lamps lit the garden at my daughter’s 17th birthday. It was good to have her around.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

4 Responses to Memories are made of this

  1. Lynn Seery says:

    What a lovely story. I wish I had been able to save some of my mother’s belongings but unfortunately as she died when I was 11 years old, I was unable to have much say in the matter.
    I was, however, able to save some memories of my mother’s sister, Aunty Joyce, although she gave away some objects of importance to unscrupulous people who knocked on her door.

  2. Shirley Hill says:

    A lovely story. I am de-cluttering at the moment having first asked my 44 yr old daughter if there is anything she wants. I am selling on e.bay, a bit of a learning curve I must say, but I have bought £200 of premium bonds with the proceeds since Sep. Must get on and list some more items.

  3. Sally Johnson says:

    Thank you so much for your family memories which we all value so much .I am a hoarder and hate to declutter as so many of my “treasures” have a tale to tell which reflect happy times and people lwho are gone but not forgotten My mother lives on in the familiar and comforting things around me..The world is minimalistic now with little time for sentimentality and the clutter of life but then time marches on and we must go with it.

  4. Elaine Jeffery says:

    I wonder if there is an app to help store your memories? We have recently had a fire in the house and this has spurred us on to declutter. My children have gone through everything ruthlessly. After many trips to the tip and charity shops I have very few bits of memorabilia left. I have taken photos to enable me to keep the memories but it’s not the same. I suppose it is all for the best though as I have a four bedroomed house that was packed and only 2 of us living here now.
    At least they won’t be able to have that week clearing out when we pop our clogs. I have now deprived them of the bit they were looking forward to. “Why on earth has she kept that?” etc. etc. One day they will have a house full of these little treasures which trip the most fantastic memories and maybe they will then understand.

Leave a Reply

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Please wait while we process your request.

Do not refresh or close your window at any time.