Yesterday I spent about 6 hours cleaning my mother's house. We've decided that if we are going to ask someone to come in and stay with Grandma for some hours every week that her house really needs to be made livable. The first job is just getting rid of all the paper she had around and she had a lot!!!
My mother was an elementary school teacher for 24 years. Let me tell you. I think I found tests and worksheets and book reports from the 1970's! (Not to mention old textbooks, graph and construction paper and art supplies.)
After her years of teaching my mother settled into being the church stenographer for various church meetings. She attended meetings and took notes in shorthand (she's the only one who can read her notebooks) then typed up all the minutes and THEN made copies of all the minutes for her own files. Can you even imagine all the notebooks filled with reams of papers stacked in the corners of her room?
Then we have bank receipts and insurance company invoices and doctors' bills. Those alone overworked the shredder until it no longer works...
Cards. And cards, and CARDS. Both received and new. She has saved all Mother's Day cards, Christmas cards, Thank you cards, Valentine's Day cards, Easter cards and Get well cards (actually we've only just started collecting those this month). Then there are the cards that come "free" in the mail from the tens of organizations that she sent money to regularly "because they went to all the trouble to send me the cards." And a whole box of calendars (found one from 1995) from the same organizations.
Then we have a different type of paper called PHOTOS. Okay. People take photos. But photos of roses, and trees, and shrubs and flower arrangements. Photos of school children and church members but no names and no dates on them. Some of the children probably already have children themselves! And all these in duplicate!!!
Other paper includes 25 years worth of weekly letters from me and 25 years of COPIES of my mother's letter TO me. More notebooks lining the bookcases and paper bags stuffed with all the airmail envelopes with my Japanese adventures stuffed inside.
So we killed the shredder but I saved the letters (also letters from MY grandmother to my mother.) I feel guilty doing this knowing how my mother has surrounded herself in things she's loved and treasured. But she doesn't look at them anymore. She doesn't know what is there or isn't there. Still I feel that I'm doing things that should wait until after she's gone...
And I even get into philosophizing about what is the point of all this writing and keeping and hanging on to the past. I'm as guilty as my mother is with all my blog writing and recording the events of my life that just builds up one post after another. And digital pictures!!! And blog books (I just ordered another one too!)
At least in this digital age I'm saving paper...