Friday, February 22, 2008

Souvenir Folders, Pouches of the Past

The first time I organized in any way shape or form was halfway through my
first term in residence. I was trying to clean up entirely, for
essentially the first time (I was a pig. Still basically am). I found
places for all the things I needed to function, and threw out a lot more,
but then I was still left with papers that I wanted to hang onto, even
though I didn't need them. That was the key revelation: that I want to
keep them for the *memories* associated with them. They were souvenirs.
Which is a totally legitimate reason to keep something. Here's the system
I came up with.

Every 4 months I start a new big yellow envelope (whatever they're
called). 4 months because that's the schedule I ran on for years in
school, and still feels like a natural way to segment my life. I write on
it Souvenirs 2007 Sept - Dec for instance. In there goes anything flat I
want to save to remind me of that period: ticket stubs, show posters,
personal letters and postcards, notes from people and from myself,
newspaper clippings. Then after the 4 months it's effectively sealed
(though not literally, since I will often find things later on that belong
in there). How to deal with 3D objects? Well there aren't that many of
them. But in some cases, I suppose you could take a lot of photos of it,
and put those in the folder...

I've adopted the same system for computer files: images and text off the
internet (and increasingly, flash videos downloaded from YouTube that
reflect something that affected me at the time - like Obama's recent
primary speech answering the accusation that he was about "just words"),
bits of work by me and friends. I also use it now to archive all the
personal email, digital photos (including other peoples'), and substantial
MSN chats that I have over the 4 months. They all go in the same folder,
which is named like 2007 Sept-Apr - I discovered if I used that
convention, alphabetical is the same as chronological order (Jan - May -

This means that all this stuff is out of my current workspace, but is
safely preserved. Once in a while I will go back to one of those old
folders and crack it open, and it's like the aroma of that time in my life
comes pouring out: fears, excitements, people and places. It's important
to start being the librarian of your own life right now, because that
stuff will zoom into the past so fast. Do *you* remember what was on your
mind in say, the winter of 2004?

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