Currently, we’re living with my in-laws while looking for a house in Portland and saving up a down payment. In preparation for the holidays and more house guests, we’re helping them spruce up a room they normally use a little bit for storage and a little bit as a command center for my father-in-law. Every now and then it’s called upon to be a 3rd guest room and needs a bit of polishing to be ready to welcome guests.
The in-laws have kept a lot of cassette tapes from before CDs. And by a lot I mean 4+ over-sized document boxes. Those boxes have been stored in this sometimes-3rd guest room. We got permission to recycle the cassette tapes. It would have been so easy to take all four boxes to the recycling center and be rid of them forever. So very very easy. But the husband and I went through the boxes and checked for anything meaningful. Michael Jackson did not make the cut. But some things we did find, so very priceless.
- The in-laws talking with their first child when he was a baby (I’m guessing ~9 mos). There’s a lot of cooing and fussing and the voices of my in-laws when they were the age I am now.
- Two tapes that were recorded letters from home. I haven’t listened to these in detail, but they are very special. In the tapes Grandma, who has passed away, relates news. Grandpa, who is 40 years older now and a little less articulate, talks about the upcoming marriage of my in-laws and gas rationing. The historic detail regarding both the country and in the family is so neat.
- A recording of my in-laws’ wedding ceremony.
- A recording of a community play my mother-in-law directed.
- A recording my father-in-law made for his wife shortly before they were married. The mother-in-law titled it “¡ He loves me ♥ ♥ ♥ ” (the husband and I are afraid to listen to it)
To preserve these gems, the husband did some cassette-deck-computer-ninja-fu and converted the tapes to digital files that we will be able to store with other digital genealogy records and pass around to family members. My in-laws will be able to listen to these old messages from the oldest members of the family. The messages will be available for my niece, who is now only two, to listen to when she is older.
As I read other peoples’ thoughts on organizing and decluttering, I see their ideas reflected in this experience. If there is too much clutter around us, we lose what is important within the mountain of things which are not important. Removing the unimportant from our environment leaves only what is useful, valuable, and meaningful to us.Other cool thing we’ve found: an autographed Dave Brubeck quartet booklet.