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August 08, 2009

Why is it so hard to throw away photographs?

Photos Lately I've been in the mood to simplify my life. . Compared to a couple of years ago my load is pretty light. I even sold my . I've been through all the stuff my kids collected and gave away all the clothes I haven't worn in a year or two can't squeeze into. I've quit buying knick-knacks and things to fill up the corners and shelves.

Part of my efforts were prompted by having to liquidate my father's estate and sell his house but I was also inspired by reading some books on clutter-busting. What I discovered was that I'm a lightweight when it comes to saving things. I'll never land on Oprah for an intervention by my family who thinks it's time to throw away every pair of shoes I've ever had or every newspaper I've ever read. My clutter is minor compared to the people chronicled in the books.

I was feeling pretty good about my ability to shed until it came to the chapter on photographs. The author maintains that the average person has WAY too many boxes of photographs stashed away in closets. To be truly de-cluttered and liberated a person should only keep those photos that capture a special moment in time. To be free from baggage from the past a person should throw out pictures of former boyfriends.

What? Throw out photographs? That's not an easy thing to do (neither is throwing out magazines). Why is that such a hard thing to do? I bit the bullet and tossed a bunch of photographs when I cleaned out my father's house. None of my parents were included in the purge but there were dozens of pictures from golf outings and business functions that contained the images of total strangers who were most likely dead and there was no hope of ever discovering their identities.

With that in mind I tackled my shoebox of photos.

I wish I had all the money back that I spent on double prints because I still have both sets of most pictures. Those were the easy throw-aways and put a pretty big dent in the pile. Pictures of events where I couldn't name anyone in the scene were also pitched. I figured I was saving my daughter the trouble of having to do so in the future.

Then there came the dilemma of the ghosts of boyfriends past. After my divorce I was single for over a dozen years -- most of my 30s and half of my 40s. At first I didn't think there was any way I could part with these pictures. After all, I was in my dating prime. There were pictures of parties and weddings, cruises and holidays. Me smiling big. Me and my 30 year old body. Me with the future ex-boyfriend du jour. Ouch.

They were the pictures of my other life. My French Twist and Little Black Dress Self. I was a date, not a mom. My daughter wasn't in them. Still, they are the only concrete memories with me dressed up smiling with the promise of the moment.

When I really thought about it however and looked at them again I didn't get the nostalgic warm and fuzzy feeling that I assumed was the reason for keeping them. Another look made me mourn the body I used to have, lamenting the time and energy I spent with the wrong men. I finally realized the negativity they held. A happily married woman who is comfortable in her life and in her skin doesn't need reminders of things that used to be...

So I threw them all away.

This is an original 50something Moms post. Lollie also blogs for Philly Moms.