Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Posted in: Cleaning
Originally posted on Hi

And so go some of the words from a 1997 Chicago Tribune column, Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, written by Mary Schimch, more famously known as the “Wear Sunscreen” song by Baz Luhrmann. Every year this song makes its way to the fore of my consciousness, because every year, during the long Wellington Anniversary weekend, I take advantage of the break to do a massive clean of my apartment that brings to mind this song.

During the cleanup, I dust and vacuum every nook and cranny that I don’t normally dust and vacuum, I take apart my computer and dust the hell out of that too (I still can’t seem to drop my PC maintenance habits), and I go through all my binders of bills and bank statements, proceeding to create a pile of recycling from papers dated 8 years or older (anything outside the time range required by our national tax department).

So yeah, I literally throw away my old bank statements. Sunscreen song reminder #1.

This year I decided to look through practically everything, and in doing so, found a treasure trove of trash to add to The Pile: contracts and payslips going back as far as my first ever job, grades from my high school and university days that don’t seem to matter so much now that I’ve condensed my university degree to a single bullet point on my résumé, warranties and receipts for those items I bought when I first moved out of home… stuff that I didn’t even know I had, all of it heading for the recycling bins.

The Pile now sits in the hall, just outside my bedroom door. I only have to look to my right, and there it is - a collection of papers and binders with which someone could perform some serious identity theft. That, or a mediocre amount of identity theft, which is still enough to pose as me over the phone to all my utility companies and get me disconnected from electricity and/or the internet.

Not everything that’s old finds its way to The Pile. Gifts, or things that have some amount of sentimental value to me, I actually keep: ticket stubs for movies or shows that I really enjoyed, brochures for exhibits I attended, postcards addressed to me from around the world, you get the idea. These things I collect and put into… I don’t actually have a name for it, but there’s a box that I keep that’s full of these reminders of so many good things from my past.

As part of the cleanup, I added several more memories from 2013 to the box which included, amongst other things: my ticket from The Phantom of the Opera (which, after all these years of singing “The Music of the Night” in the shower, I had never seen before), several old desk toys accumulated from my previous job, and all the printed travel documents from my trip to San Francisco and my speaking engagement in Silicon Valley.

So I’m a little sentimental (and a bit of a hoarder it seems), keeping all these reminders of good times with me. Some memories I keep out of the box and in plain sight, like this heart inscribed in dust on my rangehood that I can never bring myself to clean no matter how many Wellington Anniversary weekends I get. These things aren’t exactly love letters, but rather reminders that I have, could be, and am, loved.

And in a way, I keep my old love letters. Sunscreen song reminder #2.