Hanging Onto Childhood “Clutter”

By Jae-Ha Kim
February 20, 2017

This Washington Post article is about Baby Boomers who try to give their children used furniture and mementos — like photo albums and childhood trophies — and the children reject the items as junk.

One millennial said, “My parents are always trying to give us stuff. It’s stuff like bunches of old photos and documents, old bowls or cocktail glasses. We hate clutter. We would rather spend money on experiences.”

Some of people were quoted saying that if they can’t store it on their computers, they have no need for it.

I get it. No one wants a bunch of clutter in their homes. I don’t either. But I would never, ever turn down old family photos. And I would also never solely rely on a computer to store all my memories.

True story: my hard drive was rendered useless after it literally smoked up and died. I had all my interviews for work stored on there and I hadn’t backed up the current ones yet. I had to call back Olympian Natalie Coughlin and ask if I could re-do the interview. Luckily for me, she was gracious and said, “Of course.” But I was embarrassed to waste her time.

I have heard from numerous friends and relatives who lost years of photos, because their phones died or because they had never backed up their camera’s digital images. You can’t replace jpegs once they’re gone. (I’ve never had this problem, because I back up every photo I take onto multiple formats.) Don’t get me started on people who claim not to take vacation photos because they want to “live in the moment.” Trust me — that’s all great — but as your memory starts to fade, it’s not a bad thing to have some photographic backup.

That said, I look at all the thick photo albums I made of my child and wonder, “Where is he going to store these if he chooses to live in a small apartment or condo? Will he even want to cart them around with him?” With that in mind, over the past year or so, I have been making slim photo albums via Shutterfly. (No, they didn’t pay me to say this. I’ve used them for years and love their products…and coupons.) Making these photobooks has made me more conscientious about what I want to save and the stories I want him to remember.

I look around my house and I see my father’s collections of books and dictionaries, where he made handwritten notes in English, Korean and Japanese. I see the framed passport of me sitting on my mother’s lap right before we moved to the U.S. (They allowed this kind of passport photo way back when.) I see a drawing that my Mother-in-Law did of her father. I see the beautiful carvings that my Father-in-Law made.

And in my son’s room, mixed in with his modern furniture and an antique Italian armoire, there is a desk that used to belong to my father.  My father used to sit there well into the night, studying after a full day’s work. He wanted to improve himself so that he could get a better job. The desk was then passed down to me. It’s where I wrote my first stories (on a typewriter, folks!). And now, it’s where my child sits and does his math homework and arts and crafts.

These may be just things, but they have sentimental value to me. The memories that are tied to them are things that money and “experiences” can’t replace.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (1)

  1. Shutterfly says:

    Hello Jae-Ha Kim. What a great blog article. Thank you for your shout-out. You have really given some terrific insight on the value of the physical photo and why they are still so cherished today.

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