Yesterday I looked at the 11 large cardboard boxes and 2 huge plastic tubs containing my mother's life. As I mentioned in my posts Packing Up a Life, the boxes contain an assortment of items from her apartment. Mother was not an organized person and her living areas reflected that.
So each box contains eclectic items that were packed as I found them - a trip diary, old photos, earrings she had taken off and laid down on top of a pile of papers. One room may have held 3 trip diaries, others were scattered in one of two bedrooms, some were in drawers. This makes for difficult unpacking as I don't know what is in each box. We had very little time and could not sort before packing, it all has to be done now that the boxes are here ready to unpack.
As I stood and gazed at the boxes sitting on top of each other in my computer room, I wondered how on earth I should tackle this huge job. "Start with one box" said my husband. His idea was that I would unpack one box, sort it, organize it, archive it and scan or copy any papers to share with my siblings. Then all the items in that box would be stored in their proper place. But where WAS their proper place?
And how could I unpack one box and go through it carefully when it might contain one trip diary but none of the others. Shouldn't I unpack everything and organize items in some kind of chronological order? And did I really want 10 boxes sitting for weeks while I took my time with one?
Finally I decided I had to unpack one box and organize the items within by putting them in plastic storage tubs. I knew I would find my mother's writings, her memoirs, her trip diaries, photographs and her genealogy papers. So I would need (at a minimum) one tub for photos, one for memoirs and souvenirs relating to her life, one for her trip diaries and one huge tub for her genealogy papers.
I decided I could not allow myself to enjoy what was inside each box, but instead unpack, sort, organize into tubs until all boxes were empty. When all the boxes were unpacked I would allow myself to take one tub at a time and go slowly through it.
Easier said than done! The first box had many surprises and treasures. Besides the dust there was a very nice photo of my grandmother on her wedding day to her second of three husbands, several other photos I had never seen before taken in the 1920s in Guelph Ontario, her writings about her trips to Australia, Alaska and Russia, two published articles about mother, my aunt and my grandmother living and travelling around N. America in a Winnebago in the 1970s, a book of minutes of meetings where she was secretary, an envelope of newspaper clippings of births, deaths and marriages from the early 1900s, a 1967 Expo Souvenir Glass, and my step-father's death certificate.
How could I not sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy reading her trip diaries at the very least!
I confess that I gave in. I read her trip diaries. I glanced at the photos but fought the impulse to scan them and put them up in a Picassa Web Album or print them off for siblings. I spent a wonderful afternoon curled up in a chair, feeling like my mother was sitting in my living room telling me all about her adventures.
Now I have to go back to unpacking, sorting and organizing. I welcome any suggestions as to the best method of tackling the unpacking and sorting, but also how to archive and share the treasures with my siblings and other family members!