©iStockphoto.com/ Christian Misje

I received some interesting responses to my de-cluttering article. One woman from Idaho just said, “Ouch!” One from Texas said, “You did such a great job advocating for the loss of clutter in our lives. I find that less clutter in the home helps to keep me with less clutter in my mind, too. I thought about how even in my mind I have several ‘items’ that are no longer useful and yet there they are. Luckily, there is also “garbage pick up” through repentance!”

Don’t you love that analogy?

Another reader sent me an article called “Say Yes to Mess!” as an alternate point of view. A Colorado man said, “Wait a minute! Don’t be so quick to judge and discard! My grandsons delight in wearing some of my vintage clothes – talk of the school! Everyone asking where they might get some of the same! And, our missionary grandsons anxiously stand in line for first dubs on Grandfather’s ties (I limit them to 5 each)! Other missionaries ask where they got such neat ties! If I had thrown out all these things, look at the pleasure I would have robbed from my grandsons!”

Things That Can Turn Our Hearts to Our Ancestors

That response got me to thinking about the treasures my mom saved and how much we have enjoyed them. At her 85 th birthday party her daughters and granddaughters did a fashion show of special clothes Mom had kept – all the way from a beautifully cut dress from the 1920s that she wore when she was dating my dad to the outfit she wore for her 50 th wedding celebration.

I have her handwork, quilts, and afghans in my cedar chest and I treasure them. I have a couple of baby dresses that she made for me when I was tiny and pillow cases she embroidered for me when I was getting married forty years ago. An assortment of her pins framed on a velvet background (one given her by her mother as a keepsake from her grandmother) hangs on my wall. I have her journals, scrapbooks full of cards, hand-written tender messages and pictures from her children and grandchildren. These may clutter my house, but no one could call them junk!

The same day I was thinking about all this I visited a friend who had re-done her living room as an “ancestor room.” As I stepped into the room I saw a beautiful old trunk her parents used when they moved from California to Utah. Inside she stores many large archival acid free black boxes – each labeled with an ancestor’s name. Inside the boxes are hand-made pieces of clothing, eyeglasses, coin purses, and letters, some more than a hundred years old. Each box also holds photos, a short history of the person and a explanation of each item inside.

Pictures of her grandmother, Anna Viktoria Lindberg, and her mother Anna Kristina (taken in 1916 in Sweden) grace one wall. They were the first in their line to be converted to the Church. They left their homeland and arrived in the United States in October of 1920.

Restored and exquisitely framed pictures of her husband’s pioneer grandparents sit on end tables. On shelves of a tall bookcase are ancestor pictures from the early 1800s, along with a pair of Suzanne’s tiny baby shoes, antique cameras and wooden button boxes. Two smaller trunks hold some belongings of her Grandpa Parker – his wool sweater, his paintbrushes, his wallet, and a few of his letters and photos.

Suzanne says the room is a wonderful place to share stories of special ancestors with her young grandchildren. These stories and photos make each person become a real and living person. She says her grandchildren are intrigued when she holds the very paintbrush used by Grandpa Parker and tells them how he could make paint from the elements of the earth and was a master at matching the paint with any decor.

All these items bring an appreciation for the past into the present. Suzanne feels that through pictures, artifacts and stories, these ancestors are becoming a part of her grandchildren’s lives, and are giving the children a greater appreciation for the blessing of the present. They made me wish I had more such “clutter” in my home!

Seeing the Difference between Treasures and Junk

So, whatever rules apply to the general clutter of our lives – to the no longer functioning walkman, the five stained T-shirts we haven’t worn for years and probably never will, the stacks of tapes and CDs that never get listened to – they don’t apply to treasures that may connect us more closely to our relatives.

“Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers” may be a lot easier if we have artifacts, handwritten journals, cards, and letters, and even special articles of clothing worn by the person (think of displays in the Church History museum). Let’s not get carried away and discard treasures. At the same time, for every one potential treasure in our cluttered closets, there are probably a hundred things we would never regret having parted company with!

The trick is to discern the difference.