Memories and Holding On

coobowie sunset
Are you a ‘hanger on-erer’? Some people would call it hoarding, or collecting, and I agree that there is a fine line between all of these things. But I have some things I hang onto for a variety of important and valid reasons. I am a very emotional person and have strong connections via photos, trinkets and letters etc. I find it hard to throw away things that have emotional connections. I feel like my world may change if I were to lose these things, although I know that is not true.

This Easter weekend we are cleaning out lots of paperwork. I am talking we have hired a secure document bin, which we have already filled on day 1…….Most of the paperwork is housed in the lovely room my hubby built for me as an office in the back half of his huge shed when we had Maxwell – but which became a dumping pit, as these spaces tend to do. In the spirit of mindfulness I took no before shots, no images to show you how amazing the difference is in the room already. I may share once it is finished, but I decided that I was going to stay totally mindful and in the moment as we worked through this daunting task. I had one black spider land on my arm, which for a spider phobe was a meltdown moment, a few moments of thinking I couldn’t do it (think Hoarders when the said hoarder wants to throw in the towel) and lots of exclaiming “Ooh look at this!” to Mr Recycled, as I travelled through a journey of over 15 years of my life. I now have very tired legs and very dirty feet, as well as a much emptier room and a much fuller document bin.
coobowie sunset and kite
We are cleaning the shed room out so we can use it for it’s original purpose, an art space for me to paint, a music room for all of us and another place to sit quietly and work. It is also about a deep clean, a tossing away of old memories and rubbish that we no longer need and a finding of the treasured ones that should be kept. The room is lined and carpeted and air conditioned, and at the back of the garden, so you look out the little recycled window into trees and shrubs. I painted it in Sheoak which is a minty green, my favourite. It feels peaceful and snuggly out there. We also have a second hand sofa bed in there for any of the boys friends who come over for sleepovers, or just in case any of my boys need to come home once they have flown the nest. I like to think there is always a place for them here.

It has taken me all afternoon to sort through filing cabinets and drawers today, because I found so many magical things in there. Like love letters from my children, and love letters from my boyfriends, and love letters from my Mama. The cheeky flirty messages my best friend and I used to send back and forth to police officers when the welfare department we worked for shared the same internal computer records system  with the police – before the internet and email! There were school reports and psychological assessment reports, and my workcover claim reports from when I suffered a breakdown from post traumatic stress in my child protection work (not a good memory). Car accident reports. Tax files going back to the 1980’s. Birth certificates and marriage certificates and passport photos. Poetry and pictures and pieces of fabric. The communication book my sister and I used when we shared a house, because you couldn’t sms back then about what was for dinner. Some things I couldn’t believe, like every school newsletter from my first son’s primary school days!!

max coobowie

memories collected in words and images

There were also all the records going back to 2001, of my journey with my diabetes blog and charity.  How I rose from the ashes of the work breakdown I suffered, and depression and panic, and took a little idea I had about an online counselling service for people with diabetes, to the national award winning charity it is today. All the letters and reports and research. The awards and grants. The communication with so many people. My face in articles and on covers of magazines. Fundraiser planning and recognition certificates. My first home made business cards and brochures. It really hit me how wonderful this thing I created was, and is, and how much I still want it. It cemented for me that finishing my PhD is paramount and that working in diabetes alongside this blog, will always be my destiny. I felt proud and sad and wistful and invigorated. The memories of trips and conferences, discussions and planning and dreams, was overwhelming. Lots of magic, and hard work , triumph and heartache. Many journeys. A life.. My life. Memories collected in words and images are so important. I think that is why so many of us love blogging and instagram.

We filled up the document bin as well as a few large boxes full of rubbish and recycling, and a few for the op shop. But lots of magical moments and memories are still in the drawers and filing cabinets. These are the ones that need to stay. The ones that tell our family stories. Have you see Bridges of Maddison County? I love that the film, and besides how beautiful Clint and Meryl are, I love that the story is based around her children finding all of her memories and learning about who she was after she died, all the things she never shared with them, the parts of her that were hidden from them. I hope that when I am no longer here my children will be able to sit and take a journey through my life, and theirs. That they will take pleasure in discovering the moments I kept for them. Their first steps, their fat fingered drawings, their successes and struggles, our love. That they may learn a little about me that is other than their mother.

If you are also a hanger onerer I raise my cup of tea to you. I know exactly why you hold onto things. We are the keepers of the memories, the ones who keep the narrative going and honour those stories. The historians and the archaeologists. And that is a perfect kind of hoarding if you ask me.
Happy Easter. May you do lots of memory making this weekend


  1. Julie Shinnick on April 4, 2015 at 5:55 am


  2. Libby from Libbys Lifestyle on April 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Yes, I have a box, just one, with a collection of little goodies from my childhood, school days, Uni days. Every now and then when I am doing a clean out, I come across this little box and have a memory lane trip. But then there are the photograph albums, they take some time. Really slows down the cleaning out process. Also around me in my house, rented though it is at the moment, I have Nanna’s things and mum’s things and things made by my sister-in-law and brother and sister. I’m a hanger oner too.

  3. Recycled_Interiors on April 8, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Libby from Libbys Lifestyle I think there is nothing wrong at all with holding onto those memories, it is part of our stories. Photos are interesting as with digital images we tend to print less. It means they are harder to access, but you can also just go online and see your life!

  4. Helene Wild on June 13, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Yes. No apologies either! U0001f418U0001f433U0001f3b6U0001f304U0001f303U0001f305

  5. Brenda Hill on June 13, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, but I do keep all my precious things. Precious to me only. I had a huge clean out last year. The main things that went were more recent things with no sentimental value.

  6. Krista O'Brien on June 13, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    MASSIVE problem! Especially ANYTHING to do with our child.

  7. Victoria Corcoran on June 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Gosh Helen, I had no choice earlier this year when I downsized to a townhouse, called the Salvo’s in to save me … kept the cushion stash …I can change my colour palette at the drop of a hat and my treasured hoop Art Deco lamp table I could never part with !

  8. Nanette Donlon on June 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Yes I hang on…. Had professional help to declutter and simplify last year though… But I do have a bungalow that could rate high on the hoard scale I guess…. 5 years of stashing into that baby… Lol ( love the cardi in photo… Yes I knit! Lol )

  9. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 6:56 am

    that is exactly how I am too Brenda Hill

  10. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 6:56 am

    sometimes we are forced to do it aren’t we! Victoria Corcoran

  11. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 6:57 am

    It can be good to have someone help sometimes and yes I love it too! Nanette Donlon

  12. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 6:57 am

    me too but I don’t think that is a problem Krista O’Brien that is the part in the post about memory keeping 🙂

  13. Krista O'Brien on June 14, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    For me the two are not separate but are the same thing.

  14. Joy White on June 14, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    My problem is I can always think of something to make/recycle/upcycle/repurpose etc and that makes it hard for me to let go!

  15. Kathy Perrin on June 14, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    I have a natural tendency to hold onto things however make a conscious effort every year or so to cull. Once it’s gone, I can’t actually remember what I got rid of!

  16. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    that sounds like a plan! We tend to go that way too Kathy Perrin

  17. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    it can definitely be that way Krista O’Brien

  18. Recycled Interiors on June 14, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    so true! Joy White

  19. Krista O'Brien on June 14, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve been SLOWLY going through our sons toys and games and taking photos of them, I’m going to give the ones he’s REALLY outgrown to a Special Needs school. At least I’ll feel like they’re going to kids who’ll need them most. 🙂

  20. glamourcoastalliving on July 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Amazing Helen! I hang on to things – mostly birthday cards and special notes. I really do need a clean out but its so hard to detatch yourself from these things sometimes!! Great work x

Leave a Comment