A few weeks ago someone posted a question in response to my post on donating my cookbooks after I Evernoted my favorite recipes, wondering if I felt I was too overly reliant on technology. I sat with it for a few days and then put my reflections into words, and learned a great deal about sentimentality in the process:
I'm hearing all sorts of great things about Evernote! I especially like your use for the recipes tear-outs or print outs. But, do you get the impression that you're getting perhaps overly reliant on technology? I only thoughtfully buy cookbooks that I view as an investment for my family. I write in the margins, remember the sauces spilled on them, and fully intend to pass them down to my daughter when she becomes an adult as a treasured heirloom. There's just something special about having that tangible cookbook that my husband and I used when we were just figuring out how to cook together as newlyweds in college. You can always send those books my way! Mm, World Vegetarian and Indian cooking?! Yum! :-)
The first thing that came to mind when reading your question was this quote by Stevie Nicks (posted to Austin Kleon's blog):
“You want your journals written by hand in a book, because someday, if you have daughters — I don’t have daughters, but I have fairy goddaughters, thousands of them — all of these books are gonna go to them, and they’re gonna sit around just like we are now, and they’re gonna read them out loud, and they’re going to be able to know what my life was.” Then, pointedly, to Este: “And they’re not gonna find it in your phone.”
Yours and Nicks' sentimentality had me wondering if I am too quick to digitize, but after doing a bit of repatriated anthropology on my own stuff, I settled into an assuredness that I don't. Thank you for that! I guess only time will tell if I've become overly reliant on technology. However, I can't recall any moments where I wish I hadn't digitized or tossed a hard-copy version of something, which I hope bodes well for my future-self.
As for donating all of my cookbooks, I cook, but I'm not a cookbook person, so it's not important that cookbooks are ever attached to memories of me. Unlike Stevie Nicks, I'm not a journal person either, so journal entries are #2 on the list of "things that I won't pass down one day." For the recipes that cannot be replaced, such as my grandmother's recipe scribbled in Estonian, Evernote serves as insurance that her memory won't be lost if the piece of paper ever is. And so it sits both in my parents' kitchen and in my Evernote. I use technology to keep safe items of sentimental value, not to replace them. Her recipe is meaningful and my Indian cookbooks were not.
When I help clients minimize their things, I like to focus on keeping the "best of," instead letting go of the "worst of." Looking around my house right now, I see a collection of "best of" objects that I hope are enjoyed for generations to come, much like your cookbooks. I see leather pouches that my sister gave me from her time in Niger, the vintage Bertoia Diamond chair that I painstakingly de-rusted with my own hands, and a metal batik stamp that I picked up while studying abroad in Bali. So, your question also had me asking myself what do I honor enough to pass down? What physical objects - that feel like a part of me - cannot be digitized? I discovered that there actually is a collection of things that are infused with my memories, and none of these can be Evernoted. For everything else though, I want it out of the way and on my computer so these seeable, touchable gems can shine.
I also use technology to store memories that originated in the digital world, such as the swarm of "love texts" from my boyfriend when we first met. Without a digital system, these would be lost forever. Since we don't generate shoeboxes full of letters anymore, I want to ensure that memories like these are still treasured and kept safe.
I like that you point out that you only "thoughtfully" buy cookbooks that are an "investment" for your family. My cookbooks weren't thoughtfully acquired, but my furniture, family memorabilia, and travel treasures were. My mission is to show people the joy their space can hold when they invest in it thoughtfully, as you have done.
Where are your stories? In cookbooks? In journals? In saved text messages? In furniture? Wherever they are, care for them. Care also requires you to eliminate the superfluities as you go, so that both you and the next generations only get the "best of."
Please share thoughts in the comments!
Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper. She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking. Reach her at 202.262.1207 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch video lessons on office organizing here. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter & receive your free list of 100 Ways to Organize Your Office at www.theinspiredoffice.com/subscribe.