After his death, the task of sorting through my father’s possessions was both daunting and confronting. He was quite the hoarder and filled every cupboard, every shelf and every drawer with “things”. Whether it was from need, necessity or compulsion he kept almost everything which made its way into the house. Not only did I have to sort through drawers full of odd bits like paperclips, rubber bands and pens, I also had to determine what I should keep and what could either be given away or thrown in the skip. This was not easy considering most of the documents and letters were either in Russian or German and almost all of the photographs were unnamed. Each day I found myself surrounded by piles of paper and mountains of photographs. Most of the paper was imprinted with handwritten lines, some faint and spidery, some darker and tumultuous. All of it unreadable. Sorting through the paperwork was a matter of guesswork and pure gamble. Should I put it on the pile to keep? Or through it into the yawning mouth of the green garbage bag? I had no method. Some were added to the pile and some thrown. I spent hours sifting through the photographs. Those which were memories of trips taken before I was born, or featured people I didn’t know, or were a record of the many pets my parents owned over the years, were thrown. The discarded photographs made up three green garbage bags on their own.

Reading letters to or from my parents made me feel like a Peeping Tom. I could tell by their contents they were never meant to be read by me or anyone else. However, if they didn’t want the letters to be read, they should have thrown them out. Instead some of them will feature in my book.

My thoughts turned to those of my possessions and belongings which I would prefer not to be found by my boys or anyone else after my death. Like the time I helped out my friend’s daughter by being her life model for a photography class. The results were very tasteful; however, I doubt my boys want to see their mother naked. I do wish I had that figure again!

I can’t recall any documents which I need to shred before I die. Everything I’ve written is stored on my external hard drive and USBs. I do have to sort through those, hitting delete often. There is some incriminating evidence of childhood escapades and episodes in later life which are not for general reading. After all it probably isn’t good for my boys to know I used to wag school; a lot. Or that I did smoke the occasional funny cigarette, which of course I didn’t inhale.

So when should I begin to rid myself of the private things? The things I don’t want anyone else to find, paw over and read? Now? Is now a good time? Perhaps a little later. When I have time. When I have energy.

Did my parents ask themselves the same questions?

Did the time and energy never come?

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