The value of saving memories

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Photograph: Simon Scarfe

As much as I talk about decluttering in another article for this issue, I am adamant that there is one thing that you should take the time and pleasure in keeping: memories. I don’t mean hang a load of dream catchers in your bedroom in the hope of catching last week’s night out amongst the thread there too; more keeping memories in the form of physical remnants from events or moments that have happened.

Okay, so this can come across as a little whimsical, and it’s a curious question as to why you should. My immediate answer would be that it’s… nice, because these things mean something, but I also write poetry so if you’re not as emotionally bound to things as I am then it can be a little more questionable.

Still, I’d implore you to try it. In many ways these bits of paper, tickets, receipts (not Sainsbury’s ones; you get the idea) form part of you, and who you are. They’re records of where you’ve been, who you’ve met, and what you’ve learnt. Looking through a box the other day I found my ticket for 2007’s McFly concert and, although I’m not necessarily proud of this especially, it brought up a whole load of memories from when I was far more naïve that I wouldn’t think about usually.

It’s not as if this forms a part of my character now, or will be something to tell my children about (unless they have a burning desire to explore 2000s pop), but you forget sometimes what made – or makes – you the happiest.

Think about your parents’ possessions, the photo albums and your mum’s wedding dress that she still keeps. Maybe right now they don’t have much relevance, but we document these things for a reason. You hear of couples that keep bits of cake from their wedding day, which verges on gross, and yet to them it could be regarded as one of their must sentimental objects to keep hold of. Obviously that bus ticket into town and back might have no value whatsoever, but that Interrailing ticket? You trekked across Europe on the back of that, and if not life changing it will have certainly been memorable.

Unless you have three hundred others, then why not keep it to look back on? Another form ‘saving’ things is a Pinterest-esque idea that usually haunts the Internet around the end of the year. People suggest that you should try taking a jar, and every time something good and worth remembering happens, write it down and put it in the jar. As the year closes, take all these notes out and reflect on what you’ve done. More than anything, this strikes me as a way to keep feeling positive about life.

Memory recollection can be highly reassuring: after a particularly hard first term earlier this year, all I could recall were the bad memories. Writing all these down, followed by all the good things that had happened, seemed to suddenly balance the two aspects and shake off dwelling on the negatives.

They were surprisingly even lists in length, even though some of the happier things were as minute and vague as ‘it’s not rained that much’. The thing about keeping photos and items is that it’s not for anyone else. It hardly matters if someone else finds a load of ticket stubs, because it’s not exactly a diary, and I’d argue it gives a more interesting impression of who you are than words. It’s not what you say, but what you do that you are remembered by.

If anything, being able to look back on good memories provides reassurance in darker times, and maybe you don’t think you need anything to show for the past few years. Maybe you don’t? Either way, some sentiment is harmless, and only human. Right now it might feel like the least important thing, but don’t brush it off, because what keeping these things comes down to is that things are impermanent. Last night itself won’t last forever, but hey, at least if you save the ticket, that tiny fraction of it will last a lifetime.