Random header image... Refresh for more!

Two Things

I am in the middle of an edit for Life from Scratch which means that it has been pure craziness in terms of time management this week.  But I had this overwhelming need to switch my personal email address and to change providers midweek because my old account often gets misspelled when people write it down.

So I made a new email address with a completely unable-to-be-misspelled name and imported my old emails into my new address, a process that took about 8 hours because we’re talking about about 12 years of emails.

It imported them in the strangest way–it would drag in a chunk of emails and put them out of chronological order on the front screen, and then, after 10 seconds or so, it would sucked them into the archives based on their labels.  So I could see the emails for about 10 seconds, and then they would disappear into the archives.

But if I clicked on them, I could read the message and it would stop it from being immediately archived.  So I started reliving all these moments from the past 12 years–an email from Josh talking about how excited he was for an ultrasound appointment, a fight with a friend, a catch-up email with a person I knew in college.

There were emails I had somewhat forgotten about that I sort of wish I hadn’t reread because they reopened old hurt feelings, such as the fight with the friend.  But at the same time, I didn’t want to lose a single email.  I was terrified not to import them and possibly lose them if I stopped checking the old account and had that account deleted.

The email I absolutely loved finding was the first email.  Before I gave out the address to everyone else, I sent myself an email written in code where if you took the first letter of every word, it spelled out a morale boosting message.  And I freakin’ love that I did that for myself.


We are in the middle of a major purge and we cleaned out the front closet, now making it possible for people to remove the fold-up chairs from the closet without having an avalanche of mittens and empty bags fall on them.  The closet has not been cleaned in years, and we found a treasure trove of printmaking supplies buried under a mountain of crumpled up wrapping paper.  And a winter coat from an unknown owner (anyone leave a navy blue pea-coat at our house?).

I mustered up all the unsentimentality I could find and tossed several pairs of baby shoes.  I had pangs of regrets when I got into bed that night, even though we would buy new shoes for a new child and no one would want our children’s scuffed up, worn-down sneakers.  Not deep pangs, but small pangs that I soon convinced myself to ignore.  But I wondered why I worked so hard to keep all my old emails whereas I tossed their sneakers unceremoniously in a trash bag.

Is it the difference between virtual space and actual space?


1 Elizabeth { 05.30.10 at 9:40 am }

To my mind, there’s something that feels evanescent and immaterial about anything stored electronically – that creates this urge to endlessly back things up, even photo files that I don’t particularly like – that creates an anxiety about losing something irretrievably. I don’t feel the same anxiety about material objects; even throwing away a pair of shoes, I still feel like they exist intact somewhere and I could possibly recover them if I really really wanted to – but with electronic stuff, there’s the feeling that once it’s gone it’s gone forever.

2 TwoDogMama { 05.30.10 at 9:49 am }

I don’t feel the same way about virtual space as I do about actual space. I am pretty neat, clean, organized, and anal person. I don’t like messy places. I like everything put away. I tend to only hold onto sentimental things from the past (books from my childhood, cards from a deceased grandparent, blankents made by great-grandmother), but then I organize them and put them away in neatly labeled boxes. Everything else I purge. With emails, I don’t save anything. Well, I take that back. I save important things such as our adoption emails, but they all go into folders so I don’t have to look through a mess of emails every time I log on. At work I don’t have a choice. Our emails are erased every 30 days no matter what, so what I need to keep/document I print out and file away. Has deleting stuff come back to bite me in the butt? Yes, at times. Have I thrown away stuff I now wish I would have kept? Probably, but I don’t like the feeling of clutter in my life virtual or actual. It gives me anxiety. I do like having folders, labels, boxes, etc so I can put it away neatly, keep it, and have it organized. Otherwise it will end up in the trash.

3 Kim { 05.30.10 at 10:24 am }

Is it a difference between virtual space and actual space or is it a difference between things and words?

Things I can throw. Words, I like to hold on to.

4 Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo { 05.30.10 at 12:19 pm }

I can’t live without the teeny clothes and swaddling blankets of the Duo. The other thing I would just die a thousand deaths if we didn’t have the massive backup harddrive thingy to backup all the photos and videos. To ensure that nothing ever gets lost, it also gets stored for our surro and her fam online. So we have two backup systems… harddrive and online. Photos and memories are so precious to me.

5 LJ { 05.30.10 at 1:53 pm }

It’s funny, I am always far more organized in my digital life than my physical life. It’s easier for me to compartmentalize and find a home for everything. I can tuck things away for another time, but really, I almost never need to go there. Having a physical space is something I do want to get de-cluttered, but find myself hanging onto things that I may use some day. That being said, aside from pictures, I haven’t held on to too much old stuff of mine. Maybe a few t-shirts here and there, but if it isn’t something I’ll use, then the memory of the thing is as good as the thing itself. Maybe also it’s that I take so many pictures that I don’t need the physical items…

6 a { 05.30.10 at 2:09 pm }

I don’t know – for me, it’s about how much space things take up. It’s easy to stack letters and pictures and cards – they don’t take up much room, so I’m pretty comfortable saving them. Shoes, on the other hand, take up space and will probably never be useful again. I have a pair of my baby shoes, and while I think they’re adorable, whenever I see them I think, “Why am I keeping these? They won’t mean anything to anyone else.” Add in electronic media – which only takes up imaginary space…I have a million horrible photos of my daughter that I won’t erase…because I don’t have to.

(I have a similar philosophy at work – the less space a case takes in 3 dimensions, the happier I am to have it. Usually.)

7 Lucia { 05.30.10 at 2:32 pm }

Sending oneself an email of encouragement might sound a little silly but I think it’s wonderful. During a particularly difficult time of my life I sent myself the same email in different forms over and over: “Encourage your hopes, not your fears”.

8 Bea { 05.30.10 at 5:50 pm }

Yes, there is a difference.

Virtual space can be preserved without impacting as negatively on your current life. Those sneakers were helping to hide a treasure-trove of supplies and make a cupboard a dangerous place to explore, not to mention taking up space that could be used for new and interesting things. The email database, by contrast, is relatively searchable and infinitely tuck-awayable. It’s right to set the bar differently.


9 PCOS Chick { 05.30.10 at 8:07 pm }

I’ve enjoyed stumbling over your blog. I want to follow you and keep up, but I just wanted to encourage you to keeping going forward and don’t give up. I have PCOS and have been trying to conceive for over two years now. So I can relate and understand how you feel. Feel free to check out my blog, I’d love to add your blog to my blog roll, and I hope you will follow me, and add me as one of your favorite sights. I’ll be praying for you. Here’s my blog. Follow me.

God Bless,

10 Allison { 05.31.10 at 8:46 am }

Hmm. I think by tossing the shoes and writing about them, you moved them from actual space to virtual space. Just because we get rid of actual things doesn’t mean we delete the memories. They’re still with you just as much as the emails are. 🙂

11 chickenpig { 05.31.10 at 2:13 pm }

I have one box where I save all the twins’ stuff that I can’t stand to part with. One pair of their beat up shoes in there is enough, though.

I don’t save any emails. I do save cards and written letters, but not electronic ones.

12 loribeth { 05.31.10 at 4:08 pm }

Virtual space definitely takes up less physical space. (But it is still clutter of sorts!) I have e-mails going back almost 14 years. I don’t have the very first ones I wrote (pity) — & I lost two years’ worth in a computer hiccup, which left me despondent (& no, I didn’t have them backed up, ARGH!!).

But I have many older ones, including almost all the ones I wrote to my e-mail support group after losing Katie, right through to our decision to stop treatment — which is sort of neat to go back & look at. I’ve been lousy at keeping journals in adulthood, but I do have lots of e-mails that I’ve written that I can look back on. I try to go through them all occasionally & do some weeding — but it’s hard to find time to do that on top of everything else. Physical clutter & cleanups tend to take priority.

By the way — I once heard a great suggestion for when you are trying to toss out stuff that has sentimental value: Try taking a picture of the item before you toss it. An online friend who had a miscarriage (& never got pg again) took photos of the few baby items she had collected before giving them away, & said it made her feel much better. I’ve also read in scrapbooking magazines about moms who scan their kids’ artwork before tossing it out — maybe just keeping a couple of sample “masterpieces” from each grade. The scans can even be reduced so that you could fit in several on a scrapbook page. Just a few ideas!

13 Wishing4One { 06.01.10 at 6:22 am }

i think there is a difference but a slight one at that. one of our laptops crashed here and I took it to be rescued and only some of pictures were salvaged. i think losing those pictures was the hardest thing for us. so many memories in our new home, cairo and some pics of the first visits from my family here… so that was hard. i have so many clothes and shoes that i never wear bit for some reason can not part with. i’m working on it though.

14 Calliope { 06.01.10 at 1:28 pm }

there are certain eras of my digital life that I cling to because it represents a part of me that I will never get back. I actually have many giant binders of printed out e-mails. How’s THAT for merging virtual and actual space?! But there are entire friendships- the beginnings and the ends- within those binders. There are love letters and help me letters and funny letters. It was when an e-mail was more than just a reply. Actual stuff I can toss easily. Too easily sometimes.

15 Kir { 06.02.10 at 11:46 am }

I think there is a difference, in that HERE I can make folders and fill them and never see how BULGING they are.and if the OS tells me they are…well I just make a “New folder” and go on about my business…
IRL, I look at that closet and think…DEAR GOD I am a mess, in so many ways..a bigger house, a bigger closet, I just don’t feel like doing this..etc. But when I do..I feel like I climed A mountain…and got there not breathing heavily…Ha.

Plus those emails that I save, keep, treasure (even the fights) are memories I want to remember , they keep me human in many ways.

I totally GET IT.

16 B { 06.05.10 at 9:39 am }

Yes. The difference is space. That is, virtual space takes none and old stuff takes more and more and means you have to get a new house.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author