Often, the purpose of keeping an item is as a reminder of the past. But even so, that item - and the decision to keep it - still serves an important function in the present.
6 reasons people do keep stuff:
1. To define yourself.
Items that reflect who you are, or which you actively use to make you who you are. These can be hidden belongings, like private diaries. And they can sometimes be items on display as a talking-point about your background.
2. To honour people you care about.
So you might keep pictures drawn by a child, or use a family photo as your desktop background.
3. To connect with the past.
Items can be sentimental to you, but mundane to others. For example, an old cookery book annotated by a beloved grandmother.
4. To frame the family.
Sometimes putting photos on display is like putting forward a "public face" of the family.
5. To fulfil a sense of duty.
The article includes a story of a mother who keeps outgrown toys belonging to her adopted children. Toys that had come with them from before their adoption, but that had no current sentimental value. She was keeping them in anticipation of future sentimental value.
6. To help forget the past.
Sometimes things have upsetting or embarrassing connotations, but feel too important to discard (perhaps because of reason 1). Packing it away somewhere where it won't be frequently accessed protects the owner from the contents. But it allows the owner to avoid feeling guilty about getting rid of it.
This is based on an article I have read this week:
Kirk, David and Sellen, Abigail. 2010. On human remains: Values and practice in the home archiving of cherished objects. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 17, 3, Article 10 (July 2010). DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1806923.1806924
Thanks for reading! Does this leave anything out? Do you have different reasons for keeping things?
This article was part of my Deep Dive into Personal Digital Archiving Series.
Series Intro: Why Stuff Matters (to us)
Previous Article: Some early articles about personal digital archiving
Next Article: Make digital archiving a game!
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