Starting 2023 with Nostalgic Recycling

I certainly can’t complain about 2023 so far. It’s gone smoothly and Vancouver is back to its normal rainy but mild weather pattern. To prepare for our move later this year, I’ve been going through file folders and recycling papers I no longer want to keep. It’s turned into an interesting and nostalgic exercise.

Before my mother’s dementia took over her life, she was an avid reader of newspapers, mystery novels, and Maclean’s Magazine. For my American friends, Maclean’s was, and perhaps still is, one of the most well-known news magazines in our country. For years, she would bring me all kinds of articles clipped from her weekly reading material. While I read and discarded most, some things I kept in a “General” file folder. Many of these articles are no longer relevant, however, there’s one special edition (not a Maclean’s) magazine I couldn’t part with.

It’s called ‘Heroes of the Heartland’ about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The photo of an emergency responder holding a baby girl in his arms is still heart wrenching. I think of all the acts of terrorism since then and the children who’ve been killed, and somehow I can’t let this one go.

On the upside, I had no trouble recycling expired warrantees, old newsletters and correspondence. To my delight, I’d forgotten that I’d already cleared out most of the bottom drawer in the 4-drawer filing cabinet you see in the photo, back in the summer. Those files included all the submissions, rejection letters, and other correspondence from 1980 to 2000.

Now I have the next decade to recycle. After these four drawers are completed, I have three more 2-drawer cabinets to go through. I was surprised that I still had handwritten performance reviews, not to mention numerous course certificates when I worked in retail twenty years ago. Do I need reminding that after a good review, my salary was bumped up to whopping $9.83 an hour? I think not.

Then there was the ten-year-long breast cancer study I took part in during my forties. After my sister’s bout with breast cancer 20+ years ago, I was invited to take part in a ten-year study to determine if the fat intake in the average North American diet increased the likelihood of contracting breast cancer when compared to women on a low-fat diet. I was placed in the low-fat group. If you’re curious, the study found no significant increase in the rates of breast cancer diagnosis compared to the low-fat group. Anyhow, I wound up with a thick folder containing newsletters, recipes, meeting notices, and so forth. It’s all in the recycling bin now.

You might wonder why I wouldn’t want to keep at least some of these memories? The answer is that I have in my journals, where there are detailed accounts about the study and many other events in my life. I also have my submissions and rejections recorded on an Excel sheet, along with detailed records of publications, books read, courses taken, and so forth on the computer.

Going through all this sorting might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not arduous yet. My approach is to do a little for about 30 minutes after dinner, four or five days a week. Writing still takes up most of my day and I have much more to say about what’s happening with that next week.


Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a British Columbia author who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and security work inspired me to write the Casey Holland transit security novels set in Metro Vancouver. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at

12 thoughts on “Starting 2023 with Nostalgic Recycling”

  1. I did the same thing before we moved to Spain. It was interesting and I discovered some things I did want to keep but got rid of most things. Newspaper clippings were one but I did use some of them for writing ideas. It is time-consuming but necessary. You never know what you will find.

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  2. Wow. That’s amazing work, Debra, and such nostalgia! The main things I kept after purging for my last two moves are my journals starting 1990 after my divorce, seven years of tax files, research on my novels, photographs, of course, and anything I’ve ever written (even old university papers and teenage poetry). I’ve moved 25 times in my life and those poems have continued to make the cut!

    Reading through old journals is fascinating. Although I’m not sequential, and most only contain my reactions to books, I continue to circle back to the same topics time and again. I ritually burned anything with haunting potential several years ago, and learned not to record anything incriminating. Though I wish I had copies of letters I’ve written to friends over the years. They’d be wonderful as I’m now playing with memoir.

    I often wonder what it would have been like to pack only one steamer trunk, or what could fit in a covered wagon, or what it would be like to live in an oral tribe who moved with the herds.

    I’m excited for you, and selfishly wish you were moving closer to me, so we could get our grandkids together for play dates! Blessings ~

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. All the items you described in your first paragraph are exactly what I’m keeping. I’m really interested to learn that you’re playing with memoir! It’s an entirely different type of writing.
      Yes, it would have been great to be closer, but I know we’re both doing what’s best for us and our families. By the way, much of my writing is centered around family. It’s a theme that’s been with me for years, although I really wasn’t conscious of it until recently.

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