My husband was a pack rat. A very neat hoarder. Everything was always in its proper place, stacked and organized well. But he had boxes upon boxes of random cards and notes and books that he never cracked open after the first time he received or used them.
I threw everything out. The only things I kept were the love notes he wrote to me randomly, in his own handwriting, which he tucked into my purse or backpack or book to find later.
Besides those love notes, if something was especially nice, I kept it, but usually not. I took the lovely sentiments and kept them with me, but not the physical items themselves.
But now, with him gone, I realize I would have only ever received 6 wedding anniversary cards from him. Do I have them all, those precious few? What about my birthday cards? I’d only have 13 or 14 from him. A teeny stack! Do I have them all?
Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have the energy to turn the house upside down looking for them. But I go through his things, and I see his many stacks of orderly cards from friends and family going back many years, and I’m struck by his sentimentality. It’s a sentimentality I don’t have. Instead, I carry some regret. Not a great trade-off.