Leaving something for our children and grandchildren to discover after we have gone is becoming increasingly popular, but…

One of the most common regrets that people have after their grandparents and parents have passed on is that they don’t know as much about their forefathers’ lives as they would like to know.

Somehow, in the hurly burly of everyday life there doesn’t seem to be time to talk and ask, or maybe sometimes the right moment never quite comes along.

In the last few years I’ve come across a number of older people who have in their retirement thought long and hard about this issue and considered how they might best leave a positive and appropriate message for their descendants.

Two ways have emerged – or at least there are two ways of doing this that I have become aware of.

The first is the picture album – the picture album that carries a vital record from across the years, combined with illustrative notes about why each picture has been chosen.

The other (and of course this can be combined with the first) is the written account. Not an autobiography, but just a reminiscence on topics that one wants to talk about – a reminiscence of parts of one’s life, written not with the view that the writer will soon be passing away, but rather so that when that time does come, they have left their children or grandchildren something very specific to remember them by. Like the photos, it is more than a record of events – it is their way of seeing the world.

The small number of people whom I have had the honour of talking to about such an issue have said that they found it incredibly interesting to start gathering a specific set of photos to be “discovered” upon their passing.

They also said that they found the task of writing about themselves both challenging and enjoyable. They all suggested that they found it hard to get going, but then after a little while, once they stopped worrying about getting everything in the right order, they relaxed and just wrote down what they felt like writing, and it all became a lot easier.

And then came a very interesting revelation – for me at least. It was a technical detail, but it seemed to say quite a bit about the way we think about the world these days.

It turned out that these reminisces were written on a computer using Word or Google Docs or a similar program. By chance I happened to ask why, in that case, Admiral Document Storage was being given the honour of storing this vital document for the children.

The answer was along these lines.

First, the computer being used is already out-of-date, so will be of no use to their children. They already have far more advanced systems.

Second, they are sure that their children won’t want to spend time going through the computer looking for a specific document, and indeed they will probably forget to do so.

But a clear message left with the will which says, “My important documents are all stored in a box in Admiral Document Storage along with my thoughts for you” is certain to get them to look and see what has been stored for them. And so they will read the documents that have been left for them.

So the thoughts and notes that these individuals have written out and left for their descendants are left on the computer, in case someone manages to remember to go and look for the file, and at the same time they are left with other precious items in our storage facility.

As for what people say in such documents, I have not felt it my place to ask. But I suspect each and every set of thoughts left for one’s descendants is unique.

I have to say that the conversations I’ve had about this have given me quite a pause for thought. What would I want to say to my children after I have passed away? I guess I want to tell them how much I love them, and perhaps tell them a little about my life that they may never have heard – although now I come to think of that, it would have to be a sanitised version!

It is quite a moving thought – although I am sure that this sort of document is not for everyone.

We are used to being an archive for legal documents and the like. Now it seems we are also an archive for memories.

If you’d like to know more about our document storage facilities you can find further information by clicking here.

Alternatively please do call us on 0800 810 1125.

Building a collection of articles with no end in mind is not quite as strange as it might seem

In my house I have a couple of waste bins for paper – one in my home office (which is different from my office office) and one in the downstairs hallway.

Into these two receptacles go envelopes, advertising literature sent through the post which has not held my interest, old shopping lists, notes brought home from work, the occasional newspaper, last week’s Radio Times, and a few other odds and ends.

The volume of materials isn’t great – my recycling bin (emptied every other week by my local council, rather than once a week as promised by the Government) is rarely more than half full, even when I add in the occasional (and I stress occasional) bottle that once held wine, the unwanted rest of the newspaper, empty cereal packets and similar detritus that I have accumulated from the recently opened mega-sized Tesco which I and about six other people frequent.

However, this careful selection of the correct bin (we have four in my area, one for garden waste, one for recyclables, one for plastics and the like, and one for food) and my cautious approach to getting rid of things means that I accumulate.

Not, I hasten to add, more and more rotten food or broken digital radios, but rather, more and more paper.

Yes, I must confess, I do actually accumulate more paper than I jettison.

Now I am not a totally hopeless case. My house is still habitable, and when I finally pass away and my family come to clear the place out, this won’t be one of those situations where they have to call industrial clearance companies and risk being buried under mountains of printed materials which collapse the moment one item is moved.

But I do see things in the paper and in magazines, and I keep them. Then a year or two later I look at them and think, “Why on earth did I keep that?” and maybe I throw the item away. Or maybe I think, “I must have kept this for some reason – I know if I throw this out, I am going to regret it,” and so it (whatever it is) stays in the collection.

At least that has how it has been until this past year, because last year I made a resolution, introduced (as is the way of such things) on January 1, in which I would, each week, spend an hour or so indexing, sorting and throwing out the unwanted.

And I’ve been doing that, indexing, sorting, setting aside, throwing out, and filing.

It has been the most interesting experience, not so much because things are now in a proper order, but rather because I now understand much more about what I keep and why I keep it. I tend (for example) to keep newspaper and magazine articles about the surveillance to which our society is now subjected. It is a fascinating subject for me (even if nobody else cares) and maybe one day I’ll pull it all together and write a book on it.

Or maybe not.

I have found I also tend to keep articles about places in which I have lived or spent a lot of time. Memories of days past I suppose.

Anyway, you may well be asking what this has to do with anything. Well, what struck me was that we don’t tend to do the same sort of thing anymore with computers. We read, we digest, we delete.

Now I know that when my last computer went pop it had within it a lot of stuff that I had collected – articles, files that sort of thing. Some of these went onto my new computer, but a lot were just left, and have ultimately been wiped and crushed.

Maybe that is good, because we can’t really go on keeping and keeping, but it does mean that some of the occasional archiving of materials, kept for reasons that gradually become less and less clear, is slipping away.

And yes, of course it is all stored in the British Library archives. But that’s not the point. My collection is my collection – what interests me, from my singular point of view.

I do hope that some of us do continue to keep clippings and cuttings, because these collections are of value, not just because of what is in them, but because of what they say about the collector’s view of reality.

It would seem that I am not the only person who does this as we have a number of customers who every now and then move their collections into our Document Storage.

Should you wish to know more about our Document Storage facilities, please do call us on 0800 810 1125.

Alternatively you can find more information on our website at www.archive-document-storage.co.uk