Let’s play Jeopardy.

Answer: Clean out the basement.

Question: What should you do if you’re confined to your house and you plan to move to a retirement home in the not-too-distant future?

I began to clean out my basement office earlier this year, a daunting task given the tons of paper I’d amassed after having spent decades writing admissions and fund-raising materials for colleges and independent schools throughout the U.S. There were interview notes and background materials and reference works; and boxes containing some of my favorite brochures kept as samples to get more work, everything from a case statement for Harvard Medical School to an admissions viewbook for Davidson College; and alumni magazines and newspapers, which included all the profiles and articles I’d written since moving to Maine in 2002. And then, over in the corner were several boxes containing materials for some of the organizations I had volunteered for over the years. And don’t forget the used printer cartridges and old iPhones.

Who would want any of the above stuff? Short answer, after some quick soul-searching: no one. Gonzo!

A few items made the “Keep” pile: a piece I wrote in Bridge World magazine about my dad, a stellar bridge player, right before he died; an article about running the Boston Marathon in honor of my brother Tony as well as a plaque for completing it; and some heartwarming thank-you notes.

Things got more interesting while cleaning out the cupboard. I found several notebooks I’d used for taking notes in courses (English, Philosophy and Religion) at Bowdoin during my senior year (1963-64), along with bluebooks for exams in those courses. Just for fun, I polled my Facebook friends to get their views on whether I should keep or pitch the Bowdoin stuff. The answers split into four groups: 1. Pitch. 2. Digitalize and then pitch; 3. Contact someone at the Bowdoin library to see if they’d want it; and 4. Keep. Frankly, I’m still torn.

And what about the two dozen old LP records, which had belonged to Tina’s youngest brother Benjamin and which she, in turn, got after her mother died. I showed them to Juan, one of two Bowdoin students staying at our house and a contract worker for eBay, if they had value on eBay. He reviewed the records and said, “Absolutely!,” so that solves that problem.

But what about the copy of the April 4, 1938 Life magazine, the one with Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary of Britain, on the cover. The cover price was ten cents, but Juan quickly determined that it would bring about $11 on eBay. Problem solved. Oops, not so fast! I remembered that my mother worked for Life about that time. I checked the masthead and, Voila!, there she (Sally Kenniston) was, included in the list of “Editorial Associates.” Now that is a definite keeper!

These vignettes bring up a larger issue. What should we older types keep to pass on to our kids and grandkids? While we might treasure a given piece of paper or furniture or jewelry, they might well view it as just junk, something to pitch. We do them no favors by keeping tons of stuff and saying to the next generation, “Here, you sort it out.”

The best approach? Have the kids look at your things to determine what they really do want, but set your ego aside when you do. The answer, in all probability, is darn little. The best thing to pass on, as suggested in an earlier column, is your life story, Write it up; include interesting vignettes and anecdotes. Show them what life — and you — were like when you were growing up.

The going through your stuff exercise (the term “exorcize” would also work) combined with the “shelter in place” mandate gives one the opportunity to reflect upon what really matters in life. But that’s a topic for a future column. And now….back to the basement.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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