One of my strengths is attention to detail — almost to a fault. Tedious things aren’t daunting.  I tend to be organized and linear.  I assiduously file things away by topic and easily can retrieve them for my writings and community work. My file system is vast.  I write rapidly because words flow nearly as fast as I think.

I have my days assigned. My time is filled.  I multitask well and tend to always have some media like TV, radio or the CD player going as I do other things, including reading. I marvel at the human mind and its ability to embrace so much information, digest and absorb it and use it for personal growth. I like to be there to hear breaking news and follow the developments. I lament that time doesn’t allow  humans to consume more of the experiences of merit that lie out there.

Why, oh, why can’t my lifetime permit me to visit all the great patches of the planet, consume all the compelling books out there, listen to the greatest minds lecture, see the most powerful films or meet the giants of the age?  I can go into a grocery store and dash to the shelves to get only the things I came for and not be governed by impulse-buying, then head to the check-out.

While I do not hoard, I intentionally collect.  My considerable bookshelves are full of works I recognize my busy life will never allow me to read.  I have so many organizational files that they could serve as the  veritable archives of those organization during my terms on boards or as president. Sometimes staff come to me because I have bothered to keep the monthly reports, minutes or special studies.  I keep the newsletters I produced for groups 30 years ago. They likely are the only copies that remain, the last minutia of their goings-on.

And so it goes.  In a who-cares, throwaway society where stuff  is regarded as burdensome, I wonder aloud: Is anyone keeping track? Is there a copy for posterity?    For more than 20 years, I have been writing and producing “The KCOT Bulletin,” the weekly newsletter of the Kiwanis Club of Tempe.   The two-sided, legal size newsletter, steeped in detail, goes to 100 recipients by mail.  I meticulous keep two copies in a file each week and have copies of the more than 1,000 issues that I have written and printed since 1988.  Many years ago, I inherited the KCOT Bulletins that make up the Club’s archives that go back to the Club’s founding in 1952.  Unfortunately there are four or five years of missing Bulletins, although in some years, the Club’s president was the official writer/editor, and  he did not find time to do it. Those weekly Bulletins are all that is left of the pace and color of our distinguished Club through the decades.  The patient reader consumes so much about Tempe and Arizona history, not to mention the lives of the cavalcade of  members.

Who has the spouse or the discipline or the will to inherit the vast holdings of Kiwanis archives, records and files that I have?  How will I find a member to inherit them?  Or should I get the Tempe History Museum to become the keeper of it all some day? Or will an offspring have three days to get the house ready for sale and have no other choice than to haul drawer after drawer of records to the Dumpster?

During my 25 years with the Tribune Newspapers, I worked in several offices in Tempe, two in Chandler, as well as Scottsdale and Mesa.  We went full circle in regard for preserving bound newspapers, carefully clipped and filed stories by topics.  I witnessed a series of  editors make the cold decision to put them into Dumpsters in the Tempe Daily News Tribune’s moves from 607 S. Mill Avenue in 1987 to Hayden Square, then again a few years later in the move to offices at Baseline Road and Mill Avenue and eventually closing all offices in Tempe about four years ago.

In the main office in Mesa, successive editors — leaders with no roots in the community — trashed virtually the clips and photos of the newspaper library.  That we adopted  an “electronic library” that automatically kept articles produced from a starting date for retrieval, we “no longer needed” to go way back to yellowed clippings  from 1981 for information for news stories.  Museums, short of rooms and staff, likely weren’t eager to take the massive holdings, but they may not have been asked to take the tons of clippings and photos.

As my years count down, I must set aside time to sort and sift.   My grown children cannot be expected to take care of my  40 years of newspaper writings and clippings, thousands of paper files on Tempe Community Council, Highland Neighborhood Association, the Tempe Red Cross, Tempe Leadership and University Presbyterian deacons, trustees or elders files and 40 years of Iowa State University journalism annual alumni reports. Were I famous, my thousands of newspaper columns, features and blogs might be preserved in a “library.”  We all know people who travel lightly and have no filing cabinets, bookshelves or keeper of tax records for more than three years.  The vestiges of the past are only so much refuse and trash to them.

I am not alone among the “keepers of the flame,” those who document their part of American life and keep the story alive.  Each day, the landfills collect tons of  the chronicles of local history and family history.  The stuff goes there because people, offspring and strangers do not have the time or disposition to  keep them.  It is a quandary.  I must not burden my kids with the stuff, but I must find time to sort it mindfully and seek out a new generation who recognize the worth of things.