Johnson Family Portrait taken by Bud Moyer, 1968 | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Welcome to the first installment of a new column in Old Mission Gazette that I’m calling “The Clutter Files.” I know a lot of us have the same dilemma — a house full of clutter we just don’t know what to do with.

In my case, that clutter entails six generations of Old Mission Peninsula family archives dating back to the 1800s. And there seems to be no end in sight. People keep dying on me, and I keep ending up with their stuff.

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And honestly, I love ending up with their stuff. I love being the family archive person. I love history. I love family history. And I for sure love Old Mission Peninsula history. My dad was a local historian, so not only do I have all of HIS OMP archives, but now other families are calling me saying, “Hey, we’re cleaning out Mom and Dad’s house – interested in any of our OMP archives?” Me: “Sure! I’ll be right over!”

It’s a bevy of historical riches … a lifetime’s worth of stuff to write about here on the Gazette. But … I need to find a way to manage and organize it so that I know what I have and where to find it. There’s also the issue of leaving it for my kids to deal with. Which, ok, is an option.

I recently attended a clutter program at Peninsula Community Library, with home organization expert Ali LeJeune. She gave us all sorts of tips on what to do with all of our stuff. And she’s available for hire! Check her out at Simply Ali. She’s funny and sweet and very non-judgmental about all of our stuff.

She’s also teaching a two-session workshop in March through NMC’s Extended Ed classes – which, of course, I signed up for. Check out the class, called “Healing and Peace Through Home Decluttering,” here. I so want that, Ali. Both the healing and the peace. I want my home to be a peaceful haven, not a chaotic mess.

I love that she really explores the whole emotional aspect of clutter — our attachment to things, why we have trouble letting go, and how to organize all of our stuff in a manageable way. And like Ali said at the library, she is NOT a minimalist. She loves “stuff,” but understands that it needs to be categorized, organized and managed. Otherwise, as we all know, it gets overwhelming and ends up managing US rather than the other way around.

I hope that by writing about my stuff, it will not only help me figure out what to do with it, but maybe even help you with YOUR stuff. Maybe we can help each other with notes about why things are important to us, and what to do with it if we don’t necessarily want it displayed in our house, but yet can’t bring ourselves to get rid of it.

I thought a good place to start would be with a family portrait that hung in my parents’ home in Old Mission for some 50 years. It’s just one of a million things (I cleaned the house out in 2016), but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

I distinctly remember the day this photo was taken — in a photography studio on Munson Avenue near NMC. Pictured are my mom and dad, Walter and Mary Johnson (check out my Dad’s crew cut), with all four of us kids. On the left is me (in a yellow dress my mom made), my brothers Ward and Dean, and my sister Carol. I’m guessing I was about eight years old, which puts the date of the photo around 1968.

Johnson Family Portrait taken by Bud Moyer, 1968; The Clutter Files | Jane Boursaw Photo
Johnson Family Portrait taken by Bud Moyer, 1968 | Jane Boursaw Photo

I couldn’t remember the name of the photographer, so I consulted with my friend Larry Hains, who works with the Traverse Area Historical Society and posts amazing photos on their Facebook page. He said the 1968 city directory identified Bud Moyer as the photographer, and his studio, Professional Photographic Center, was located at 324 Munson Avenue. Curt Frook and Nina Bender were also in the same building. I believe the Land Information Access Assocation (LIAA) is currently at that address.

Now for the big question – what to do with the photo. It’s 25″ x 22″, so a fairly good-sized photo. It’s faded from having the morning sun shine on it for 50 years, but it’s also pretty cool. A piece of family history. Do I want it hanging in my house? Maybe! Or maybe not. Could I throw it out? That would be tough.

Unless … I take a picture of it with my camera, resurrect some of the color, and have smaller images made for me and my brothers (if they even want them). My sister passed away in 2019. And yes, I have a lot of her stuff.

Even if I did that, though, it would still be hard to throw out the original big photo.

What say you, dear readers? What do you do with all those treasured family portraits that have graced the walls of your ancestors’ homes? Leave thoughts in the comments section below.

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A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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  1. Jane, it is great that you are collecting and keeping all those memories. Patti is the same and spent many hours when she was younger organizing and researching family history. We can’t part with any of it. So we have a whole room set aside as the “History” room and someday our kids will just have to deal with it. We are hoping it gives them joy and insight when they go through it all.


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