By Bill Primavera
After almost a half-century of living with my wife Margaret, we frequently like to reminisce about experiences we’ve shared and keepsakes we’ve gathered together. That included collectibles of all varieties, whether antiques, such as the 19th century end-of-day glass playing marbles I collected for some years, or new items such as Battersby porcelain boxes that my wife favors.
Sometimes when we sit together, reading or watching television, I’ll recall an item that seems to have gone missing and will ask, “Where is that item?” Margaret will reply, “Oh, it’s in ‘my box,’” referring to a moving box she says was filled with collectibles and important papers in our last move when we downsized from a six-bedroom colonial home to a two-bedroom condo.
But where is that box, labeled “Margaret’s box,” that may or may not exist? She swears by it, but it hasn’t yet turned up anywhere in our condo or in our storage room after we’ve been in our new location for more than five years. It’s even become somewhat of a joke. I’ll think of something that’s gone missing, and just as I’m about to ask Margaret if she knows where it might be, I stop short and say, “Oh, wait a minute, it’s in Margaret’s box, right?
Maybe we all have a Margaret’s box for all things that once graced our lives and now are mysteriously missing. It can happen over time when the memory of where things are stored slowly fades.
There is one memory box I’ve had since I was a teenager. It’s a sturdy box originally containing oranges from Florida that was sent to my family as a Christmas gift. After the oranges were consumed, I appropriated the box for my memorabilia that I’ve held on to since I was six years old. Only the most important papers are stored there: my Holy Communion certificate, my confirmation certificate, my Selective Service card, my high school and college diplomas, etc.
As I think about these important papers, I wonder whether that’s the best system for filing them. It’s doubtful.
That brings me to my basic point: Where should we place important papers to save?
One online source suggests:
- Wallet. You are, obviously, very limited in what you can keep in such a small space.
- Safe deposit box. You can rent one at your bank or credit union for a small annual fee.
- Home safe.
- An attorney’s office.
- Out-of-area friend or relative. (This suggestion begs the question, where would they place the papers?)
- Online or digital storage.
If the home option is chosen, where at home should money or important papers be placed? The suggestions I find are:
- Again, a home safe.
- Plastic page slips filed in a fireproof filing cabinet.
- Under the mattress, as many people do with their money.
And speaking of that…
When we lived in a single-family home in Brooklyn Heights, we were once burglarized in the middle of the night by an intruder who had taken our back door from its hinges. It was the most frightening experience of our lives when we woke and Margaret told me that she had a strange dream that a man was standing in our bedroom, looking at us in bed. Thank goodness she stayed in a half-sleep state, or who knows what might have happened.
At any rate, the experience taught me something. For some years, I’ve maintained a library of rare books that I inherited from an aunt, which have always graced built-in bookshelves in our living room. When I went downstairs the morning after the burglary, I found that each and every book had been riffled through, obviously looking for cash. So is that where people keep their cash at home, I thought? I was also told by the police the next morning that thieves also look in the freezer. Who knew?
What that thief didn’t know was that, young as we were, we were living far beyond our means in a home that we could barely afford. We really had no money, certainly none to hide around the house. The one item the thief stole was my then-three-year-old daughter’s piggy bank that probably had less than a few dollars in change.
As I ponder these questions and memories, I marvel at the claim that our most important documents are safely stored in Margaret’s box. All I have to do now is find that box. I joke with her that if I ever do find our important documents in it, I’m sure to find Jimmy Hoffa as well.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.