On the Importance of Notes

I walked into the bedroom of a friend, and as she was showing me her recent efforts to downsize, I noticed the New Year’s card I made her, sitting solitary on a shelf. She was describing the energy her possessions had been wasting and the distraction of her time as well. In place was my note, front and center. She saw that kind words add energy instead of draining it. That’s what I consider progress.

As someone who finds peace, meaning, and joy in writing, this is a dear topic. I’ve written many heartfelt notes over decades, though one of the first was written under duress. I was in middle school and had lost my glasses on a field trip. My apology note was signed, “Your ex-daughter, Dara.” While my parents weren’t happy, they weren’t preparing to disown me either. But at that age, it wasn’t a conversation I wasn’t prepared to have with them in person. The note eased my pain, and allowed me to articulate my weak defense, with some dramatic flair, of course.

Notes were fun as a kid too. I learned to make pop-cards, my sister and I played “mail” where we recreated our household’s mail with creative flair, and my brother made us the funniest cards on the computer (so new at the time). Then my notes became of the love letter variety. Boyfriends could learn the extent of my romantic inclinations. If they were really in my good graces, I’d write them a song. 

Life changes abounded and I wrote good-bye letters and other such cards: wedding, sympathy, birth of a child. Life event commemorations and the strong feelings around them are primed for impulse buying, obligatory purchases, or registry selection. But I always found that conveying my feelings on paper allowed me to live my beliefs while presenting a unique, timeless gift. 

One of the employees I supervised received such a good-bye note before I left my former job and, on a visit back, I saw that he had taped it to his computer monitor. This meant so much to me in return. Words have more meaning than we realize. Even with my nieces, I resist all of the cute things to buy kids and have established myself as their trusted pen pal instead. Getting notes from them in return is the only pull to check my mailbox.

As much as I love writing notes, I relish receiving them with equal fervor. I’ve organized old letters and cards in an accessible memory box and look at them occasionally. I enjoy having a few from loved ones who’ve passed, and see their handwriting as the closest I can get to their voice speaking directly to me. 

Being conscious about how to collect and store notes isn’t without issue. For some of my clients, they’ve amassed decades of notes without a hint of sifting. I encourage that you only keep notes from people you still remember, with words that matter. Each year’s birthday card from a grandparent can be whittled to one and maybe it’s time to let go of the romantic words from former partners. Just like hobbies, our relationships evolve and flow and may diminish. It’s okay to let them go in this regard. Some clients even keep harsh words. I encourage letting these go as well. We don’t need negatives to guide us, only the positive lessons we’ve learned from them.

Notes are the epitome of meaningful minimalism. They offer an avenue of honesty often difficult to achieve when standing face-to-face, and a chance to further embrace and deepen our relationships. No material goods are required to give a gift. Write a note to someone you love today.