Time Capsule II--Diving into the Deep Steamer Trunk

16 Sep

I packed up the steamer trunk at the same time as the wardrobe trunk (age 20). It followed the same route into early storage until it finally came home with me, also ending up in the back room of the basement. The steamer trunk is twice as deep as the wardrobe trunk.

I decided to tackle this second trunk early on because the trunks with their nostalgic items from my youth caused me, as a sentimental person, the greatest amount of anxiety. Not that everything else would be a piece of cakeI  But emptying this second trunk would mean I had started my downsizing project in earnest. It was the complete opposite of low-hanging fruit.


  • Three Madame Alexander dolls (including a ballerina doll) with multiple outfits sewn by my mother and at least a dozen set of shoes, including ice skates and rubber boots.
  • Doll from my aunt with handknit clothes (moth holes in most of them, arms dislocated from doll)
  • Small Ginger doll (like a Ginny doll), also with a complete wardrobe of clothes made either by me or my sister (in a perfect small replica of a trunk). (My sister and I were not close as she approached puberty, but I remember being very touched when she made me a whole set of clothes for this doll the Christmas I turned 8.)
  • Tiny Tears doll (with eyes crusted over and a miscolored face), with a complete set of bed linens and a smaller number of clothes
  • Six small Steiff bears, with a wardrobe of tiny clothes sewn by me, packed up in little suitcases inside a round Micky Mouse case, along with various miniature items. (see image.) The bears and these artifacts, either made or collected by me, were a part of an elaborate world I had created with another friend.
  • A set of store bought miniatures (a gas station, a toy closet, a baby supply closet).
  • Doll house furniture (dollhouse had gone to my niece with some of the furniture), including a little sewing machine, a woodworking table.
  • Balsa wood replicas of my bedroom furniture made by me at age 12.
  • Mementos from grade school and day camp.
  • Cunard Steamship Line mementos, such as menus, labels, pins from 1956
  • Paper dolls and clothes made by me.
  • Brownie paper doll and uniforms from around the world (circa 50s)
  • Two small boxes of badges and slogan buttons
  • First dress I ever sewed for myself (age 13)


  • Cleaned up the dolls with soap and water, mostly successfully, except for Tiny Tears.
  • Researched value of all of the dolls and the Brownie Scout paper dolls.
  • Washed (using Oxiclean) and ironed the doll clothes, the baby bed linens, and my first dress.
  • Aired out the tiny bears’ clothes and all the paper items.
  • Threw away some of the miniatures that had not passed the test of time, as well as some of the school/camp souvenirs, after taking photos of selected pieces.
  • Took photos of the Ginny doll in each of her outfits. the larger bear in all of her outfits, and the various miniatures.
  • Displayed the little bears in a shadow box on my wall.
  • Bought new plastic containers to organize and house the remainder of the other items.
  • Got a brilliant idea for a story, which will involve the bears, their outfits, and the miniatures.
  • Gave myself permission to shelve the newly organized boxes and deal with them at a later time.
  • Aired out trunk.

Emotional Responses: 

  • Pride at my early creativity and skill.
  • Sadness at being reminded of my now deceased family members.
  • Excitement that I was inspired to develop something new from some of these objects.
  • Mostly, I felt overwhelmed. I spent all this time cleaning up and organizing these things, but what was I going to do them in the end? Most of them were unsuitable for today’s children; a few were potentially collectibles. But even with photos, I couldn’t part with them just yet.

Second Thoughts and Takeaways:

Emptying these trunks, airing and washing (where appropriate) the contents, and providing some order was the right thing to do, even as I am left with almost as much as I started with.  Since I have the time and the space, I have to acknowledge the progress I did make and give myself permission to move on to other, perhaps easier tasks. 

I am, however, ready to part with the trunks!

(Check out my Gallery of Treasures for some of the items from this trunk.)

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