Cold weather is coming eventually, so I’m in the process of moving summer things down to the shelves and wardrobes in our basement. It’s hard, however, to find proper storage space given all those boxes, which have been there since we moved here in 2011.

Many of those boxes, still unpacked collections of my stuff, I already wrote about in an earlier column. I’m now talking about those other boxes, the ones that are even more pathetic. They’re filled with stuff that belonged to my late parents, stuff for some reason I could not part with when I cleaned out their home in Denver 16 years ago — the spoils of an only child.

Let’s go back for a moment to the scene of the crime. I grew up in Denver. My father passed away in the fall of 1984. My mother passed away in the spring of 2001. What’s nearly as bad as losing your parents is gaining all their possessions. My wife and I left our home in South Natick, and took up residence for a week in that emptiest of nests 2,000 miles away. We rolled up our sleeves, dug through all the closets and drawers, sold large items no extended family member wanted, gave away mementoes to neighbors and friends, took 16 Hefty bags of clothing and bedding to Good Will and tossed out untold containers of trash.

We then boxed what we thought were a few things, earmarked: SEND TO OUR HOUSE, DEAL WITH LATER. A mind is a terrible thing to make up. Who knows? We may want some of this leftover stuff or think of someone who might. By “stuff” I mean that which has no real value other than the sentimental kind. Who knows, maybe I can use that tennis racquet we got with S&H Green Stamps when I was 12. Maybe I can hang it on a wall and call it art.

SEND TO OUR HOUSE was easily yet expensively accomplished. DEAL WITH LATER is a joke. These boxes not only sat in our South Natick basement for nearly 10 years, but also made the trip to the Vineyard where they took up residence in our new basement.

I know I am not alone in holding onto family relics, but why do we do this? When my wife and I are gone, who is going to want this stuff? We have no children, and even if we did, why burden them? By the way, I share my past and basement with my wife’s parents’ legacy. But since she has eight siblings, her stash is smaller than mine.

None of this memorabilia has a capital M. It’s family detritus: out-of-fashion tablecloths, a case of what my mother called cordial glasses, questionable artwork, a stack of breakable 78rpm records, photo albums, slides, slide screen, slide projector! Yikes! It’s like having a high-school version of “Antiques Roadshow” in my basement.

But to throw all this out would be like erasing my parents and erasing where I came from. There’s something primal here. By holding on to what belonged to my parents, I am truly holding on to what’s tangibly left to remind me of them. These boxes are indeed proof of my past.

I don’t really need that photo of my family having dinner in a Havana restaurant before Castro began clearing the tables. Or an artist’s rendering of me in full bar mitzvah regalia. Or slides of a wedding where no one’s recognizable. Or a silent home movie clip of my father instructing a gawky me to get in the driver’s seat of his car for a lesson while my mother stands off to the side biting a nail.

But when I see them, I smile or even stifle a laugh, and slide back into a Proustian reverie of — to co-opt an expression — the way we were. Even the color photos have that cast of black and white. It’s like dreaming my way through an unintentional archive, a mini Smithsonian of memories. Our basement has become a shrine to lives lived.

So, yes, every once in a while, without fear of Pandora (the Greek myth, not the music app), I will open a box and stare at a random harvest of photos, knowing they’ll soon be doomed to a future of anonymity — photos like the kind displayed in shops that sell frames.

Without this encumbrance there would be an incredible lightness of being, but there would also be a sad emptiness. I don’t have the heart to discard it all. It would be like an amputation. Keeping stuff is somehow embedded in our genetic codes. Why did my mother keep my old tennis racquet? Did she really think I’d come back for it?

To prove we existed, I guess we must leave flotsam in our wakes. Maybe next weekend I’ll bring my wife to the basement, take out two cordial glasses, pour some Port and toast the “was” that still is.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.