The art of letting go of our sentimental clutter
By Jacki Hollywood-Brown
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey,
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna make a Sentimental Journey,
to renew old memories.
~ lyrics by Arthur Green
This month we're going to get control of our sentimental clutter and put your heart at ease.
It is quite easy to make decisions on items for which we have no feelings or emotional attachment; but when we have feelings for certain items it can be hard for our heart to let them go even though our lack of usable living space tells us we really need to say goodbye.
There are different types of sentimental clutter. Some of the most common are:
• things handed down to us from previous generations
• gifts received from favourite relatives
• souvenirs and memorabilia
These are some of the most difficult items to deal with because the object reminds us of the person or event so we keep it to keep triggering those memories.
A short-term emergency measure of dealing with sentimental items is to box them up and store them. This is great for a posting on short notice or if there is a sudden death or downsizing in the family. You must however eventually deal with these items because they will deteriorate if stored indefinitely.
Sorting and organizing sentimental clutter can be very emotional so don't try to do too much at once. I suggest only a few hours at a time. Finding a friend or sibling to help you sort can be beneficial.
Make sure you choose someone who is willing to listen to some stories behind the clutter. This person should also know whether you need a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the pants when it’s time to say good-bye to the sentimental clutter.
If you love the item and you want to keep it (and you've got lots of space) feel free to do so. If you're reading this, chances are you probably have a few items that you're not so sure about. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself a few questions:
• If you had to purchase the item yourself, would you?
• If someone you didn't like gave you the item, would you keep it?
• Does the item trigger happy memories?
• Would you be proud/happy if someone else knew you kept this item but didn't know why you did?
If you answered no to any of these questions, consider getting rid of the item.
Here are a few tips to help you get rid of the clutter but keep the memories:
Take photos and write stories to capture an item's significance in your life. You can even tell the story on video and share it with your family. Your children can do this with some of their school projects. Essays, reports and drawings can be scanned and saved in digital format. This will prevent them from getting lost or broken over the years (especially during military moves). Make a photo or video montage of your vacations instead of keeping cheesy souvenirs.
If you're worried "Aunt Bertha" will ask about the vase she gave you, relegate it to a spare bedroom or less prominent shelf in the display case or replace it with a picture of you and Aunt Bertha in a lovely frame.
If you've inherited a collection of items (pocket watches, salt & pepper shakers, etc.) keep the ones you like best and let the rest go. Feel free to offer the other items from the collection to other family members or friends. This holds true for sets of dishes too. You needn't keep the entire set together. For example if grandma passes away, one grandchild could have all the dessert plates, another could have the platters and another the gravy boat.
Display your items so that they bring you joy throughout your home. You should limit your items to one or two shelves and keep only items that fit on those shelves. If you can't display your items, limit them to only one box and keep only the things that fit inside the box.
When you make the decision to let it go, make sure it’s gone! Because you have a significant emotional attachment to these items, it is important to get them right out of the house once you've made the decision to let them go. If the items are destined for charity, then take them the same day. If the items are to be given to other family members, then box them up and tape the box closed. Make arrangements for pick-up or drop-off as soon as you can.
If you're really feeling bad about an item that is leaving your life, you can have a "funeral" for the item. It helped me out when I really needed it.