Things reminding you of the kids growing up (drawings, crafts projects, etc)
This is just the kind of thing you would keep forever, simply because they are pure emotion and they are very clear reminders of those moments you had with the kids (or – incidentally – with your parents). But are they really such important things in the grand scheme of things? Yes, there is a memory value to them, but there is also something very different about these items. Take that scribbly drawing of some unnamed house and garden: why can’t you let go of it? It is sitting in its box or drawer and only occasionally comes out when you are looking for something else. Then there is a moment of reminiscence and into the box it goes again.
Have you kept this because it means something to you? Or are you keeping it for your kids who – by now – may already have left university and have kids of their own, and have completely forgotten about this thing.
I can see it’s a reminder of the good old times, and that is a good thing: but would this item not benefit from being displayed somewhere? And if you start wondering what others might say if you hang this up, maybe it is time to let go? In any case, keeping it in its hiding place does not add anything to your life but a sense of loss.
Things you have received for a special occasion
Then there are those anniversary items you get for 10 years of service to your company. It’s a token of their esteem and a sign of appreciation all right, but how long will you keep a medal saying “10 years of service” and what are you ever going to do with it? Who is interested in seeing this, and do you really need it in your life? Of think of those certificates you receive at the end of one evening of cooking school, or after your first trip in a hot air balloon… do you really want to keep them?
Again, there is emotion afoot. While the giving and receiving of these items is important, the keeping of them might be a poisoned gift after all: you may not have been all that thrilled to start with (and you might have preferred a raise or a monetary appreciation), and these items tend to hang around for longer than their half-life would indicate.
Don’t get me wrong: if something truly means something to you, by all means keep it. It’s those thoughtless items or the ones that have lost their actual meaning and that you only keep out of obligation… they are the real problem here. They have no real place in your life.
Things you have inherited after someone passed away
That’s a tricky one, as there is a huge element of obligation and ‘last chance’ attached to them. That giant ugly wardrobe with its badly made shelves and the corner you keep hooking yourself with is not what your life’s dreams are made of, but it was your grandma’s, and your late father has passed it on to you. Oh, so much perceived history, so much obligation to not one, but two generations to be considered. What will the rest of the family say next time they come visit and the wardrobe is gone?
You can see the dilemma, of course. My stance on those things is: “if something really bugs you, let it go.” Ask another family member if they want to keep the wardrobe and if nobody volunteers, you’re in completely okay to let it go: nobody can expect you to keep something they are not actually interested enough in. That does not mean you have to trash it: give it to a charity, or maybe even sell it (and share the proceeds with the family that cherished that object so much they put you under pressure). And I'll say it once more, if something means a lot to you, don’t let yourself be swayed to throw it out: there are ways to upcycle or modify things, make use of them in other ways than originally intended.
Clearly there are many types of emotional attachment, and some of those will not apply to you, while you might have others that I have not listed here.
My invitation is that you take a good look at your home and identify what you have on display or what you recognise as being an item that has emotional value to you. Take your time and be true to your feelings when you do that! Now think about emotional items you have packed away in boxes, maybe in the attic or in the back of a wardrobe. Ask yourself: if this is an emotional item, why do I keep it hidden away?
That leaves you with two options: either you want to see this item regularly, in which case go ahead and bring it out! Or it is ultimately not all that important to you and there may be hang-ups that prevent you from letting go.
Keep in mind: this is YOUR home. You are under no obligation whatsoever to keep these things indefinitely. And there are ways to let go without betraying the person who left this to you in the first place…
Ask the ClutterMeister
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.