11 ways to cope with sentimental stuff
People often ask me “how do you deal with sentimental stuff?”
If you’re a sharp reader, you’ll have noticed that in the book when I counted my 39 pairs of socks, one of those was a pair of “sentimental socks” — who knew that could exist? They were my father’s old football socks, complete with holes in.
Since then, I’ve let them go. Never wore them. Got a better pair anyway. And besides, I don’t need an old pair of socks to remember my Dad… I had dinner with him on Monday after all 😉
I’ve noticed a few friends doing something clever with old stuff that means something to them.
Then I realised they were all men, so I asked on the Stuffocation Facebook page if there were any women who had ideas about dealing with sentimental stuff.
One woman replied, telling me off for thinking that men and women would have different ways.
But besides that, I heard a whole bunch of useful ideas… and they’re here.
- Turn your sentimental stuff into art
My brother Rob used to be a raver. He was seriously into the whole late 80s, early 90s rave scene, around London and in the south west. And so he’s kept one of his old rave tops, and had it framed. I’m going to get a pic of it and add it to this post.
My friend Steve turned a few of his old records into wall art for his living room — that’s the pic at the top of the page.
My friend Magnus spent a summer in Ibiza in the mid 90s, and turned all the tickets from one club he went to, called Manumission, into a piece of art — that’s the pic above.
Question: what sentimental stuff could you re-work as art?
- Realise it isn’t the stuff. You have to let go of what it represents
Katie Kinsley I found that i cant let go of the sentimental item without figuring out my attachment to it. For example I had a hand made photo album that was supposed to be for all my wedding pictures. Long story short i never was able to get married or have a wedding. I held onto the album because i wanted to believe that it would happen for me someday. After having it for several years i have finally donated it. It was VERY hard to do but I am glad the emotional baggage it brought me is no longer in my home. From my experience it isnt the item we are attached to….. its what the item represent to us that we have to let go of.
Question: what sentimental stuff do you have that represents something you really need to let go of?
- Ask yourself: what would they want you to do?
Cat Pearce I have things that belonged to my parents, who are both dead. I don’t use these things and they’re not valuable items and to all intents and purposes they are clutter, but I’ve been holding onto them because of the attachment. I spoke to someone recently who suggested I ask myself if my parents would really want me holding on to their belongings they serve no other purpose apart from to make me anxious (because they are clutter). I found this so useful; each time I’m confronted with such an item, I ask myself that question, and then I’m able to let it go. It feels wonderful to be able to do that after 10 years of holding on
Question: would someone who cares for you want you to hold on to that thing, or want you to move on? What if the situation was round the other way — would you want them to hold on, or move on?
- But only you know if you’re ready to let go
But as much as it’s easy to know what that person would want. Some people aren’t yet ready. Rachel E Shaw replied to Cat’s post with this: “brave but Im still hoarding my Dad’s stuff – gives me comfort”.
My advice here would be to keep the most important things, and work out what’s just clutter and what really connects you to your Dad.
- Never keep something because someone gave it to you!
Helen Purchas I have to ask myself some searching questions about obligation vs attachment. I can easily confuse the two particularly if it’s a thing I don’t love but given to me by someone I love!
Question: what gifts do you hold on to because someone gave it to you?
- Does it still evoke the same feeling?
Sometimes things that feel so meaningful at one point, lose that fizz after a while.
April van Es I actually love the feeling which sentimental items give me. I love bringing them out every now and then and remembering. I have many journals and quite a few other bits and bobs which have no other use than to job my memory. What I have learned is to take time to move sentimental items from my life. I have rarely regretted getting rid of anything but the things I have regretted I threw/gave away thoughtlessly and in a rush and they still remain in my memory as regrets. If I feel the attachment I keep the item but holding things and asking whether they still evoke the same feeling has worked for me. Luckily I have a big home and room to store “reminders” smile emoticon
Eileen Smythe I agree with April van Es. Hold on to your memories until the time comes when you know that you don’t need to any longer. It does work ….
KRin Pender-Gunn I have two small collections in boxes. Childhood stuff and small memory items from Ian (late husband) and my family. If I can’t remember the connection, they go.
Task: go through your sentimental stuff, to see if there’s things in there that don’t touch you in the same way anymore
- Take a photo and kiss it goodbye!
Karen Waldron Take a photo of it you still have the memory but not the object
Alison Scott For things like the toys and clothes of my childhood, items from long-gone relationships and so on, I take photos and then let them go. I only keep the things I still use.
Katherine Wilkinson If it truly has no real use in my life anymore I take a photo of it, give the item a kiss and send it on it’s way, telling myself that it will bring value to someone else and be loved!
I haven’t yet missed anything that’s been through my “letting go” ritual but if per chance I come across the photo it makes me smile.
Question: what items have you got that take up too much room?
Task: pick out some sentimental stuff, take photos of it, put them in bags or boxes. Mark a month’s time in your calendar. Then, on the nearest weekend, look at the photos of that stuff. Does that do the same job as actually having the physical things? If so, let them go. (And hey, even if you only get rid of a few things, you’ve won. De-stuffocating is an iterative process. Doing it in small steps is a great way to go. It’s how my wife and I manage it.)
A brief share: I kept one of my Granddads’ old suits. He was the same height and shape as me. But after a few years, I realised I just wasn’t ever going to wear a polyester suit with lapels like that… I put it on, got my wife to take a pic, and took it to the charity store. If I can find the pic, I’ll post it here.
- Keep only a few things
Liz Powner I have a few letters and drawings from previous partners. I hardly ever look at them but I keep them anyway. They make me feel loved. 😘
Carolyne Lohrbach Hold on to just two or three things. Also letters of historical importance. From my Grandpa I have his Olympic medal, a Bible and a stopwatch. Those represent him very well. Furniture and dishes are too bulky. Knick knacks are pretty much worthless. Also just a few pictures of people. Don’t need fifty photos of the same person.
Alison Scott I try to keep a single small item to remind me of relatives who have passed away; a pair of brass candlesticks that were my great-grandmother’s, my grandfather’s napkin ring, that sort of thing. Those are fine and not clutter for anyone who’s not resolutely minimalist; they bind my memories of the people.
Question: Could you play a version of the 3-bucket game (Keep, Throw, Maybe) with your sentimental stuff? It’ll help you reduce the number of things.
- Keep if sentimental and useful
Deborah Halsey I have kept sentimental items which are also useful: my grandmother’s sewing machine and my grandfather’s national service binoculars, for example.
Melody Glover I try to make use of them where I can. Things like my grandmother’s handmade quilts or the dishes she saved for me as I was growing up; I use those everyday. I also keep one small box in the closet for sentimental items – mostly things that could never be replaced – like letters from my grandmother and a doll my mom made for me. It’s a very small box and nothing has been added to it in more than a decade.
Task: work out what of your sentimental stuff you could actually use today, tonight, this weekend. If you get to use stuff that means so much to you, that’s a win-win!
- Would that item make someone else happy?
Josie Gribble I keep the bare minimum, appreciating it’s not the item but the memories associated with it. It’s also nice to consider if the object will make somebody else happy☺
Task: wander through your sentimental stuff (mentally or literally), and have a think if there’s anything in there that could be useful to someone else. Wouldn’t that be better?
- Watch out for other people!
Katherine Wilkinson My 30 year old daughter took a photo of 3 items from her childhood – a very well loved dolly, a pyjama case and a piggy bank box. She then gave me the items!!!! Damn! So I had to do the same ritual…..though Dolly hasn’t yet left the cupboard…….her poor old legs are held on with electrical tape and her hair is a matted mess…..guess she will have to get the treatment soon though…..she’s just a piece of plastic!!!! 😂😂😂
Task: just say no!
A HUGE thank you to everyone who contributed ideas to this post. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear. Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.