The Why: I am not a very sentimental person. I rented my wedding dress and have never regretted it, I recycle birthday cards upon receiving them, and my husband lost his wedding ring during our first year of marriage and it didn't create any real marital upset. (He lost the replacement a couple years later, too. He's now on wedding ring number three!)
Nonetheless, I do have one box of items in the basement that I haven't known what to do with. It's time to sort through that box.
The How: In order to remain in our home, all sentimental items must now be used, displayed, or properly archived (in the case of favourite photos and love notes.)
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when sorting through sentimental stuff:
- We are not obligated to keep anything that is given to us. Period. Not gifts, not heirloom gravy boats, not my children's Sunday school craft projects. Nothing. That doesn't mean that I can't or won't keep some stuff, but I am not obligated to. If the person who gave it to me wanted to forever control it's destiny they would have kept it. I am the gate keeper to our home and our home is not a museum.
- Just because somebody passed something down to us doesn't necessarily mean that they treasured it. I think sometimes that we are playing Old Maid with family heirlooms. Stuck with something they don't particularly want but would feel guilty shipping off to a thrift store, a family member passes the "treasure" on to us. We are then stuck with it for the same reason until we can find somebody to pass it on to, and the cycle continues. I don't want to play that game! If it doesn't bring us joy, I need to send it off to the thrift store so that it can find its way into the hands of somebody who will treasure it.
- Stuff is always just stuff. The emotions attached to the item are not actually in any way attached to the item! People are not memorialized by their stuff, either. I look around my house and definitely am not hoping that one day my friends and family will treasure all the stuff I've collected. I hope they will treasure memories of time spent and love shared, not serving dishes and picture frames and tea pots. If we don't want to be memorialized by our belongings, why do we tend to think that our ancestors wanted to be memorialized by theirs?
- Using our sentimental items will keep them sentimental. We have a beautiful set of wedding china that was given to us by my (now passed) grandfather. We use it every single week. We use it when the whole family gathers for a birthday, we use it to plate fancy desserts and serve tea. My two year old has used it, my friends have used it, we have even broken a couple pieces. One day when we are dead or ill, and my children have the task of going through our belongings I would rather them encounter a partial set of china that they have used countless times than a full set that sat behind glass their whole life. And if one of them chooses to take those dishes home that day, they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are free to use (and in time, break) those dishes.
- Which brings me to my last point: One day our kids will have to sort through every single item we have chosen to keep. I don't want to burden them with a house full of crap I couldn't bring myself to get rid of!
The tote is empty and I feel good about that.
We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!
I'm not sentimental either. I sold my wedding dress at a yard sell a few years after we were married. We sold our rings to use as a down payment for our house. A home for our children to grow up in was more important that use wearing jewlery to show we're married. We know we're married. My husband and I have one small box each to keep things we care about (i.e. cards from the kids). As soon as the kids bring stuff from school I decide if it is worthy of saving and recycle the rest. I love what you are doing. You are an inspiration.ReplyDelete
You could also take photos of the sentimental things before passing them on. Digital space hardly takes up any room & you can still look at the items and reminisce!ReplyDelete
we wrote the exact same thing but you win by a minute! lolDelete
I have started taking photos of special art projects, special baby outfits, and other treasures. Then I toss/donate the actual item because a teeny memory card takes up way less space then the items. Love this new blog and your other one too!!!ReplyDelete
I absolutely LOVE your Family Heirloom Old Maid analogy. So very perfect.ReplyDelete
This COMPLETELY makes up for the horrid task you gave us yesterday! ;-) I am not one to keep sentimental stuff (and is just that, stuff). I have received many gifts (one just last week) which I had no desire to keep. I always feel bad about 'how much they spent, hurting their feelings,' etc. So your point, "we are not obligated to keep anything that is given to us" is spot on much appreciated. I will always remain charitable when receiving, but also honest in my keeping/releasing.ReplyDelete
Oh I am so proud of you! I am feeling way more confident about not keeping things for the sake of keeping them! Way to go.ReplyDelete
Great post and great timing. I was just procrastinating from cleaning out my hope chest and getting the hope chest out of the master bedroom. I dislike going through sentimental stuff. I never know what to do with it. :)ReplyDelete
I've been feeling very inspired by your simplification projects, and have made some good progress lately on giving & throwing away things that just aren't needed. But I *am* sentimental (and so is my husband) and have not found a good way to keep/display/treasure some of our treasured items. That's a tough one for me!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for this post. I am far too sentimental and have a rough time getting rid of items even when I see that I do not have the space to keep them or that they serve no real purpose in my day-to-day life. I love your philosophy on passing along items that were passed on to you. I am going to do my best to adopt it for myself.ReplyDelete
My box of sentimental stuff got moldy water damage several years ago and I had to throw it all away. Every single item in that box was ruined! So the decision of conquering that box was actually made for me. Surprisingly, I don't miss it. I remember what was in that box, though, and the memories are good enough.ReplyDelete
LOVE LOVE LOVE your outlook on keeping stuff. People in my family have also given us stuff, with the unwritten rule that we are merely caretakers of that stuff in their stead. I have actually gotten rid of things that later caused family strife, but now people know that I WILL get rid of stuff. (Consequently, they don't give me their junk anymore. Problem solved!)
You know, this is so freeing...I have written and erased more than you know here and what I am left with is this one thought.ReplyDelete
The one thing I do treasure (after my Dad's passing) is a church pew that he restored. It's in my living room and every time I look at it, I can still see him working on it and the joy it brought him to have made it beautiful again. I was part of that process. (It reminds me of how God sees the potential in us.)
As much as I treasure it and the memories are vivid...should my children chose not to keep it, that's fine. They didn't share that moment with my Dad.
This made me cry. Treasure those memories of your Dad. I'm sorry for your loss.Delete
And...by the way, I love that you rented your wedding gown! (As if I haven't said enough already!)ReplyDelete
Me too! I was lucky enough that my grandmother saved her wedding dress (a peach shimmery number- back from when white poufy dresses were not the first choice) and I wore that. She packed it back up into a trunk and maybe one of my girls will wear it to prom but the fact that it's not white opens up many possibilities.Delete
I love this post. IT's so true that one day someone will go through our belongings and have to sort it. I'm glad I'm doing that anyway :)ReplyDelete
For the sentimental T-shirts, I sew the bottom shut, cut the arms off and the neck bigger and use them every week as grocery bags.ReplyDelete
love this idea!! maybe now I can clear some of my husband's t-shirts out lolDelete
Doing it is a relief to the soul!ReplyDelete
Thanks for all inspiration you have been bringing to me.
Marcella (from Brasil)
I kind of wish I had rented my wedding dress. I've been lugging it everytime we move! It's hanging in the closet taking up space but I'm having a hard time getting rid of it. I mean, it's not like I'm going to wear it again - not that I'd fit in it! I've been thinking of cutting it up and making a small pillow for the bed.. just to have a small piece of it.ReplyDelete
My family has a box of my grandparent's "treasured items" that gets passed family to family. Each family keeps it for a couple years then passes it on to the next. It's draining.. maybe when it's our turn I'll toss it! lol.. it's not like they'd notice or even care!
I recently got rid of my wedding dress. Like you, I had it hung up in my closet (for 20 years), knowing that I really should have it professionally stored in a box, but never getting it done. I went through my closet recently, and noticed that the dress now had yellowed stains, and a certain cat had put claw marks in the hem! I know I will never wear the dress again, but I still have my wedding photos to remember what it looked like. Having those photos made the decision to finally "chuck the dress" easier.Delete
My dad was a dry cleaner, so my dress has been professionally cleaned and stored in an acid free box with acid free paper keeping the wrinkles at bay.Delete
I have one daughter. She's now 2 inches taller than I (and is similarly proportioned, which means slightly larger at the waist). I don't think she could wear the dress.
So what I am saving it for? My son's future wife? I'm not sure she'd appreciate it and she should be allowed to pick her own.
Funny story. When my dad sold his cleaners, he notified all his clients about their stored items (he stored out of season items for customers at their request). Everyone who was alive came and picked them up...except for wedding dresses. He was left with dozens. He donated them.
Gah! See, we're a military family, so we move every few years. My wedding dress has made the trip cross-country a couple times... it's professionally preserved, but I have plans for it when we retire and actually buy a home! My dream is to have a closet large enough that I can actually use it as a sitting/craft room as well. My husband jokingly agreed that I deserve it after decades of deployments and moves... it's his "mea culpa" haha.Delete
When we finally retire, I want to have it displayed in a shadow box frame in my closet. I'm expecting twin girls in the next few weeks, so if one of them decides they want to wear it someday, I'll be happy to pass it along to them.
I'm hanging onto it for now... but I've tossed/donated a bunch of sentimental stuff. My thought was always if it can't be used, displayed, or archived, it's gone - just what you said!! We'll see how much I keep up with that idea after the girls are born and they bring me home gifts of drawings, etc!!
I tried 2 or 3 times to sell my wedding dress and in the end donated it to the Salvos, maybe someone who couldn't afford new would have found the bargain of a lifetime. That thought makes me happy.Delete
I have some items that were given to me by my parents, at the time I loved them and I really appreciated the gift but those items after several years are sat in the loft. I would pass them on but my mum in particular asks me every so often if I still have x.. that makes me feel as if I can't get rid of the item even though I never use it nor really have the space for it. How would you deal with this kind of situation?ReplyDelete
Hi Becs! It's hard to give advice on this sort of thing because every family and relationship are so different, what works for one family might not work for another. So with that in mind, here's what I would do: I would gently explain to my mother that although I appreciate the items, I no longer need them or have the space for them. And then I would ask her if she would like them back or if she wants me to a find a new home for them.Delete
Kelly, I mentioned in an earlier comment that my family has done the same thing to me. I have actually gotten rid of such items without even thinking they were important to anyone anymore. Whoa, that was a mistake! There were hurt feelings not only because I got rid of a family "treasure," but that I didn't feel it was important enough to keep. That caused a rift, to say the least! But...the upside to that fiasco was that no one asks me to hold onto their stuff anymore!Delete
So Becs, I would agree with Kelly that you should probably ask your family members if they want the stuff back before you get rid of it. Don't make my mistake and cause a family feud over an inanimate object. It's not worth it.
Good solution thank you. We are in need of a decluttering session so I will be including those items and asking family if they'd like them back.Delete
How does one recycle a birthday card?ReplyDelete
I meant that I literally recycle it. I put it in my "paper" recycle bin along with my newspapers and whatnot.Delete
OOOOH!!! I thought you meant you reused it! Gosh. Forgive my blonde moment.Delete
I tear off the front of all my Christmas cards and then give them to the preschool for the kids to use to make their own cards.Delete
here in the States, we have organizations that will accept the front of Christmas cards, which are then recycled for people to write messages to our overseas military personnel.Delete
I have also use the fronts of particularly lovely ones and created placemats
The only thing I am not do good at is the kids stuff, my mom kept thee most special clothes from when we were babies so that we could use them for our kids if we so choose, I always found that kind sweet and really cute. So I just last week actually made a plan for thateach kid now has a ikea cd box for anything we decide is strictly theirs and will be passed on for them later everything else goes and since the box is do tiny I have to be extra picky about what I keep! So I can't over keep junk for them! I've been cleaning out my house of all the useless stuff too, there are just some things ya know. . .ReplyDelete
I can't beleive you only had one box. I have about 5... I need to get to work.ReplyDelete
For me, this is the HARDEST part of "cleaning." My father always always told me "Collect memories, not possessions." But it is so hard, I'm tearing up just thinking of the credulous thing I am keeping strictly for sentimental reasons. This post has helped me gain a LOT of perspective. Thank you.ReplyDelete